My life revolves around a schedule. It isn’t because I want one. (I’m not a natural planner, and I chafe under rigidity and obligation.) It’s because I need one.
With an unpredictable chronic illness, an ever-changing infant on the cusp of toddlerhood, and a sweet-but-sometimes-explosive adolescent girl, my schedule keeps me sane.
It helps me pencil in time to work, read, and relax. It ensures I get a shower or bath more often than every 72 hours, and it reminds me that (eventually) I will have a break. In short, my schedule is often the only thing that keeps me from jumping off a cliff. The key to maintaining it though, and not allowing it to become just another rigid set of rules, is to keep it flexible.
For example, I don’t pencil in my son’s naps at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. I don’t force him down if he isn’t tired, and I don’t mind if lunch is served at 1:30 p.m. instead of noon. Instead, I have a loose set of guidelines that help me know when to run errands, when to head to my office to work, and when to put my kids to bed.
To develop this schedule, I spent about a month monitoring our days and activity levels. After about two weeks, several important things became abundantly clear:
- My son generally wants to nap about 1.5 to 2 hours after waking in the morning and then again about 2.5 to 3 hours after he wakes up from the first nap.
- If I try to get him down outside of these parameters, he usually won’t sleep.
- If I get him down at the right time, he’ll sleep for approximately 90 minutes each time.
- My daughter does her best work in the morning.
- If we run errands before her school work is done for the day, she is likely to have a meltdown while doing it.
- My son won’t eat between about 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., no matter how much or how little he’s had to eat that day.
Knowing these things has enabled me to craft a loose but predictable schedule that ensures everyone in the house gets what they need on a daily basis. It doesn’t work for specific events planned by other people (e.g., library story times and yoga class at the local YMCA), but it works wonderfully for things I plan or schedule myself.
Based on these guidelines, I know to schedule appointments and errands between approximately 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. or after 3 p.m. I know not to expect any significant undivided work time until the afternoon (when my husband gets home) or the evening (when the kids are in bed). And, I know that I’ll likely spend my son’s morning nap gearing up for the day and helping my daughter with her schoolwork.
It isn’t perfect (I haven’t yet figured out how to make it to the 10 a.m. Zumba! class down the street), but it works for us.
Tools and References that might help if you want to try creating something like this for yourself:
Baby Connect App (perfect for monitoring infant and young child eating and sleeping habits)