Eight AM. The day stretches out before me. Meals to make, diapers to change, naps to manage, but – the rest is up to me. Ten hours until my husband gets home for dinner; how will we fill them? It’s up to me to decide.
It’s a blessing and a burden, you know? The freedom is amazing. We’re having gorgeous Indian-summer days right now, and I am completely free to take the girls out for a walk or over to the zoo, pretty much whenever I want. But the freedom can also be overwhelming. When I begin a gray, overcast day with too much laundry and housework to do and not enough sleep to make the dozens of decisions that will be required of me, I often find myself paralyzed.
Several months ago I opened up a book I had borrowed years before but never read. A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul. Order to my home and peace to my soul? That’s a pretty big claim. But the author’s purpose is to provide a method for answering that never-ending question of mine, what are we going to do today. So I decided to give it a try.
The author, Holly Pierlot, recommends forming a “rule” for home and family life, just as religious orders form rules. Think and pray about what God has called you to, in five areas: your personal needs, your prayer life, and your roles as wife, mother, and homemaker. What needs to happen in each of those areas, for you to be living the life God has called you to right now? Now take a good, hard look at your daily life and decide when you will do the things you need to do.
Pierlot notes that it will probably take quite awhile to hammer out your ideal rule, and that’s definitely been my experience so far. After reading the book I sat down to think, pray, and start drafting a schedule that would reflect my priorities. And I successfully scheduled … about the first two hours of my day. Ha! One obstacle for me is that my children’s needs – especially the baby’s – change frequently, and my daily schedule has to reflect that. At different times, the baby has been sleeping through the night, or getting up twice; nursing first thing in the morning, or not until she goes down for her morning nap; napping from 8 AM until 9, or from 9 until 11:00. All of those changes impact my morning schedule drastically.
But even though I have yet to figure out a complete and final schedule for my family, the exercise has been helpful to me. I’ve started to see more clearly how to figure out each day’s schedule. Here are a few of the things I have picked up on:
- I really, truly love routine. I started doing my kids’ laundry ever Monday, in order to avoid my oldest daughter constantly asking “When are you going to do my laundry?” whenever her favorite dress wasn’t clean. I also started making baked oatmeal every Monday. Putting those two jobs together with all my daily tasks (remember, my daily life is a full-time job), I don’t have much time left for any other chores. So every Monday, I know exactly what I need to do, and it is amazing.
- (I also recently had an epiphany that I can vacuum the upstairs, and clean the upstairs bathroom, every two weeks while my husband goes shopping with the kids at Costco. Soon I hope to sort out some of my other chores and assign them a day too. I don’t know whether it will work to assign them arbitrarily, so that’s why I haven’t done it yet; I’m hoping I’ll have a few more epiphanies!)
- Thinking about days (or parts of days) that haven’t gone well is a great way to figure out what to do (or not to do) in the future. I had a number of really tough afternoons with the kids, where I tried to cook or do housework, and got interrupted an absurd number of times; finally I realized the kids need me more in the afternoons so I just need to schedule housework & cooking for the mornings. I can’t always make that work, but it’s becoming more of the norm. Some afternoons my kids are feeling pretty peaceful and playing with each other without my help, and I can get one or two small things done, but it helps if I’m not counting on it.
- (I also realized that afternoons on Maggie’s preschool days were the worst. So I’ve committed even more seriously to being free & available to the kids on those afternoons. We usually go out to the zoo or a playground now, rather than coming home after preschool pickup.)
- I also need to think about and respect my own needs. It’s tempting to schedule a ton of work for naptime, but even when I don’t need a nap myself, I still tend to need rest during that time. One thing that has worked well has been to finish a load of laundry during the morning so that during naptime I can put on a show (currently watching this one) and just sit down to fold laundry.
- Deciding when to have prayer time, and what kind of prayer to include, has been the hardest part of the project. It still works well to read my devotional while nursing the baby, but I need to add some more prayer to my day and I just don’t know what or when. I also need to get back into the habit of having prayer time with the girls, but I haven’t found the best time for that either.
I hope to share more about this with y’all in the months to come. In the meantime I would love to hear any tips or tricks that have worked for you in planning out your days!