First for the worse.
And then for the better.
No, our story definitely didn’t start well.
We were in a heap of trouble at our place, and I could feel it.
And so could he.
Frankly, it wasn’t too hard to figure out. Just one peek into our home and you would have known it too.
You see, we had moved across the country so that he could begin a new job.
And together we had decided I would be a stay-at-home mom.
But honestly? It was every bit new territory for me as his new job was for him. Only a lot more so.
This was considered an important move for him – a “big” job opportunity.
But then again, so was mine.
Except he had some training and experience for his work.
And I, on the other hand, had none.
I’d never been a mom before, and I’d never run a home of my own.
So how is it that you’re handed the most influential job you’ll probably ever have with little or no experience under your belt?
And then you’re immediately put on shift for 24/7.
This is not exactly a recipe for success, my friends. And certainly not the key to happiness.
Which is why, if you had dropped by our home in Nashville in the summer of 1997, you would have found me weeping at the kitchen table. And would have heard me crying to my caring husband, “If ONLY I could spend a day in some older mom’s home and learn how to do this thing. You know, listen to how she talks to her kids, how she organizes their day, and how she juggles so many needs at any given moment.”
I swear, if there had been an option of Spend-the-Day-with-An-Experienced-Mom Service, I would have signed up gladly!
But I knew no one in our new town and such a Service was, unfortunately, not available.
So I wept, prayed, and cried out to God instead.
And it was about at my lowest point that I found The Article.
While I’ve long since lost that article, I thought I’d share with you a combination of what I remember, as well as add some of my own wisdom and experience with you.
As I started to jot down the list of things I wish someone would have shared with me, I realized that there was too much to contain in a single post, and so we’ll start a series instead. Sound good?
No promises, but it’s possible you’ll hear your husband announce this to the Sunday School class too:
“Our home is more peaceful, and she’s happier, and the kids are too. I have to tell you…I love coming home to this.”
*BTW, if you’re a work-outside-of-the-home mom, I hope there will be lots of helpful ideas here for you too.
The Beauty of Routine
I’ve always been something of a free spirit. I like to do things when and how I feel like doing them. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never mop the kitchen floor, it simply means I prefer to wait until I’ve “got the bug,” so to speak. If I had my way, I’d wake up when I felt like waking up and go to bed when I’m too tired to stay up a minute later.
But this approach just doesn’t mesh with motherhood.
I quickly found that everyone pays the price when I wait until I’m “in the mood” to make dinner.
So then this was the first step to creating order…and consequentially peace in our home.
Maybe you’re like me and find it hard to swallow a hard-core schedule, but establishing a routine is do-able and truly vital to running a home with small children.
If you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants, making it up as you go along, then it’s probably time to sit down and map out a routine.
Every home is different, of course, but I’m going to share our general routine for a sample. When we had four children, ages 5 and under, here’s what it looked like for us:
- 7 am – Wake up time
- 7:15 am – Coffee (lifeline for mom 🙂
- 8 am – Breakfast
- 8:30 am – Clean up breakfast and tidy-up house
- 9:30 am “Table time” (activities varied – but usually involved stories and coloring and my undivided attention)
- 10:30 am – Snack Time
- 11 am – “Free time” This was my hour to get things done, and I encouraged the young ones to “go play.”
- 12 pm – Lunch time
- 1:30 pm – Nap time or “quiet time” (no matter what the age, a 90-minute quiet was mandatory)
- 3:00 pm – Play time or outings or errands
- 5:00 pm – Clean-up and prepare for Dinner
- 6:00 pm – Dinner hour
- 8:30 pm – Bedtime, with listening to stories by our “older” ones (Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks)
Now if some of you fellow Free Spirits are choking at the thought of so much structure (and you know who you are!), then let me add these three things:
- You don’t have to make all the changes at once! I started by simply establishing meal times. Then added one more item every week or so until we had a good thing going.
- I found this routine gave me MORE free time and not less. Rather than constantly playing “catch-up”, we were in a peaceful and somewhat tidy rhythm.
- It really is only a season. You’re not going to be locked down to nap times for the rest of your life. I promise.
Establishing a flexible routine was the beginning of a new understanding for me. Because whether I’d realized it or not, I’d become victim to my little kids’ moods – rather than the other way around.
For instance, if they were “in the mood” to eat, then I could cheerfully inform them that Snack Time was coming up at 10:30 am! Which was so much better than dropping everything to go drum up something for them to eat (Are you tracking with me here?).
When a friend invited me to go do something, I wouldn’t be caught with tired, cranky kids because it fell right in the middle of their naptimes. I could confidently let her know that we could either play in the morning OR after 3 pm. And our friends (and family) quickly caught on to our routine and knew what worked best for our family.
I had no idea that routines could be so beautiful. Even for this free spirit.
So try it! And I’d love to hear what works for you too.
In His grace,
*This is Part 1 of the series, “How to Have a Happy Home With Small Children in the House.” You can read Part 2 HERE, and Part 3 HERE.
**If you have any questions, ask away, and I’ll do my best to answer them as I’m able! Your friendly, Spend-the-Day-with-An-Experienced-Mom Service. 😉