“Hi Heather, I just recently found your blog and was wondering if you could help me. I’m a new sahm with a toddler and I can’t figure out how to plan my days. I never know what the best use for my time is so I end up doing nothing. I’m (sic) tried different scheduling systems and they don’t work. Waste of money!”
Well, you’re certainly not alone in this struggle. I have been where you are, as have, I imagine, most mothers. Staying at home is difficult because in order to be productive and not go crazy, you need two things:
1) Intrinsic motivation
2) A plan
What is intrinsic motivation? Simply put, this is motivation that comes from within you. It is the desire to do something based on internal rewards, such as personal satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, or pleasure. It’s very different from extrinsic motivation, which is based on external rewards, such as to avoid being hassled or punished, or to meet school or work requirements. When you’re home all day with kids, there is little extrinsic motivation. There is no boss to please, and there are few defined expectations, so your motivation must come from within. It’s what you draw on when you’re tired and weary, and the thought of picking up one. more. toy. nearly drives you over the edge.
Through the writing of this blog, and speaking at MOPS, I have the opportunity to talk with many stay-at-home mothers. Most have made a deliberate choice to be at home with their children, and they want to do the very best they can. However, some resent being at home, and they have the attitude that if their kids are still alive at the end of the day (because they have not snapped and murdered them), well then…. they’ve done their job. These women have little intrinsic motivation, and I believe they (and their children) would be better off if they didn’t stay home. It’s not for everyone (it’s OK to admit that). I assume that most of my readers who stay at home do so because they want to. If this is you, you must ask yourself why, because how you answer this question helps you understand your motivation, and determines how you design your plan.
It’s important to remember that children have very basic needs. They thrive on routine, so it’s a good idea to keep meal and sleep times consistent. Studies show that most kids are also calmer and better-behaved in an orderly environment, so a reasonable level of organization is beneficial, but do you know what kids don’t need? 10,000 toys. Thousand-dollar birthday parties. Theatre rooms, manicured lawns, $600-dollar iPhones, and exhausted, tense parents who worry constantly about how they’re going to pay for it all. What kids want most is your time and attention.
If you believe that because you stay home, you must have an immaculate house, perfectly behaved, impeccably-groomed children, the healthiest, most organic snacks, and painstakingly choreographed play dates, I would suggest that you examine where this attitude originates from. Pinterest? Blogs? Competition with other women? Your own personal standards? Because there are as many ways to be a stay-at-home mom as there are personalities, and no way is right for everyone. When making a schedule you must consider your own priorities and what you actually enjoy doing. How do you really want to spend your time?
The reason why most scheduling systems currently marketed to frazzled mothers fail is because they’re too rigid and complicated. I’m a big believer that simplicity is the key to success in most things, and that includes scheduling. For most women, especially those with very young children, tightly regimented schedules will not work. In fact, I suggest that before you even attempt to make a schedule at all, you should first develop a basic rhythm or pattern for your days. Stick with it for a while, and see how it works. For example, every morning I follow pretty much the same routine:
-Get up, breakfast, see kids off to school.
-Get dressed. Occupy DJ. Today we made play dough.
-Do some laundry.
-Figure out dinner.
Even if I did nothing else, I would still consider this to be a successful morning because my child is busy and happy, and my family will have clean clothes and nutritious food. In the afternoon I rest, clean something, fold some laundry, and chauffer kids to activities. In the evening I make dinner, clean up the kitchen, do a quick tidy around the house, and get the kids to bed. This is my basic daily rhythm, and it’s what got me through the exhausting newborn days, and led to the development of a schedule that works for me. That’s the key – it has to work for ME.
Some people love playing and doing crafts with their kids, and are unruffled by clutter. Housework just isn’t a top priority for them, and if you’re one of those people, I suggest that you plan for plenty of play time, meals, laundry, and basic cleaning (for health and sanitation purposes), and don’t worry about the rest. Other people, like me, hate clutter and are in misery when their house is disorganized, so we benefit from a more detailed schedule that builds in time for regular cleaning and decluttering. Everyone has different needs and standards.
This is my current schedule. It’s a simple Excel spreadsheet, and you’ll notice that while it’s broken down into 15 -minute increments, I schedule blocks of time in which to accomplish certain tasks (following a schedule to the minute will not work. Don’t attempt it). This works very well for me, and you may use it as a jumping-off point to create your own schedule.
PDF version for printing:
Remember, find a rhythm that works for YOU, and build from there. Don’t concern yourself with what other people do. They’re not you, and their way isn’t necessarily best, even if they wrote an e-book or have their own reality show on TLC.[print-me/]