I mentioned a week or two ago that I have been working on implementing a new weekly routine (or rhythm) for our family. I thought I'd share a little about how that is working out for us, and what our week now looks like. When I was starting to figure out our own routine, I found it inspiring to see how other families do life together, and so my hope is that this may be helpful and encouraging to you, whatever your own family rhythm looks like.
As a stay-at-home (and sometimes work-at-home) Mama with a work-at-home husband, we have all the flexibility in the world. This is largely a huge positive, but lately I have been feeling like I have been coasting along—not really knowing what to do with my time from one day to the next. There was no distinction between the weekdays and the weekend, aside from the fact that the kids weren't at school on a weekend.
As someone who thrives on structure, I started finding this way of life surprisingly stressful and it just didn't sit well with me. Freedom and flexibility is wonderful, but I think for much there was just too much of a good thing, and I needed to rethink our week so I at least had a framework to fall back on and not have to expend so much energy each day deciding what to do.
This month, I have been participating in the Homesong Rest Retreat, and the very first week focused on balancing and restoring our daily rhythms. Amanda is such an inspiring writer, and does an incredible job of going through the steps of creating a daily rhythm in this post—if this is something you are want to explore then I would definitely encourage you to read it. I'm not going to attempt to go through it all here, or else I'll just be repeating her words. The one thing I would say is give yourself a week or so to mull it over and really observe how your family thrives and where the stress points are. This will help a ton when you actually sit down and put pen to paper.
The first "Aha!" moment I had (when taking a shower—because 97% of good ideas occur in the shower) was when I realized that I liked working at one thing for a good chunk of time, rather than switching gears several times in a day. Previously I had been trying to fit in a little bit of housework, some blogging, and an errand in each day. It left me feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, and I could never really get my teeth into those big satisfying projects, because my day was already filling up with activity.
However, there are still things that need to happen on a daily basis, like laundry, preparing food, exercise and tidying up. I decided that by fitting those tasks in at the beginning and end of each day, it would leave the middle free for something requiring more of my focused attention.
So, here is where we have landed. It will likely evolve and change over time, but it fits us for now.
- Early morning (6-7): we try and get up before our kids are awake, so that we can have some time to wake up before the day really gets going. Most days, I sit and drink coffee and read a book, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays I go out for a run with a friend.
- Breakfast time (7-9): my husband gets breakfast going while I shower, and then I focus on making school lunches. I will make a lunch for my 3 year old even if she isn't going to school, as it makes the day run more smoothly for us. I will also check if there is any dinner prep I can work on to make things easier for me later. I throw a load of laundry in the washer and help the girls get dressed/brush teeth/do their hair/pack backpacks. Once my Kindergartener is at school, I do a super speedy tidy of the house and make the beds.
- School hours (9-3): this differs from day to day. On Mondays I do a Pilates class and do a little bit of work while my 3 year old is in the childcare at the gym. Tuesdays are my big cleaning/organizing days as I don't have any kids at home. Wednesdays are a work-at-home day, whilst playing duplos with my 3 year old when needed! Thursdays are my admin day—meal planning, finances, paperwork, emails, responding to texts that I should have replied to ages ago... And Fridays are a gym day followed by grocery shopping and any errands all in one go. I find this so much better than spreading them throughout the week.
- After school (3-5): my goal is to have all my tasks wrapped up (or on pause until another day) by school pick up time, so that I can be present and available for both of my children, whether it's helping with homework, playing outside or just sitting in the playroom with them. Sometimes we might play with friends or neighbors at this time of the day. Once a week the girls have ballet lessons (so cute!) but we try not to be too heavily scheduled at this time of the day. I did make sure to sign them up for lessons that fell at the same time so that I wasn't having to make two trips a week—it's little things like this that streamline our week and make me feel less frantic.
- Early evening (5-7.30): while I am preparing dinner, the girls clean up their toys and once they have done that they can watch a show—TV is a great motivator for them! Then we eat together, and they get straight in the bath when they are finished. My husband clears up dinner while they play in the bath and I fold a load of laundry and give the house another quick tidy. When they are in their PJs they lay out clothes for the next day and choose a book for us to read to them. Then it's bedtime for them and free time for us! Friday night is date night, and usually we just hang out at home, but we do make sure that we are intentional about spending time with each other rather than just staring at screens.
- Weekends: Saturday is a more relaxed day. I go to the gym by myself while the girls watch cartoons or play with Daddy, and then come back and cook a big brunch. Throughout the day I will catch up on any laundry that's been building up, wash our sheets and iron our clothes (yes, I'm an ironer) but largely this is a slower paced day with space to hang out together as a family. We enjoy our backyard if the weather is good, and tidy up outside or mow the lawn as needed. For dinner, we have started grilling out, and friends are always welcome to join us. On Sundays we slow it right down and really try and rest. That means very limited phone usage, a little family worship time, time outside if the weather is nice, naps and good food. We sometimes hang out with friends if that feels life-giving for us.
I'll be honest—Sunday is the only day I really struggle with. I suck at resting, but I'm learning it's something that you practice, and not a one-size-fits-all thing. My current go-to for relaxation is Netflix or Hulu, but it just doesn't always feel very replenishing to my soul to binge watch show after show, if I'm being truthful. I definitely feel like this is an area for me to grow and it will be worth investing some time to figure out what works for me.
The past two weeks have been dramatically different in our home, and our family life has been vastly improved. Our new normal is keeping on top of things at a manageable pace rather than constantly chasing after them. At the end of each day I feel tired, happy, and proud of what I have spent my day doing.
Does every day pan out exactly as expected? Rarely. But I do have a starting point. Rather than using this routine as a strict rule book and making myself feel guilty every time I stray from it, I am using it as a framework that is actually very life-giving for me.
If something comes up during the week and it isn't urgent or meaningful, then I have learned to shelve it until the day that is designated for that task. This way my days don't get sidetracked.
But if I feel that I need to pay attention to the distraction, then I will drop the routine and go with it, and I give myself grace to pick up whatever doesn't get done at a later time.
As you can tell, I'm pretty excited about finding this new freedom and joy in the seemingly little stuff. Overall, it was very little effort which has led to a big win for me, and I'm amazed at how something so simple as rearranging the order in which we do things can change our outlook and wellbeing. It truly has changed the way I look at my week, and I am excited and inspired to get going on a Monday morning, and ready for a slowdown by the time the weekend comes.
Annie Dillard says it so beautifully: “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.” So here's to making the most of our days and learning to see more beauty in the mundane!
Do you have a weekly routine in place? Is there any one thing that really helps streamline your week? And what does rest look like for you? Friends, I need help on this one, so I'd love to hear from you!