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Balancing Needs Through a Basic Routine

I tend to be a methodical person.  I tend to do things in the same order each day.  If I vary from my small patterns I  tend to feel ungrounded, lost, and distracted. Five years ago when I had my first child, all my simple rituals were thrown out of whack.  I distinctly remember crying one morning because all I wanted to do was brush my teeth and my hair but I was nursing or walking the baby without a break.

I was trying hard to be the perfect mother.  I was dedicated to attachment parenting.  I would do anything for my child, but I still had needs too and I didn’t understand how to fill both my needs and hers.  Now that my third child is almost 9 months old, I’m starting to feel like I have this mothering thing down.  (Hopefully everyone else figures it out a bit faster!) I’ve stopped trying to be the perfect mother, and I’m allowing myself to be ME.

One of the things I’ve accepted about myself is that my day cannot be 100% child led.  It’s simply impossible for me to be with three children in three different places all at the same time.  I’ve had to create a rhythm to our days just to take care of everyone’s needs and I love it.  I’m thriving.  I had been following my children’s cues to the exclusion of my own and it was wearing me down. Getting back in balance has been a beautiful thing.

Here is the flow of our day:

  • Wake up and get dressed and ready (I try to beat the kids by a few minutes at least!)
  • Get the girls a snack while baby and I head out to feed the animals
  • Breakfast, cleanup and prep lunch
  • Playtime!
  • Lunch, cleanup and dinner prep
  • Rest (baby sleeps, girls watch a show, and I do some writing)
  • Snack, cleanup and dinner prep (if needed)
  • Playtime!
  • Dinner, cleanup
  • Pick up house
  • Playtime!
  • Evening snack, pajamas, and bedtime stories

The girls often will help me prepare and clean up our meals, but they are free to run off and play if they want.  They know it will only take me a couple minutes to wash up the meal and are old enough now that they can wait if they need some help. The baby has toys in the kitchen with me.

While I wrote playtime, it can also be project time.  For example, we all went into the garden and planted some seeds, and then the girls splashed around while I did some watering. Yesterday we all got washcloths and wiped down the refrigerator. I try to make my work fun and include the kids as well as join them in their activities.

Because I’m picking up as we go along and cleaning up the kitchen it never gets out of hand, and I’m able to prepare most of our food from scratch without stress.  I used to head into the kitchen around 4 or 5 every afternoon and we would all feel stressed and grouchy while I tried to cook dinner. Now I am with them during our “down” part of the day.

Also, there are always snacks available for the kids to grab when they want. I prepare them along with the meals. This means they don’t have to feel pressured to eat at meal times if they really aren’t hungry and it saves me cooking 4 different meals at different times of the day or having to cope with hungry grouchy children.

It seems so simple, so basic, but it’s taken me 5 years to figure it out.

What do your days look like?  Are there any simple changes you’ve made that have made a huge difference in the feel of your day?

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