Little Bee and I are adjusting to a new routine. Our day looked a lot different a few months ago while I was running a daycare in my home – the most wonderful way to spend each day – but after a whirlwind of change we’ve decided to enjoy our time together just the two of us while hubby is at work. Change can be really hard when having to adjust to a new “normal” and more so when it comes on unexpectedly. I was already having a hard time fitting in time for myself, focusing time on consulting work and what was then daycare administrative work, and accomplishing anything around the house. I felt I had to use every moment of the day and justify what I had done, give 100% attention to my daughter, tick a million things off my to-do list, leaving nothing for myself. With all of this we were handed a shock of family illness and drastic changes to business regulations, which would force closure. I was exhausted. I had to make a change.
To do this, Little Bee and I have to make great use of our hours in the day. This doesn’t mean I’m “doing it all” but rather I have a loosely made plan for what I want my day to look like. I knew if I was going to work from home, spend quality time with my daughter and get the most of this big change we’ve made in our family, financially and logistically, I would have to become incredibly productive with the small crumbs of time I had here and there throughout the day.
I also wanted to prioritize my health and show my daughter that this is a valuable aspect of my life, worthy of time investment. My father had recently gone through cancer treatment, which was a huge eye opener for me. I think it’s a great message for Little Bee that I not only value my health, but I am prioritizing care for myself, to be around for her longer, to have the energy to play with her and keep up with her as I want to, and most importantly teach her that our health is worth investing time and effort.
To focus on my new priorities, my work from home job, maintain the house, and educate my little love, I create a little list the night before, which gives me one less thing to stress about and focus on the next morning – when Little Bee wakes up it’s time to get moving and coming up with a list at that point gets quickly forgotten.
Finding my list on the counter after Little Bee jump starts my day provides relief knowing:
- I’ll start my day off right while still giving myself the flexibility to make choices if I choose to do so.
- That feeling of success as I tick things off my list. It’s oh so satisfying to see the list of “things” diminish.
Turns out, I’m not the first to have figured this out as the research to support the value in routines is incredible.
13 Benefits of Establishing a Routine for Your Toddler and Preschooler
- Children feel reassured and less anxious when they know what to expect from their day. Of course there are benefits to mixing it up a little bit to have them experience change, but having a flexible schedule allows little ones to feel the most safety and reassurance – so when big changes occur, they are more prepared to take them on and have the confidence to handle it.
- Routine helps deal with those power struggles that we all face with little ones. When children know the routine, they are less likely to put up a fuss about: brushing hair, teeth, getting ready for bed, because this is just how it is. Every day.
- Routine helps encourage independence at an earlier age. When children come to understand the routine, they are eager to take part in brushing teeth, dressing themselves, getting out items to be placed on the table for supper, pack their snacks for play group the next day, etc.
- When children know what to expect in their day, research shows that they are better behaved and perform better in school.
- Children are always keeping us on our toes. New teeth, flu and colds, growth spurts, trouble at school – it’s constant readjustment and getting to know these growing beings. Having a flexible routine allows us to deal with those changes more readily, be less stressed when changes arise and work these new aspects of normal into the day.
- Real life happens without a doubt, causing a big change in everyone’s routine and day, but having the foundational skills to deal with that change and how to bounce back into your routine allows the whole family to have a sense of security.
- Flexible structure allows children to learn those ever important skills and habits that will take them into adulthood and set them up for life long success:
- Self Care (bathroom routines, washing, dressing)
- Organization and Responsibility (tidying up, having tasks and responsibilities expected the child)
- Time Management and Self Directed Productivity (understanding that chunks of time end and it will be time to move onto the next activity, no matter how engaged the child may be in the previous one, making the most of play time as there are other times in the day where there are “jobs” to do)
- Focus and Self-Control (waiting until a less desirable task is over until the most desirable task begins, knowing it will come eventually).
- Communication (supper time, getting ready for bed, playtime with family members is focused time when children are aware they have your attention)
- Dealing with Conflict and Challenge (having the confidence to deal with the unexpected when it does occur).
- Allows you slow down and prioritize family time and moments of connection without feeling distraction from all the other areas of your life as there is now an established and devoted time for each. When Little Bee and I are working on her Love of Learning Binder together she knows she has my full attention. When we read together we can talk about the pictures on the pages without my feeling that I have a million other things to do. I do. But they can wait until their time.
- Children who know what to expect in their day, tend to have better sleep patterns, which you know the value of – I know I do!
- Allows you to be more productive with the time you have when you know what to expect of the rest of the day – If you have 3 things that NEED to get done you have a better idea of how much time you can spend on each.
- Feeling of accomplishment and success. You can’t underestimate the power of your mindset. We already have the voices in our head from mom guilt, decision exhaustion and being overwhelmed, the least we could do is lift ourselves up with our successes and accomplishments!
- More likely to be consistent if everyone knows what to expect. They aren’t asking for ice cream for supper when they know supper is a healthy meal that we all sit down to enjoy together at this particular time. They won’t be asking for treats at the grocery store if the routine is to bring a list of items and buy only the items on the list. They won’t be shouting at you while you are on the phone making an important call when they know that when you are done you aren’t rushing off to the next thing, but rather taking a moment to appreciate them.
- Routine allows you to find ways that your child can help. For them and you. It makes the job easier for you (after they get a handle of it… Little Bee loves to sweep but let’s face it, I still have to sweep afterward), and your child feels involved and appreciated and as a valued member of the family.
14 Ways to Set Up a Daily Routine for Your Family
- Create your list the night before. For me, I know that I can only have between 5 and 7 things on my list without feeling overwhelmed. And I know it’s better for me to have a main list of things to do that day, finish the list and then add to it if I have time, rather than have a giant list and never see the end of it. Be realistic. Set yourself up for success.
- Have an important activity to do with your child like the Love of Learning Binder – which can be established as a quiet time activity for those older children who can play independently while you do the tasks you need more focus for.
- Build your routine around what already happens naturally if you can. You know what time everyone wakes up (give or take), what time everyone likes to eat, what time everyone needs to crash for a break and refresher in the day – work with that and build a routine around what works for your family.
- Give yourself enough time for those things that take a little longer. Little Bee is really excited to take part in dressing and undressing herself right now, which, let’s face it – takes a little longer so I put fewer things on my daily list while we work through this together.
- I pick up and tidy up through the day in real time, but I always start my day with a “chore” which helps me feel accomplished, and I end my day by cleaning the kitchen counter, putting dishes away and living room tidied at a minimum as these are the first few things I see each morning and it prevents me from feeling overwhelmed before the day even starts.
- I set aside time to spend one on one time with my daughter without distraction. I usually let her choose what we do if we don’t have something planned but my phone is away, my computer is closed, the iPad is off; it’s just us. This is such valuable time for the both of us and let’s her know I appreciated her understanding when I needed time to work on something else.
- I set aside time at the end of the day to prepare for the next day. On my list it is written as “plan tomorrow’s amazing day” to set myself up for success with a positive mindset. I pack any bags I need, clothes laid out or at least thought through, to-do list for the next day, snacks packed, confirmations with plans made, last minute tidy.
- Involve your little ones – they love to help. My daughter loves to help me clean/prep for next day/help with dishes/clear the table, etc. It takes way longer but it’s building her independence and will eventually become a job she can do on her own.
- Be consistent where you can but allow for flexibility – how backward does this sound? But it’s true. I know that there are particular things in the day that I’m going to do, that I really NEED to do but that there are also those parts of the day that I can just go with the flow or completely let go of if the day requires it.
- Streamline processes that you do often, make checklists once you establish a method of doing something that works for you so you can do that part of your day faster and more efficiently – even with distractions. Think of it as a recipe for your best chocolate chip cookies. You may know it off by heart but what about the days where tiny hands are pulling at your shirt or you are feeling a little off, or you are mid potty training and someone shouts that they have to pee – having a quick checklist to make sure you haven’t missed a step is a huge time saver in the long run.
- Not all tasks are daily, weekly, monthly. I don’t clean my windows everyday… or week… or month. I really don’t get around to cleaning my windows as often as I probably should but it isn’t a priority item and doesn’t NEED to be done as regularly. I’m going to start making monthly lists for goals, and then quarterly goals. Windows would be on one of those… I’ll put it on tomorrow’s to-do list to jot it down 😉
- Find a good system for YOU! Bullet journaling is beautiful and such a hot topic right now and with good reason. It works wonders for some people, but I don’t find it super helpful for me because I get caught up in the aesthetic of the page rather than the task and that’s not very useful. I use a simple coiled notebook and my favourite pens. That way, if something needs to be put on another list, I can pop it on another page and it all stays together, but when I finish a list I get the satisfaction of ripping it out and throwing it away. Love that feeling. And the sound. This is just what works for me – I also have notebooks for everything… I have a lot of notebooks and lists and I probably get a little carried away but that’s my system and it works.
- Get an understanding of your day and plan accordingly:
- When are you most efficient? Make this the time to get those core goals done for the day. I know that I have lots of energy in the morning so that’s when I try and accomplish one “chore” that I don’t really look forward to and would love to have off the list. I also know that I don’t need brain power for this and that I’m much more friendly after a cup of coffee (come to think of it, my family understands this too because everyone gives me lots of space until they see a cup in my hand).
- I know that if I eat a heavy lunch, my work time/quiet time is loggy and not impactful, so I’ve changed my mindset on fueling my work with a healthier lunch.
- I know that coming on the end of the day, I’m trying to put together a supper that suits everyone so I can’t sit and read with Little Bee. I use this time to offer her a hands-on STEAM type activity so we can still chat and the time is still meaningful.
- Your time is just as important and valuable as anyone else’s:
- I love getting together with my friend Lee for coffee. It’s probably one of my favourite things to do because she is a breath of fresh air and I always leave our chats feeling like a new person. Where she gets her inspiration and energy I have no idea, but with her amazing personality, she is also incredibly understanding that my schedule is busy and takes no offence to my having to decline one of our meets. She knows that when I’m sitting across a table from her that I’m disconnected from anything and not distracted by all the other things in my life, but sometimes I’m not able to do that. Sometimes I have to work because I’ve been offered an unexpected quiet time that I could get a big project done for work. Having amazing friends that I never want to cancel on (and try never to cancel on) means they also understand why it takes so long to get together each time.
- Just as I don’t answer my phone when I’m with my daughter in “our time” or when hubby and I get our time at the end of the day, I don’t answer my phone when I’m with a good friend. I prioritize the relationship and ensure they know this. It’s an easy message to send, and one to receive.
- Ever carve out time that you almost couldn’t get to, move around a million things in your schedule, frantically find babysitters, scrounge for the “frivolous spending money” for the event you’re attending, only to hang out with friends who are lost on their phones, in their email, thinking of something else and leaving you feeling less than important? Well, just as you feel that, you can send (or not send) that vibe as well.
- Just as it is important for you to be cognizant of the message you send, you need to remember that you don’t have to take on all the responsibilities and let everyone else have the fun. If everyone is playing outside and you are scrubbing a floor, drop the mop and join them, then, when the game is over have everyone help you with the chore. You are valuable and deserve to have the fun moments as well.
Sometimes Having a Routine Doesn’t Apply
I’m not saying your entire life has to be written down in an agenda and stuck to as if it were written in stone. Of course this isn’t possible and it wouldn’t be recommended. Knowing what to expect and having some sense of organization to your day benefits everyone and allows you to get an understanding of what you can accomplish in a day, no matter what your day looks like. We are all incredibly busy and cannot compare with the Jones’. The idea is to look at YOUR day with YOUR family and think about how you can make the most of it, enjoy everyone the most, while leaving time for those goals you would like to see come to fruition. Time is something we all have little of, so making the most of it means a better life for everyone.
There are those life moments that are so special and so worth tossing the to-do list to the side. While supporting my father in his cancer treatment, Little Bee and I were away for a while only to come home to the warmest of welcomes from my hubby. Little Bee’s dad took a day off work and we simply spent it together. We went for lunch, played in the yard, went out for ice cream, the three of us together and it was wonderful. Our routine wasn’t thought about once that day and that was more than okay. It didn’t need to be. Now, we can’t have days like that all the time and expect things to get accomplished, but how much more enjoyable is that day when it was out of the blue? Because we stay on top of things (most things…) most of the time it’s easy to take a day now and then to just ENJOY each other and think of nothing else. And, we can easily jump back into our routine the next day as the foundation. Again, it’s like the recipe. Tossing in a little something extra, or cutting back on an ingredient because it’s what you have in the house is more than fine. It still works out and makes it a little more special, but we all find comfort in the original recipe, which is why we continue to go back to it.
If you have babies at home, this isn’t always possible. My daughter was a colicky Little Bee and that meant that I was flying by the seat of my pants most of the time, and that was okay, but I still had 3 (fewer then, because I understood my limitations) things that I aimed to get done those days. Sometimes I wrote down: 1. Eat 2. Change clothes 3. Sleep when Hubby gets home. It’s whatever works for you.
How it works for us:
Little Bee knows that during “Quiet Time” Mommy does her work and she must play independently. This is the reason I can be home with her in the first place and she knows and understands this. She also knows that when I am done, I put everything away and focus on her completely, so she feels appreciated in letting me have that time. This also teaches her to be patient – some days more successfully than others. This is my time to get my work done and it’s time that I have decided to be on my computer or phone, whatever needs to happen. So, while I’m sending the message to my daughter that this is my work time, I also want her to understand that I’m making the most of it. I’m not wasting it on Facebook or other social media, I’m working efficiently and effectively so that when my time is up, I’m entirely back on with her. I owe her that much. I offer her quiet activities to do at this time so she feels she has “work” to do too – because napping seems to be non-negotiable.
I don’t plan for perfection. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and I don’t mind (anymore). If I can get 3 of the items on my list done, that’s great. Some days it’s 1. Other days the items all get scratched off. It’s more of a guide to help me make the most of the day when I can but at the end of the day I have my priorities in order. Family and self first. Everything else second – even work. I love what I do. So so so much. But caring for myself is also caring for my family and my business so ensuring that every choice is for the best of our all over health and wellness is primary focus.
4 Lessons Learned in Building a Routine for a Toddler and a Work from Home Mom:
- I used to make the mistake of putting too many things on my list and then daily felt the awful overwhelm and guilt of not getting it all done. I was setting myself up for failure. This wasn’t a good vibe for me and I needed to change my mindset on the whole idea, making it more positive. Even what I write I put in positive wording “Plan tomorrow’s awesome day”. It helps more than you would think.
2. I used to be a clean freak. Everything had to be spotless at all times and I would get anxious over the idea of anyone “popping by” to see the minimal mess I had in the kitchen. Now, I’ve refocused what is important to me. Sure, I would love it to be cleaner, more organized, and to get around to scrubbing that marker off the wall I can see out of the corner of my eye right now but I also know my time is just as valuable as anyone else’s in the house so I don’t want to be the only one worried about dishes in the sink (because that ends up with me being the only one doing them). Instead, I’ve recruited help. I’ve stopped thinking that I have to DO IT ALL, and now I reach out to my hubby and daughter with jobs that they can do to be supportive. Everyone deserves downtime, including me, so when everyone is putting together a giant puzzle in the living room, the old me would take the minutes to wash a few dishes, the new me jumps in with the corner piece of the puzzle and enjoys my time with my family. When we are all done, everyone can work together to get the dishes done. I don’t need to miss out. And I also don’t need to expect perfection because asking them for help means that it’s not done to a “Jessica Standard of Cleanliness” but that has become okay.
3. I still have a hard time taking care of myself first, so I have to write two things that appear on my list every day – if not, I would forget to do them:
- Drink water
- Go to bed at a reasonable time.
My evenings are my only actual “Quiet Time” so I can easily work into the wee hours because I love what I do and you can quickly lose yourself when you are passionate about your work – it’s awesome but exhausting. I know I have to take care of myself to take care of everyone else and doing that means getting to bed and drinking water. And I know myself well enough to know I need the reminder.
4. I’ve mentioned a few times that we recently had a big shake up in our life when we had to close the daycare and decided to go to Prince Edward Island to support a family member with cancer. Having our routine, although greatly changed in location, looked very similar which was a big help to Little Bee and I while we adjusted to our temporary version of normal, and again now that we have returned home to a different life, without the daycare. Those foundational parts of our day that have always remained consistent were the anchor for us when thrown a loop. We kept bedtime routine the same (although we missed Daddy and his part), and morning routines the same (which now included Nanny and Grampie), and had projects through the day that mimicked what we were doing at daycare, such as the Love of Learning Binder. Having something reliable and consistent made this much less stressful for Little Bee which in turn was much less stressful for me. It was a great reminder that routine works.
What do you do at home to make routine work? Do you find having structure provides foundation or does it cause restriction in your home?
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