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Achieving the Elusive #MomVacation

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Mamas rarely get vacations. Even when we’re on vacation, we’re working. Whether we’re in Honolulu, Paris, the Bahamas, or Argentina, someone still has to get up with the kids. Someone still has to arrange dinner, and coordinate everyone’s plans. There are still diapers to be changed, young butts to wipe, sibling scuffles to referee, and various anatomy parts to prep for adult-time fun. More often than not, these tasks fall to the mom.

The only way to get an actual vacation as a mother is to go alone.

Yes, I can hear you laughing. But, I’m serious. We all need a break, especially us mothers, for whom every waking minute is lived in response to someone else’s needs.

But how do we get that break?

Planning. Planning. And more planning.

Last weekend I went on my first vacation in over two years. (It was a writer’s retreat, so it was actually a working vacation, but it was a vacation nonetheless.) I was a nervous wreck, but my family (including my still nursing 17-month-old son) did surprisingly well in my (49 hour) absence. While my husband is a wonderful father and all-around marvelous man, I attribute much of the weekend’s success to the level of effort I took in making sure everyone and everything was completely prepared.

For those of you who, like me, dream of regaining your sanity and reintroducing your self to yourself, here’s what I did:

  • Arranged for my in-laws to come stay and help my husband while I was away. (My son has only just learned to sleep through the night, and since he is still nursing to sleep I was concerned my husband may not be able to get him down. I figured having additional adults there would ensure he – my husband – got some sleep no matter what.)
  • Printed out a daily schedule for my son, complete with approximate nap and snack times.
  • Prepared and printed a toddler-wrangling handbook that included all the little tips and helpful hints I’ve figured out from being at home all day, every day with my kids. (Such tips included the details of the bedtime routine, including the specific wording of the vitally important bedtime song, how to tell when nap time should commence, what snacks the baby will actually eat, what to do – and how to tell – if he’s teething, and the proper dosage and timing for any necessary medications.)
  • Baked my son’s favorite muffins, so my husband would have plenty of easily prepared, toddler-approved breakfast foods. (Making food pre-coffee is HARD, y’all.)
  • Washed, dried, and put away all the laundry in the house (so my son’s pajamas and towels would actually be where the handbook said they were).
  • Cleaned the entire house so my husband wouldn’t feel any need to focus on anything except our son.
  • Packed the freezer with easy-to-heat dinner foods, in case everyone was too exhausted to cook.
  • Ensured we had plenty of diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, and other toddler necessities.
  • Left the address of the retreat on the fridge along with the phone number of the closet neighbor to where I’d be staying. (The retreat was at a farmhouse where there was no internet access and limited cell phone service.)

All that work might seem like overkill, but I can assure you it made it significantly easier to leave. It also made it much easier for my husband to handle life without me, and you know what that means: I’ll likely be able to leave again in the near future.

Score.

 

Flexible Scheduling for the #Homeschooling #WAHM

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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)

Educational Leadership: Giving Students the (Right) Time of Day