During a recent conversation with a friend, she lamented, “I feel so out of whack; I just can’t seem to get myself or my children on a schedule.” Chuckling, I replied, “I can’t seem to get myself off of a schedule.” My love for all things structured and pre-planned comes honestly, for I come from a line of OCD planners. Before I even conceived my first child, I read how to put a baby on schedule by four weeks of age, only to read more about all the ways schedules change until children turn eighteen. Well, not long after becoming a parent, I discovered this truth: children blow best made schedules and idealistic timelines right out of the water.
Fortunately, my first child, who is literally me just in smaller form (God help us all), took to routine like a fly to honey. At every prescribed milestone she sat up, rolled over, and walked, usually ahead of schedule — HUGE brownie points for this over achiever momma of hers, right? She was rarely sick and posed limited interruptions to my own coveted, daily routine. Life was good. Yep, the “mom thing” — no problem — I got this, so I thought.
Well, if M is my “mini me,” then baby number two is my husband in all but gender. Apart from her actual birth, which was precipitous (another story altogether), she is not one to hurry, except when it suits her. When she was around six weeks, I told myself that it was time for me to “get it together,” that this child was NOT going to thwart my schedule — she WILL sleep, eat, and poop at her assigned times. Meanwhile, feeling so out of control with the baby, I planned every minute of my older child’s day to feel like I was still in charge of something, somewhere in my own home.
As you might expect, around week eight, I suffered a complete breakdown. No doubt it had to do with lack of sleep, trying to lose extra baby weight, potty training the oldest, keeping a clean house, picking fresh vegetables from the garden every day, preparing meals for others as well as my own family, and whenever possible, soaking in a hot bath to ease the lingering pain associated with labor and delivery. One day I literally sobbed in the pediatrician’s office that A was just not following the schedules “designed” for her and that M didn’t want to participate in all the numerous activities I planned for her. After studying me, the doctor simply stated, “Let your kids be kids. Keeping them on the “perfect” schedule does not define how good of a mom you are.”
See, I had just left a job where I was expected to make the most of every minute. Every hour of the day had to count; weeks were planned in advanced with very specific ROI in mind. But Let me tell ya somethin’ this way of operating does not work when it comes to motherhood. During the past few weeks several mothers have shared with me similar feelings of inadequacy, worried that they will never feel accomplished again because they, too, just can’t seem to “get it together.” Momma, I’ve been there and still struggle with this. Satan knows that I love my children. He also knows how much I cherish the structure and control that planning provides and uses my task-driven need for results to push my children into over scheduled lives. (I cringe at the thought that there would be nothing to show for how I spent my day.) He wants me to feel totally lacking when my youngest fails to “timely” meet some developmental benchmark, crushing the image of my being an effective, efficient mother.
” Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:12
Such negative thoughts like these ultimately boil down to the issue of control. It is scary not being in control, not knowing what the day entails; it is downright frightening not being able to produce tangible results. Momma, know this, you may not see fruit in your labors today, but the hours you selflessly devote to your children will eventually yield good fruit. Our children don’t need packed calendars to make them smarter, more well rounded, better liked or happier. We’ve been deceived into believing that “good” mothers fill every minute of everyday of their children’s lives with extra activities so we can tell everyone that they’re “signed up, on the team and in the program,” only to become like everyone else running up and down the road to get children here and there on time. Sad. This thinking stole the first year I was at home with my girls, leading me to believe that just being with my children was not enough. I took on way too much inside and outside the home filling each hour with some form of “productivity,” anything besides just being there, just being their momma.
Whether you are the mother of a newborn or a teenager, it is not too late to start fresh, to dial it back if guilty of over planning activities and overscheduling events for your child. God has today and tomorrow under His control and is not all that concerned about how many sports our children play or how many play dates we plan for them. He wants us to do everything for His glory, to love Him first and others as ourselves. He wants us to enjoy Him, which spelled out means to R-E-S-T in the Lord and to delight ourselves in Him. So instead of adding more activities to the calendar, how about scheduling more “down time” to simply BE with our families, content in knowing that our sovereign Lord is in charge of everything that really matters in our children’s lives.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God . . .” so that “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13
Real Life Hacks
- Routine is good; children need to be on some sort of routine but remember that routines can be flexible, too, and that is okay. What works for you does not always work for someone else.
- Pick a day and let that be your “stay at home day.” Do not plan to do anything other than just be with your family and spend time together, keeping it simple.
- If it fits into your family, look for opportunities for part time work or something you can do to work from home. Some mothers just need a “break” from parenting 24/7. My mom often said she was a better parent because she worked.
- Pick one or two things to do with your kids every week that will become something to look forward to like going to the library on Mondays, pizza on Thursday nights etc.
- A rule I grew up with was only one sport and one artistic activity like piano or dance at a time. Evenings can fill up quickly, especially if you and your children are also involved at church, so be careful not to over commit and set boundaries. It is okay to say no.