Routines, Rhythms, & Making Space

I am someone who craves routine and stability but struggles with staying committed to a timeline. I am easily distracted and am currently balancing a lot of different plates, and so it is easy for me to jump from one task to the next without fully completing either of them. This often leaves me feeling frustrated and unaccomplished at the end of the day. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I watch routine videos on Youtube to help me get ideas, but they usually leave me feeling even more discouraged about my own lack of structure. 

I used to try to write out my day down to 15 minute time slots–similar to my schedule when teaching first grade–but I’d get frustrated when I couldn’t stick to the schedule for more than an hour. A few months ago, I found a great resource from the Every Day Above Dirt Blog that talked about block scheduling (there is a free download for a toddler schedule linked here). I also learned new terminology that really changed my mindset–rhythms and making space. Rhythms can ebb and flow a little more than routines. They are flexible yet consistent, something to expect and look forward to but that leaves more room for creativity. And I love the term making space. Some people think that routines and rhythms and schedules are rigid; however, I have found that when I am able to have some consistency in my days, I have more space and time to invest in the things that I love. More time enjoying outings with my son, less time searching for keys. More space to be creative, less wasted hours scrolling mindlessly.

So, I’m going to share our weekday family rhythms in hopes that it may give you some ideas if you are feeling frustrated by routines and schedules like I was–not as a picture perfect example of what a productive day looks like, but more as an idea for how to create rhythms and make space when you are a young mom with a long to-do list and a busy toddler. We haven’t been as consistent with our week day routines these past few weeks because of major home renovations, but we are working on getting back into the swing of things. These changes have been so positive for our little family, and over time we hope to create more rhythms that promote rest, intentional time, and making space.

Our Weekday Rhythms

8:00-9:00 – Breakfast, Free Play, Work

Because I usually work later at night, Carson wakes up with Lincoln in the morning. I know this is a luxury that a lot of parents don’t have, and I am grateful for the extra rest after being up late at night. We usually eat breakfast sometime between 8-9 if Lincoln hasn’t already eaten, and then he has some free play/exploration time (read about some inexpensive ways to implement Montessori here) while I do some work for my blog and sewing business.

9:00-9:30 – School Time

Around 9, I start Lincoln’s school time. I am modifying a preschool curriculum for him based off of his current needs and readiness levels. I’m planning on sharing his school routine next month, so stay tuned! We’ve been a little bit off with his school routine because of all of the work being done on our house, but I’m looking forward to starting up again soon!

9:30-10:00 – Get Ready, Free Play

Lincoln will usually play or sit by me while I get ready and sometimes we let him watch a show for a few minutes. He absolutely loves playing with his cars and trucks, and right now his favorite pastime is dunking them in water!

10:00-12:00 – Outing

It’s been a little bit harder to get out because the mornings have been so cold, but we like to alternate between going to see my grandparents, the zoo, the park, a botanical garden, and sometimes an errand. Getting out of the house helps both of our moods and gives Carson a few hours of quiet to get work done! Memberships to local places such as the ones mentioned above are some of the best and most-used gifts we have received!

12:00-12:30 Lunch

We usually have lunch at home–leftovers or something quick and easy! I’m incredibly grateful that Carson works from home because it means we are able to have lunch together.

12:30-2:30 Nap/Work

Usually Lincoln naps during this time, but recently he has been sleeping in and skipping his nap. He’s never been a kid that slept a lot, but I’m hoping he will hold on to this nap for at least another year! If he starts skipping it regularly, we plan to implement a rest time where he can read books or play quietly in his room. His nap time is the main time block that I have to work. I alternate between my sewing business Elsie James Clothing and this blog! My work looks anything like sewing, emails, planning content, writing, photo shoots, making reels, responding to customers, communicating with brands–every day is different and I usually only get about a third of the things on my to-do list done, but I do what I can with the time that I have.

2:30-4:30 Free Play/Get Outside

After Lincoln’s nap, we usually cuddle and I’ll nurse him or get him a snack. Sometimes we will read books, play together, or he will play independently while I work on laundry or other chores. A goal of mine is to try and get outside regardless of the weather and play in our yard or go for a walk, but recently we haven’t been getting out quite as often. Sometimes I’ll work on some editing or writing while he plays, but it’s usually just a few small tasks here and there.

4:30-5:00 Dinner Prep

On a really productive day, I’ll start dinner during this time. I’ve been trying to get Lincoln involved when I cook, giving him small tasks to help with. My parents blessed us with some homemade freezer meals while our house is under construction, so recently dinner prep has been really easy! Generally we try to plan 3 to 4 dinners to make at home, and then we eat leftovers or go out on the other nights. We are trying to cut costs and eat healthier, so I’m gradually adding in a few more easy meals that require very little prep.

5:00-6:00 Dinner/Family Time

We eat dinner as a family, and then enjoy some time together. We love spending time outside or making s’mores in our fire pit when the weather is nice!

6:00-7:00 Time with Dad/Work

Carson is an incredible, very-involved dad. He is really good at thinking of fun, creative things to do with Lincoln, and he spends a lot of time with him reading or playing outside.

7:00-7:30 Bedtime Routine

For Lincoln’s bedtime routine, we take a shower, brush teeth, put on his pjs, and pray. We need to get back in the habit of reading together before he goes to bed!

7:30-10:30 Rest/Clean/Work/Prep for Tomorrow

After Lincoln goes to bed, Carson and I take time to rest, clean, or work on projects. Carson does the dishes and I do a quick pick up. Something that has really helped us is to lay out items for the next day. I try to lay out clothes for the week for both Lincoln and myself, and I lay out his school items/toys for the following day. I used to stay up until 3 a.m. sewing, but this was incredibly unhealthy and caused me to get burned out pretty quickly. I’ve made some adjustments to my shop and have been working on going to bed early and sewing mainly during designated hours/on the weekends. Although I am not able to accomplish as much with my business as I used to, I have decided that time with my family and taking care of my health is more important to me. It’s easy to feel behind in a world where you can view everyone’s curated version of their life, but I’m slowly learning that there is a time and a season for everything. Slow growth has meant that I am better able to take care of my family and myself. I do believe that there will be a season of my life where I am able to invest more time in to my businesses, but right now I am learning to be content with the not nows and not yets–to use the time I have well and to practice enjoying the present moment.

Flexible Guidelines vs. Regimented Rules

Also, please note that the above routine is an IDEAL day with rhythms that are subject to ebb and flow and change based on the particular day. Some days look more like rushing out the door and skipping school or grabbing breakfast on the go. Other days look like groggy mornings and dragging feet after a long night with little sleep. Some days we have big projects and deadlines and our routine gets completely out of sorts. Sometimes we ALL have too much screen time. Honestly, we have been out of our routine for a good portion of this month because of major home renovation, sickness, and doctor’s appointments. But I’m learning that days like these are okay. No day is perfect and I’m sure we all have room to improve in regard to how we use our time, but family rhythms can serve as flexible guidelines as opposed to regimented rules. 

Do you have a daily routine you follow with your kids? I’d love to hear what works for you! I feel like once we get in a rhythm something changes so that we have to regroup and readjust. But I find that the days when I make a plan and follow these rhythms are the days when I have the most space to live in the moment and enjoy the details that I would otherwise be too rushed to see.

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