Shortly after my husband and I moved to North Carolina, we found out I was pregnant. I briefly looked for a job, but then we decided that it would be better if I didn’t work. For one thing, the number of people who want to hire a pregnant woman who is planning on being a stay-at-home-mom after the baby is born is not high (shocking, I know!). For another, my pregnancy was considered high-risk and my doctor was advising me to keep my activity level low. So, I stayed home. In our apartment (that had only adults living in it, so it took much less effort to keep clean). Alone. All day, every day.
There was time to do amazing, fantastic things. I could learn a new hobby. Read amazing books. Cook gourmet meals. Plot how to take over the world. Or…I could lay around and watch T.V. All day, every day.
The truth is, it is much easier to have good intentions then it is to actually do stuff. What I discovered during that time is that if I didn’t have a schedule of some sort or a “to do” list to guide my day, most of my good intentions stayed just that–good intentions. However, when I added some basic structure to my day, I actually did some of the great things that I finally had time to do. I joined small groups at my church. I read books and wrote letters. And, while I don’t think any of it would qualify as “gourmet”, I cooked and baked. (I baked far too often, actually, as evidenced by my amazingly large pregnancy weight gain! Maybe a little more simple T.V. watching wouldn’t have killed me!) 😉
And, after the baby was born–well, I learned that those months had been valuable training. I don’t know if you know this, but babies don’t come with manuals. There are books out there that can be helpful, and people that you can learn from, but no one else can figure out “life with baby” for you. It is all you. And, while there are some things that babies (and children!) demand from you–changing diapers, feeding them, etc.–most of your life is dictated by you. The days are free and in being so free they will either become the “carefree days of childhood” for your kids, or they will stretch out endlessly before you with no end in sight.
The difference is in having a plan. Each home is going to look different. Some are more structured then others and that is okay. But, I believe it is essential for moms and dads–especially “stay-at-home” ones–to have some sort of plan / list to help them with their day. That is usually the only way that time is spent in the way you hope to spend it.
How do you come up with a plan? Well, you can ask others or read books. Or, you can just make it up on your own. It can be something as complex as having a daily schedule of what you are going to do and the times you are going to do it. Or, it can be as simple as a to-do list containing the one task you are going to accomplish that day. Either way, there are a few helpful hints I can give you:
1. Plan according to what is important to you. Not what you think you “should” be doing. (Unless, of course, there are things that you actually should be doing! Like, giving your child his medicine. Picking up your child from school. Etc.) If your list is simply you trying to put together structure to enable you to be “super-parent”, guess what? It isn’t going to work. You will become exhausted–and so will your kids. However, if you put together something that actually reflects the things that are important to you and your family, then it will be a tool to help you not waste your days.
2. Remain flexible. Once you’ve taken the time to come up with a plan, it can be frustrating if something happens that disrupts said plan. But, life with kids is never predictable. They get sick. The fun project that was supposed to take 30 minutes takes three days–and still isn’t done yet! Etc. Plans and schedules are supposed to enhance your life, not rule them. You control them, they don’t control you. So, if things happen that aren’t on the list? Take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders and amend your plan accordingly.
3. Let your plan/schedule change as your life changes. Life with children is constantly evolving. Kids are growing up. They change. Although we may not always like it, that is what they are supposed to do. Your plans need to keep up. Having a “to do” list that includes singing the alphabet song and building a train track with your son is a great thing when he is three or four. Not so much when he is nine. You get the point.
Being a parent is meant to be filled with wonder and delight. Having a plan for the “daily grind” will help to keep your heart connected to your child/children, and make daily life full of joy.