I love routines. I love a plan. I love when my kitchen is clean. When I was younger, I used to describe myself as spontaneous and carefree. Not true. I think I wanted to be those things because I admired those qualities in other people. But, really, I just don’t think I was. When I became an elementary teacher I finally embraced my true nature. I kept my classroom pretty clear of unnecessary clutter and totally loved thinking through weekly and monthly systems to structure my students’ learning.
Fast forward to my present day stay-at-home mama status and Michael working part-time hours from our home office. We are both home, spend gorgeous amounts of time with our kids (3 and 1), and have loads of flexibility. We’re just about one year into this freedom, but have really only recently become totally happy about it.
I realize that sounds a bit crazy, but it’s true. It took us a long time to work out what it really looks like for neither one of us to be working full time. Who had a worse night’s sleep and gets to sleep in? Who is going to deal with cleaning up the lunch mess? Do you mind being with the kids while I run some errands? Why do you get to chill on the couch while I’m working over here?!?
What we needed were some systems. Some new routines. Some mutual understandings about who does what when and where. We’ve been through this before. When we moved into our first house, Michael created a chart of the chores we would each do. Kind of nerdy, but the man loooves a good mindmap, and I looove a plan. It worked pretty well, although I’ll admit right here that I still sort of resent the fact that he has always managed to avoid bathroom cleaning duty. What the heck?
By the time we reached this past summer, we were really in need of a new plan. It felt a little like we each fumbled our way through the day. I was often frustrated, and small missteps could leave me angry and resentful. I’d describe myself as a woman whose emotions were set to a constant low-boil. Seriously. I’m not proud to share this, but a forgotten trash day or Michael enjoying a bit of down time (which he totally deserves) when I felt he should be doing something else was enough to send me into a bit of a rage.
We approached a July family reunion in Estes Park with the intention of leaving the kiddos with YaYa and Gramps for a morning while we hiked in the mountains and plotted out our next five years (something we have previously done twice in our 13 year relationship). But there were a few important unanswered questions about 2018 that made long-term planning pretty difficult. After Michael read this article on Montana Money Adventures, he suggested we instead focus more acutely on our day-to-day life. Ahhh. THAT was what I needed.
Because Rocky Mountain National Park is insanely busy in July, we skipped the hike (no parking!) and set ourselves up at a picnic table among the trees just outside one of the visitor centers. The setting was really helpful. I’m not sure I could have gotten into the flow just sitting at our kitchen table. Michael first suggested we spend some time writing down our values then reviewing and discussing one another’s lists.
Then, reflecting on those values and using Ms. Montana’s post as a framework, we sat side by side and wrote out everything that we’d love to do in our ideal day. It pretty quickly evolved into everything that we’d love for our ideal day, week, month, and year. As I wrote things down, I didn’t let myself get hung up on the practicality of any of it. When I finished my list, I was skeptical. And so relieved. It felt sooo good to articulate all the things that I’d find most fulfilling.
Some of the things on my list?
- Read with a cup of coffee (30 min a day)
- Play with the kids without worrying about what else needs to be done (60 min a day)
- Be outside (60 min a day)
- Sleep (8 hours)
- Exercise (30 – 60 min every other day)
- Work on activity of choice by myself (2 – 3 hours a day)
- Be with friends (2 hours about 2 – 3 times a week)
- Hike (2-3 hours 1-2 times a month)
- Scrub the house without kids (3 hours 1 time a week)
- Read a parenting book or take a class (every 6 months)
- Solo retreat (2-3 days, 1 time a year)
- Couples retreat (3-5 days, 1 time a year)
This isn’t everything, but it’s more or less the gist. Nothing unreasonable, right?
Some of the things on Michael’s list?
- Exercise (60 min a day 3 – 5 times a week)
- Read (60 min a day)
- Have engaged time with our son (60 min a day)
- Have engaged time with our daughter (60 min a day)
- Work/write/create (4 – 8 hours a day)
- Meditate (10 min a day)
- Outside time (30+ min a day)
- Sleep (7 – 8 hours a day)
- Make dinner (1 time a week)
- Host a Meetup (3 hours a month)
- Attend a Meetup (3 hours a month)
- Socialize with friends (4 hours – 3 times a month)
- Winter trip (3 months a year)
- Summer trip (1 month a year)
- Solo retreat (3 days 1 time a year)
- Camping trip with one or both of the kids (3 days a year)
- Attend a conference (1 week 2 times a year)
So you can see that there are some overlaps there. We had already agreed that my day-to-day job is to take care of the kids while Michael focuses his work time on his continued work for his company and developing Uncommon Dream.
From there, Michael printed some weekly timelines we could use to write in what our ideal day/week would look like. This was about a month after that initial brain dump in the mountains. We each did our own and then compared them. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we really didn’t need to do much tweaking to accommodate each of our plans.
Three Months Later
We’ve now been following our weekly schedules for almost three months. I love it! My sense of wellbeing has been so enhanced. Time with Michael and the kids feels more relaxed. I am able to move through the days knowing that things will get done, the kids will get lots of uninterrupted play time with each of us, and I’ll get plenty of my coveted “alone time”.
Here’s a broad view of some of my routines on a regular week:
M,W,F – Weight lifting, shower, and cafe time at our local gym in the morning. Our kids love the kids’ club where they hang out while I accomplish all of this. Our membership coincided with starting our new plan and we saw it as a gift to ourselves in honor of our 10 year anniversary. It. Is. So. Worth. It.
Sa,Su – Often more gym time, but usually racquetball or yoga instead of lifting weights. One of the two days, I take the afternoon “off” from family duties and get some alone time (which often just looks like running errands around town, but whatever). There are also often fun family-friendly events on the weekends that we like to attend in our town. Sometimes a hike or a Meetup gathering gets squeezed in there as well.
Tu – Usually an activity with my moms group in the morning. Yoga at the gym after kids go to bed at night.
W – Beer with some mom friends at a local brewery or at one of our houses while the kiddos run around and have a great time.
Th – Grocery shopping and laundry.
F – House cleaning. Depends on what we’ve got going on, but this usually looks like cleaning bathrooms, dusting, and vacuuming/mopping floors. If we’re home, Michael makes me amazing pizza for dinner after the kids go to bed and we watch a show or movie. Even though neither one of us is working full time, weekends still feel like weekends and I prefer to approach those couple of days with a clean house. When we were both working, we used to clean Thursday night for about an hour.
Sprinkled throughout the week are usually more activities with my moms group that typically just shorten my gym time by an hour or so in the morning. We do monthly moms night out, which I love. Although a lot of our friends also have kids and are mostly also housebound post 7pm, we occasionally have friends without kids come over for drinks/games after Leo and Marcella are in bed.
In addition to all of that, my days are otherwise filled with being a mom – getting kids dressed, preparing meals, playing, cleaning up toys, etc. etc. etc. I had never pictured myself someday staying home with my children. I’m so grateful that I get to. We are so busy everyday that I have never felt bored or isolated. We’re out and about with other moms and their kids or running errands so often that it makes the sitting at home time really lovely.
We still have plenty of room to improve. Sitting down to type this and rereading our “ideal” lists was enough to remind me of that. I definitely don’t read with a cup of coffee every day but I now know how to carve it into my life. (Go to bed earlier so I can wake up before the kids do). I still get myself a little too wrapped up in cleaning up from the last meal or prepping for the next one that I forget to just play with the kids. And, Leo and Marcella are definitely around when I clean on Fridays (I’m not going to use my weekend afternoon solo time for scrubbing toilets!), but I guess 6 hands are better than 2? And those solo trips we both wrote down on our list? TBD…
I imagine it could be a little discouraging to read this if you’re still working a full time job. But, truly, I feel that I am as well. If you have kids, you probably get that. I work from about 6:30am until 7:30pm, 7 days a week. Just like most jobs, there are plenty of responsibilities, moments of frustration, enjoyment, and exhaustion. Even when we were both working (with and without our son), I know we would have greatly benefited from the same exercise.
What any of us needs is an opportunity to allow ourselves to take a moment and dream. What makes us happy? What are the little things that bring joy? For me, it’s honestly just having a little bit of time to myself (like right now, sitting in the cafe at the gym writing this!) For Michael, it’s being able to learn and be creative. Taking a more narrow look at it all was what we needed. With our “wish lists” in hand, we just needed to move things around, make a few shifts, find the gaps, and fit it in.
Having our schedule in place, my weeks feel so much more stable. No longer do I constantly have a load of laundry in the machine or waiting to be folded on the bed. I just know it’ll get done on Thursday. I know Friday will be a day free of cooking as Michael will take care of making the pizza (kids get something super simple like pasta marinara, leftovers, or something out of the freezer those nights). I don’t worry about when I’ll see my mama friends – it’s always Wednesday! Except when one of us just needs to get out of the house and we get together again on Friday or Monday or whenever : )
As a side note: we visited Ms. Montana and her sweet family this past summer and she made us pancakes for dinner. I’ve since made pancakes for dinner probably half a dozen times. It’s not quite a weekly “routine” yet, but I’m tempted.
I have always cherished having something to look forward to. For me, this has traditionally been accomplished with travel. It could be an upcoming visit with my family in Missouri, a Robinson family reunion in the mountains, or a trip to Palo Duro Canyon in West Texas (sooo beautiful and so unexpected!). I remember getting through tough days at work, thinking, “can’t wait for that trip!”
Now, with this schedule, I feel like that is accomplished on a weekly basis. I look forward to my cafe time every other day, beer with my buddies on Wednesdays, fun moms club activities with the kids, or pizza/movie night on Fridays. Those things are happening. I look forward to them. They make me happy.
I’m not sure how helpful it really is to hear someone else’s list of routines, but I think the exercise is worthwhile for anyone. Share some of your ideal routines if you’re willing. Waffles on Wednesday perhaps?