Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scheduling & Routines: You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

I'm delighted to announce that we have a new contributing writer added to the blog! Erika Shupe blogs at Large Families On Purpose, and she is the mother of 9 children. I have learned a lot from her blog, so I'm thrilled that she agreed to share each month with you all here! ~ Caroline

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  This is what we desire in life though, isn’t it.  *smile* To have the fruit of a well-disciplined life, yet to be whimsical and do whatever we want simultaneously and without accountability?  Well here’s how I faced the reality of this dilemma with parenting & marriage, and learned a great strategy for success – on purpose.

In 1997 I married the love of my life.  When Bob and I became parents however, and I was simultaneously learning about marriage and parenting, I began experiencing fear of my inadequacy and anticipation of failure in both areas.  I called a dear friend and said, “Help!”  She thrust into my eager and desperate hands a book called, Managers of Their Homes, by Steve & Teri Maxwell, a strong Christian couple with 8 children of their own.  It was life-changing for us, literally.  It gave scripture and wisdom for how to successfully approach my days with the children, which then freed me to be the wife I always wanted to be! 

My daily plan used to be my single-woman-without-children strategy, to make a long to-do list for myself and plow strait through it without having to consider anyone else.  *chuckle* Now as a wife and mother, however, I would end up brushing the children aside out of frustration most of the day while trying to accomplish my goals – not those which the Lord had put before me, but what I had put before myself.  I was expecting 28-hour days out of myself, and of course then failing.  Not only did the children not have my heart, but my poor husband had a wife who often did not smile, who was not enjoying life, who only saw the difficulties, and struggled greatly with depression.  Do not our expectations in life completely and hugely effect how we approach it?  As I’ve walked through the scheduling process step-by-step I’ve learned a far better plan, as have many, many other families we have recommended the book to. 

I did not know how to organize mine and my family’s time. And I was spinning way too many plates to do any of them well.  But I learned so much.  I learned why being in a regular schedule and routine is valuable, why it is scriptural, and how different families can apply these principles in their own home.  This understanding gave me great hope and determination to create a weekly plan that would be a blessing to my husband, to our children, and to my self.  I learned how to be proactive in planning our time instead of reactive; how to not let the urgent take place of the important.  I learned to have the freedom to live on purpose.

First, I took time to analyze all I was doing, all I desired to do, how to prioritize, and how to begin to puzzle together a balanced week for the children and myself Monday through Friday.  I did not presume to schedule my husband, but he was very supportive and excited about our new plans, and he chose to participate when he was home – activities after afternoon naps, during dinner time, bedtime routines, etc.  Now there was time for house cleaning, exercise, Bible study, enough sleep, a little reading or scrapbooking, and homeschooling the children. I had time to cook healthy meals, enjoy quality time sitting on the couch with my husband to talk while listening to music, and I could rest in the fact that all of the things I wasn’t doing at that very moment had a time scheduled for them to happen so didn’t need to worry about it.  And I no longer went to bed every night with many regrets, not being able to remember the last time I simply sat and read stories to our precious children.

Now keep in mind this transformation does not happen over night.  It takes time. With the first draft of a schedule I usually find that I did not allow enough time in certain places, and I need to go back in and create more realistic time frames.  Learning to create these schedules means the development of a new skill.

Sometimes our schedule lasts for many months without change, sometimes for only one month before we would need to make some adjustments.  For example the baby drops a nap and spaces his feedings out more, or the school year ends and summer begins.  I then spend a couple hours at the computer with the schedule template I made to create a new plan and then we’re rolling along again.  I make a hundred choices for our days in advance, and then I am able to rest in those decisions and go with the flow all week.  *smile* This frees up so much time and energy it’s really astounding. 

Both my self and our older children now can see from our schedule on the refrigerator what everyone is supposed to be doing at each time of day, and they swiftly memorize the routine and flow through it.  I can avoid planning two people to be on the computer simultaneously for example, avoid any one child having too much unoccupied time, make sure every one has done all of the most important things for them in their week, and make sure they have balanced time for work, school, play, serving, family, Bible, etc.  I can plan proactively what each person is doing when I need to feed the baby and make sure younger children are occupied with something specific instead of being free to disobey, requiring me to stop feeding the baby to discipline when necessary.  Here is an example of our family’s schedule last year when our twins were born: 

There are also many additional benefits to having a weekly schedule in place. If we go out of town for a weekend (very rarely) then having a plan in place which the children are used to is invaluable to my mother to step in to my shoes for that period of time. It’s also been invaluable when I’ve been on bed rest with a pregnancy and needing outside help in our home, or when we have a baby sitter who is facing managing 9 children while I’m gone. They know what to expect and what the children can and should be doing, for how long, when they'll need to eat, etc.  Or if Bob is managing all of the children if I am sick, things can still flow for him.

Now if you’re thinking of creating a family schedule, I’d like to tell you that there is much to be learned about the reasoning behind scheduling, and about how to fit a schedule to fit your particular family’s needs in order to be successful.  I really encourage people to buy the Managers of Their Homes book and learn for themselves. With the purchase of a new copy you will also have the benefit of participating in the Maxwell’s online help and ideas resources (if you purchase a used copy you would need to pay $10 extra to receive the online help when you need it). 

Blessings on your efforts!

Erika has been married to Bob for 14 years, and they co-author the blog LargeFamiliesOnPurpose together – Erika writes, and Bob is the editor, photographer, and blog technician. They live with their 9 children in the beautiful Skagit Valley of Washington, and are members of a family integrated, Independent Baptist church close to home. Through their blog, Erika aspires to bring hope, vision, and encouragement to others. If you'd like to read more on what their blog is about please read the Introduction in their blog’s Topics List.

** For an expanded, more detailed version of this post including more “how-to’s” **
Please go to Large Families On Purpose post entitled “Scheduling & Routines: You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too, Part 1 of 2.”

Recommended book:
Managers of Their Homes, Maxwell
You may also be interested in reading Erika’s posts:
Scheduling & Routines:  You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It, too, Part 2 of 2
Scheduling:  What To Do With Weekends

Scheduling for Fall - How I Create Our Schedules
Managing My Time

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At January 25, 2012 at 10:05 AM , Blogger Rita Bandita said...

Erika, a comment from me, mother of six children from Holland. I am very surprised and happy to read your story. It gives me a positive boost to reorganize my household. I am married for twenty years and I feel sometimes a bit ashamed. Often I make mistakes in managing my family. How do I become a brilliant mother like you? How do I get more regularity in my schedule?
Thank you very much for this positive story, so I know that it is possible to be a joyful mother of children ;-)

At January 25, 2012 at 11:07 AM , Anonymous Tami said...

Erika, quick question: why does your 4 yr. old go to bed later than the older children? Or so it looks? Curious because we are having nighttime issues with our 3 year old and I'm wondering if she just doesn't require as much sleep as the others!

At January 25, 2012 at 6:17 PM , Blogger Erika Shupe said...

Oh bless you, Rita. =) We all make mistakes with managing our families - I'm just sharing one of my successes here. I don't know that I'm brilliant - but I'm committed to doing my very best with what the Lord asks of me. There's much more to be read and learned on the subject of scheduling - I encourage you to read the expanded version of this post, on our blog, and also read part 2 of this post, and other posts on "organization" if that's your desire. You can find those other posts in the topics list on our blog.

At January 25, 2012 at 6:19 PM , Blogger Erika Shupe said...

Yep, that little son just hasn't needed as much sleep as the other kiddos, and so to avoid problems of him keeping others awake, etc., we decided to go with his sleep schedule that he needs to the best of our ability. I'm sure it'll change as he gets older, but that's where he is as of age 4. =) We've found that it's more pleasant and successful to go with what our children need rather than trying to force them to do what all the other children are doing - as much as that sounds so nice. *chuckle*

At January 26, 2012 at 10:47 AM , Blogger Phyllis said...

Wow. The schedule is utterly amazing. Thank you for sharing. A detailed schedule like that would never in a thousand years work for our family, though. I do best with a simple, flexible, routine. Each family is different!

At January 26, 2012 at 10:25 PM , Blogger srkindredspirits said...

i loved Erika's blog and spent a few 'hours' (yes, I admit - I was neglecting some house work) there - although I only have three kids, I lack very much at keeping a schedule/routine, but with my 4 yr. old having autism - I see it is more nessesary. I began making my own tonight! Thanks so much!

At January 31, 2012 at 4:59 PM , Blogger Erika Shupe said...

You can do it! =) I was just talking at church with a friend who's son has autism, too, and she was saying how much she really need a schedule for him as it's crucial for autistic children. One idea she liked for her son is the use of timers through out the day to keep track of how long her son would be in "activities" or play spaces. I cannot yet go by the clock, say 9am to 10am every day exactly, because there are so many young-young ones with spontaneous needs (4 children need diapers changed, laundry needs to be switched, someone needs consequences or training, someone else needs redirection, then back to the child doing school. LOL But we always get in that 60 min. block of time at some point in the morning and I keep track of that with a timer. I have a timer on the son doing 15 min. of chapter book reading, a timer in someone in time out, a timer on our babies 30 min. activities (twins), a timer telling me when to start dinner, and a timer on the son playing in his room for 60 min. I need to be faithful to rotate kids through their activities and not leave them places indefinitely, and when I am then they rest in where they are. There are lots more posts on scheduling on our blog, which may help you find a plan for your own family's style. =)


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