Monday, February 13, 2012

New Year, New Schedule!

About December last year, I determined that we needed a change around our house. Our days seemed long, the children were bored, and I was just absolutely exhausted by the end of the day.

I took a long, honest look at myself and our days, and I posed this question to myself:

If I were paying someone to keep my children every day, would I be happy if this is what they did?

I found it quite convicting. I realized much of my day was spent trying to "get stuff done". Sure I sat and played some with the girls, and they got fed, and all that jazz. But a majority of my time was spent trying to engage them in some activity to keep them out from under my feet (or off my lap) so I could accomplish something. And the result was 1. Gabriela was bored and getting into trouble, 2. Lilian constantly trying to cling onto me, and 3. I was frustrated because I couldn't get anything done.

But maybe the worst of it was when I really thought about that big question above. I would be pretty unhappy with my daycare provider if she spent most of her day trying to keep a clean house, handle paperwork, answer emails, etc. I want to be at home raising my children and taking care of their needs. But if I would not be content with a paid babysitter doing what I was doing during the day, what does that say about the "at home with mom is best" argument?

After a big slice of humble pie and admiting my shortcomings to the hubby (who is a smart guy and responded with something like, "Well, it's fine if you want to change things, but I think you already do great with the girls"), I decided I needed a great big attitude and outlook adjustment. Along with a new plan!

The first thing I decided was that I need to approach this like a paid job. From the time Eric leaves in the morning until he is home in the evening, I am the babysitter/daycare provider/preschool teacher/whatever you want to call me. Instead of me being out earning an income to help support our family, we have made the choice for me to be the kids' careprovider. That is my job while Eric is away from home. Now obviously, I am also trying to run a household and a small little birth business, and I am going to have to deal with some of that throughout my day. But my main priority should be caring for, educating, and raising the girls.

I know myself well enough to know that if anything was going to change, I needed to develop a specific plan and put it in writing. (Let's be honest, I am not very accountable when it's all just in my's WAY too easy for me to justify not doing it!) So I pulled out my little netbook one day the first week of January and created my plan of attack. It looked something like this:

8:00 Girls up and get dressed
8:30 Breakfast
9:00 Preschool Lesson
9:15 Sibling Playtime
10:00 Lilian Naps/Gabriela Helps Me with Chores
10:45 Gabriela Arts and Crafts Time
12:00 Lunch
12:30 Bible Story
12:45 Physical Activity of Some Sort
1:00 Independent Playtime in Their Rooms
1:30 Gabriela Naps/Lilian Reads, Cuddles, and Plays with Me
2:00 Lilian Naps
3:30 Wake-Up Snack
3:45 Sibling Playtime
4:30 TV Time (While I Fix Supper)

I figured I had better see if it stuck for a while before actually sharing my ambition with the world. Six weeks later, I am ready now to say that it has been wonderful!

We pretty normally break the routine. Like on Tuesday mornings, we have a standing playdate with some other stay-at-home moms and their kids. Lilian misses her nap, Gabriela misses chores and crafts. We regularly have to run errands sometime during the day. I delay naptime a little if I know we have something in the evening that the girls need to be well rested for. If Lilian is still sleeping at 8:30, I let her! But just having a schedule to fall back on when we are home and things are "normal" has been a game-changer for me!

The "preschool lesson" has been great too! I decided to keep it real simple to start with - especially since Gabs isn't even 3 yet. But each day after breakfast, while they are still strapped in their high chair and booster seat, I spent about 15 minutes to introduce a letter, number, and shape of the day. We talk about each one, find lots of examples, and I get to sing, jump around, and be silly. Both girls LOVE it, Gabriela is doing great with learning (even Lilian has been picking some of it up!), and I must admit that it's a fun way to start my day too!

Along with the new schedule, I created a cleaning schedule for myself, and I have Gabriela help me while Lilian naps in the mornings. It has been really helpful in "making" me keep up with the housework a little better and having the house stay "company-ready", which is one of my goals for the year.

I have been trying hard to save other random responsibilities (and pleasures, like anything involving the internet) for their afternoon naptime or independent playtime.

The new routine has provided me with the structure to teach, permission for myself to play more, some one-on-one time with each of them, and a time to do things with Gabriela (crafts, etc.) that Lilian isn't old enough for. They are never bored, and I have seen big improvements in behavior since no one is fighting for my attention anymore. I actually manage to get a whole lot more done now, and everyone is happier.

It's been lovely. And while I don't think it is the perfect schedule or solution for every family, my-oh-my has it made a big difference for us! Just by changing my attitude and deciding that teaching and playing with the girls is my JOB has given me the freedom to save the dishes for later and just sit on the floor and play. And guess what? I actually get more dishes done this way! And save my sanity. (For the most part...Can you really be completely sane when you spend all day with a 1 year old and a 2 year old? Evidence would suggest that you spend your time talking about poop a lot more than a normal person should.)