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Today I wrote a guest post over at Intentional in Life explaining why I don’t overschedule our days. I started being intentional about this around the time I first became a stay-at-home mom, when I was pregnant with Baby E. It turned out that by adding a little margin into our schedule, we had more room for quality play, less stress in our home, and more opportunities to bond together. But it wasn’t easy to do at first. Fighting the knee-jerk reaction to always say yes to fun plans took a while, and was a little painful at first. Changing our schedule to allow for more peace in our days was an almost counter-cultural decision.
Have you ever noticed how many idioms there are about being busy? Some of them are negative- you have too much time on your hands– and some of them are meant to be positive- you’re such a busy bee! “Busy” is often a response to the question, “How are you doing?” So why is it so valued to be busy, especially when we know that it can actually be harmful for our children?
I don’t know. That was a hypothetical question.
What I do know is that with a little adjustment of our habits, we’ve been able to achieve a schedule that let’s us be, and not always do.
Children and parents alike are overscheduled- fight the urge to be too busy!
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It took some experimenting to figure out which boundaries worked for us. My goal wasn’t to make us homebodies, but to take the stress out of getting from point A to point B every day. So, I decided how many commitments I felt was a tolerable number for my children and for me. It will look different for everyone, but this is where I drew the line:
- One event out with friends each week
- One MOPS meeting each week (we have one week off a month)
- No more than two nights out (for mom or kids) during the weeknights, and two nights in a row is too exhausting
- A couple gym trips each week (we go at different times, depending on how we’re feeling/napping)
Our boundaries allow plenty of time for my little ones to “socialize” with other children. They have about 5 or 6 opportunities to be around kids their age.
I realize that this probably makes some of you want to rip out your hair because you feel you need to get out and do things. Way to go, mama! Do what’s best for your family!
(And you. Do what’s best for you, too. Read my post about mini-breaks for mom here, because mommy matters too!)
There’s a Jonny Diaz song that I love- Just Breathe. One of the lines in the song is,
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best”
There are so many opportunities that come up each week, and they’re often good. But I need to focus on what’s best. I have to be really intentional about the people we spend our time with, and what we do with our time. Do you remember that cliche that grown-ups told us all the time as children? “Too much of a good thing is no good.” That applies to scheduling, too!
I think that prioritizing these things was the hardest part of clearing our schedule. When Miss H was younger, I thought had to take her to every event that she might enjoy or teach her something. Sometimes we had multiple events to go to each day, which was just too much for us. It took me awhile to change my train of thought, that unstructured time is more beneficial to my children than all of these structured opportunities.
Maybe you don’t think picking and choosing events isn’t that difficult, but picking and choosing friends really is. Ouch, I know.
When I meet someone new, I’m pretty sure a part of me silently screams, “Be my friend! Let’s have our kids be best buds! When can I see you next?” But I’ve had to slow down and think about which relationships I can truly pour quality time into. The truth is I have some amazing friends, and I want to be sure I’m not creating an inner circle that’s too big to be tended.
Plan time outside
When we don’t have anything scheduled, I make sure to spend plenty of time outside. When getting together with friends, we often choose outdoor activities. Spending time outside is a proven way to lower the stress hormone, cortisol. (Read the article from Prevention here.)
My Instagram feed is FULL of pictures taken outside. Outdoor time is the basis of a Charlotte Mason “preschool.” Not only are my children getting that iconic version of a childhood spent outdoors, but they’re learning and reducing their stress at the same time.
Make things as simple as possible
It would be great if my children were these miniature grown-ups who could jump into every situation without feeling stressed, or stay out way past their bedtimes and still be congenial and charming, but they aren’t. (Okay, I know it wouldn’t be great. I love that they’re children: wild emotions, early bedtimes, and all!) So, we say no to events that will make our children stay out way past their bedtimes. That fun we had two hours past their bedtimes turns into at least a day of fussiness and resistance. That is not peaceful! Weekend dinners are scheduled as early as possible to avoid crowds and long waits on empty stomachs.
If there’s a big event we want to go to, we plan around crowds and hunger and other complicated issues. I don’t want to teach my children that the entire world revolves around them, but I do want to set them up for success and not failure.
We Allow Room for Spontaneity
As I say all this, I’m also realizing the beauty of a spontaneous childhood. Those last-minute trips to go get an ice cream cone, or even an unplanned road trip. I hope the schedule I described doesn’t make you think there’s not room for spontaneity. Quite the opposite. When we’re rested, refreshed, and healthy in our relationships, these spontaneous adventures are even more enjoyable and likely.
Create a rhythm, not a schedule
Lately, I’ve been investigating the idea of having rhythms instead of schedules. I did this without realizing it: instead of having a strict schedule, I create flexible patterns in our day. You can read more about daily rhythms in this post by Sugar Spice and Glitter.
If creating a life of less sounds good to you, then I encourage you to read Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist. Her descriptions of moving from a life of chaos and busyness towards one of peace and rest are truly inspiring! (I wrote more about the book here.)