Once I was a mom with three small kids, I realized the life-giving value that ‘a plan’ can bring to your day.
A plan helps you know when things will happen, make sure you make time for the things you want to do, and prepare all the mindsets/resources/supplies you need for the plan to happen.
Over the years, as kids went to school, I made a plan for myself and for the weekends with the kids.
Now every day is a Thursday and the agenda I heavily relied on has disintegrated into random youtube videos, eating platters of snacks and then deciding we should all go outside and touch a tree or something.
I want to alternately title this post:
MY KIDS MADE ME SCHEDULE THEIR DAY WHILE IN ISOLATION
Because I knew it was being done by other moms, but we were still on spring break when isolation happened and I didn’t want to mess with my second breakfast vibes.
However, after a HIIT workout and shower at 1030am, I relented to the peppering of questions from my kids on when they could paint/watch tv/eat a snack/play ridiculous amounts of angry birds/eat snacks. So, I made them a schedule for the day and they loved it. They want it every day they say!
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I agree though, it takes a bit of legwork to get started, but then we can rely on a schedule to make sure we breathe outside air and keep momentum in our day rather than it feeling like a blur of screentime and sibling spats.
Why a daily schedule is useful
As much as I wanted to chillax, I knew that the schedule would give us some stability to our days. Here is why a schedule can be helpful:
- Gives you a sense of control (really, it gives you control, because there is a lot out of your control right now, a schedule is not one of them)
- It provides a sense of stability (very important if you are feeling anxious or have a kid who is anxious about the global situation)
- It gives us ownership over how we spend our time (if you think something matters to you, put it on the schedule. Also, your kids are learning that they can be responsible with the time they are given)
- It helps you balance out your day (if I had it my way I would sit in the tub and watch netflix for unhealthy amounts of time. Putting in things like ‘exercise’ and ‘meal prep’ helps me to make sure I’m balancing out my play, rest and work in day/week)
- It relieves the harassment from the child-units to the parental units on their activity levels and snack demands.
Here are some tips I have for caregivers who are ready to put a schedule into their daily isolation-lives:
1. List all your ideas.
Conor and I and the kids sat down the other day to make MEGA LIST.
We are big fans of the MEGA LIST around here. The reason why is that it takes away having to think deeply and creatively at the moment you NEED the idea.
When you take time to brainstorm, the ideas will start flowing and you can come up with a huge list of ideas to pull from when you are feeling restless or under pressure. These lists also help because you can kind of take a mental note of the supplies you need to start gathering to make these things happen.
[You might also like this mega list of simple and easy fun things to do with your kids]
2. Theme your days
This past summer I did a daily theme that was repeated through the weeks. There were daily themes like craft day, hiking day, library day, etc.
To me, this is like planning your monthly menu with themes like soup, Mexican, leftovers, sandwiches, etc. It is a rough outline you can rely on, but it also leaves you room to make it whatever you want it to be.
[Speaking of meals, here is how I use mega lists to do my meal planning]
I just made this list at lunch with my kids. I thought of some themes we could do, and then some activity ideas for these themes.
I don’t foresee us spending entire days doing ALL the activities, maybe just one or two. But I like to have this as a reference for ideas.
3. Give your day(s) a framework
What would your ideal day around the house include? Meals, chores, outside, reading, socializing, etc.
You can put this into a framework of a day, or pace them out and build up multiple days of framework so you don’t overwhelm one day with ALL THE THINGS!
(Eg. We craft hard today, we play outside lots tomorrow, we will chill out the next day)
Clean up and chores
Maybe a detailed schedule isn’t for you and you prefer a framework. Or maybe a framework helps you add in the details of what ‘craft time’ or ‘chores’ would entail. I think I’m a combination.
I liken this framework strategy to rhythms – I shared here about our daily rhythms and weekly rhythms we have as a family. As this isolation is prolonged, I could see us into finding ways to settle into regular rhythms again. (There’s a free worksheet in this post to make your own rhythms.)
4 . Leave wiggle room
I had a smart friend (Hi Rachel!) tell me that if you don’t add in the timeline on your schedule that this can be helpful for anyone who would get anxious about ‘being on time’.
Wiggle room is your friend. You want your schedule to be flexible enough that if your kids are playing outside in the backyard, and nobody has come in to tattle or have injuries tended to, that you are gonna ride out this wave as long as possible!
I like to overestimate how long something will take. It is also useful for accomodating for sibling spats, having to ‘google how this works’ and making a smoother transition to the next activity.
5. Pay attention to what needs adapting
We had quickly learned that outside time needs to happen after a meal. This is because the plummeting blood sugar levels of our kids made going outside as enjoyable as driving in a car with a live skunk in the backseat.
So, pay attention to what feels like it is working and what can be shifted around.
My bestie is doing this totally amazing thing where she writes to her kids about the schedule and asks them what they wanted less of/more of. They are giving her suggestions on the schedule she can incorporate and I think it is a pro parenting move!
Check-in at dinner/end of day – what worked? what to try differently tomorrow?
There will be trial and error in finding what works for your family.
6. Include your kids
We can hand down an agenda to our kids and that feels helpful to us – but this is also a time where we can teach them to take agency over their time and make these decisions for themselves.
Wherever possible, put in what must be done and then have them fill in the rest with their ideas.
We list out our ideas for the day and then put things into a framework for the day. If we are struggling to get ideas started, then I ask them to give me a ‘theme’ for the day (they chose science) and then ideas for that theme.
7. List out the boredom busters
I think boredom is an amazing gift, and my kids roll their eyes when I respond with ‘oh wonderful! anything is possible, what will you do?’ to their boredom groans.
And I do get it, boredom can feel unsettling – and we often are upset with the feeling of boredom more than we are with the situation of ‘having nothing to do’ – because that is just a story we tell ourselves. (We have lots to do, things we’ve always said we wanted to do, things we know we should do. They just aren’t what we feel like in the moment.)
After a few days of listening to (one kid) complain about feeling bored, we sat down at the end of the night and wrote a list of everything they could do when they feel bored – instead of complaining to their mother.
Naturally, what you do with one you do with all and each kid wanted their own list of boredom busters. I don’t mind though, we have this list I can point to when they tell me their want something to do. ‘Anything is possible! what will you do?’
8. Plan your own day, as parent
And what are you doing in all this time mom?
I know the first days of isolation I had things in the back of my mind I hoped to do, but I found myself floundering around and finishing the day feeling frustrated, unproductive and exhausted.
So I started to do brain dumps of all the things in my head. Once I listed them out I could see the things I can do here and there while the kids are busy.
To me, this list is NOT A TO-DO LIST. It is a reference list of all the things that need my attention and will make me feel productive.
Remember to add in things that help you take care of yourself as well. Whatever things recharge you and nourish you, write one down every day! Then schedule it in to make sure you have time for you too.
AND PLEASE CHECK IN ON THE FEELS
A schedule can feel like comforting: there is structure and next steps. It feels intentional and directive. But don’t let it become something that keeps you moving and keeps you avoiding feeling whatever you need to feel in this process.
Especially your kids.
If they are acting out, and restless, and complaining remember that this hard for them too. If adults have a hard time making sense of this, staying optimistic, being kind and showing up with intention and grace – imagine how much harder it is for kids who are still learning how to emotionally cope with the colour of toothpaste or wearing pants.
Check-in with each other.
We are all feeling some stress and dealing with it the best we know how. We can’t really tell people how to experience their feelings, but we can be there for them. And if it is our kids, we can give them tips and tools on how to cope and work through the frustration and disappointment they might be feeling.
Take the time to put schedules on hold when your kids need a hot minute, when you need a hot minute, to feel like things are not ok.