The Benefits of Family Schedules

Time to make a volcano!

This week has been one of renewal: I finally went back to an exercise class, I set up my desk to ensure personal space for my writing and blogging. I played outside with the boys instead of insisting that homework take center stage (not that I would condone this often, but we needed to play together). We managed to share more family meals than usual (still not perfect), and I was available to supervise homework while cooking – somehow the planets aligned and it was successful! Best of all, I stopped to watch my kids doing things. I know that may sound strange to you all, but I have been so busy being busy, I sometimes neglected to enjoy the two reasons I am working hard in the first place. For example, I had found some time to blog. During this time, Peanut practiced his baseball skills in the yard. Normally, I would have valued my personal time and just continued blogging, but I did something else instead; I sat at my window and watched my son pitch, catch, hit, repeat…I loved seeing Peanut figure out how to throw the ball different ways. I noticed how tall he had become…the batting practice “thing” was finally the right height for him! I also realized he needed a haircut!

You may be thinking at this point just how bad I am at being a mother. Why on earth would this week seemed so special? I do spend time with the boys, and I notice them a great deal too. Being a working mom makes weekdays a little stressful; I am usually running around like a headless chicken, too busy catching up with housework, coveting a moment to myself, becoming “Mommy on a mission” with panic-stricken eyes if extra homework is assigned. Instead, this week I was much more “Mommy ain’t stressing over it” and yet things got done. The secret to this week: a schedule!

Many people feel schedules are beneficial. Some folks prefer to wing it, and it works for them. I am in the strange category of loving to be able to allow my moods and whims to dictate my plans, but I need a schedule to actually achieve things satisfactorily. Bizarre, I know!

As a teacher, I know the importance of schedules for children. If a child knows what is going to happen throughout the day, he feels more secure and confident about tackling the challenges of the day. He know what to expect. A child also benefits because she can engage prior knowledge before a new activity or event, which makes said activity more meaningful and useful. For example, imagine you are going to start homework with your kids. If a child has no schedule, she will hear the parent state that it is time for homework and may scramble to get started or procrastinate. She may have been engaged in something that she is not mentally ready to let go of, so her mind is not yet on the job at hand (homework) and the overall outcome might be a slow start, forgotten equipment or a general disengagement from the activity.

Now let’s look at the more scheduled approach. The family has a basic schedule which is visible to everyone (on a chalkboard wall, or notice board). A child might be deeply engrossed in a board game, or playing outside with a friend, but he also knows that at, say, 4:30 he will be expected to begin homework. He will not be “super child” and have an internal clock telling him when to stop his game and sit down to homework, you as the parent will have to remind him, but there will be the knowledge and expectation that this will happen and his brain will process the transition better. He will (probably begrudgingly) know that the previous activity is over and already be activating his prior knowledge to assess what is needed for the homework: pencils, eraser, notebooks, organizer etc. Thus, settling into the homework is gentler on the child and fewer battles may be fought! The schedule also offers a routine…the child knows to expect homework at that time and cannot argue about continuing his game. Over time, it becomes a habit and inner acceptance makes the child more comfortable with the day. Believe me, I am not promising your child will enjoy homework, he will just have a better way to cope with transitioning into it.

So, how did I create my schedule? To be honest, I did not do anything fancy. I just used common sense with regard to what I already know about my family.

To begin with, I followed these steps:

1. Evaluate your family’s current schedule: whatever you all generally have to do, no matter what, such as Physical Therapy (for us), homework, cooking, housework, etc. These will always be part of your week so you may as well admit it πŸ™‚

2. Decide on non-essential but important activities that you want to do: playing with the kids, family time, personal time etc. These are really the most important parts of your schedule as they hold your family together. Treat them with equal importance as the first list.

3. List things that come up now and again, that you know you will want some time for, but may not appear on your weekly schedule. You will need to save some time for these activities even if they are not listed each week. Blocking off time as a blank space does not mean you cannot fill in that time with extra housework, fun trips, vegging out on the sofa or taking a nap!

4. Be flexible to a point. For example, we have a long commute from school in the afternoon so if our sons have play dates with a school friend, our whole evening schedule goes out the window. The schedule will have a contingency for that so my boys know what is still expected of them when we get home.

5. Try out your schedule for a week. See what works and what needs to be tweaked. Invite all family members to comment on how they feel about the schedule and how it works for them. Revisit weekly for a while.

Swimming is a weekly activity

6. Don’t over schedule your family. I see my students struggle when they have sports, music, religion, language class etc. filling every day of the week. Some even have full weekends. I can spot an over scheduled child a mile off. They are often doing well at school but are tired, look like they would hug me forever when I declare a very light homework night, and they are stressed! I limit my children to two activities. Other families may have different limits that work for them.

Once these lists are made, you need to decide how you want to keep track of a schedule.

Check in to see how I do that in my next post. In truth, I could show you now, but my blogging time is up and I have a schedule to keep!

A friend recommended this book. I have not purchased it yet so I do not know how good it actually is. I am passing it on to you as a suggestion. I am not being paid, unfortunately, for my promotion.

15 comments on “The Benefits of Family Schedules

  1. Love it! I am like you – I’ve got a wing-it personality, but NEED some outside structure to help me keep everything together. In fact, I argue that a loose routine or schedule can help you be more creative and flexible, because you know everything won’t fall apart if you mix things up a bit. Kids (and moms) operate better when everybody knows, roughly, what to expect. Great post!

  2. I LOVE that you took the time to just watch your child! Busy schedules can rob us of savoring the fleeting moments of childhood.

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. Oh…and I also just realized that my sons need haircuts. LOL! Looks like I too need to revamp my schedule.

    • It is amazing what you can see when you look closely (and I’m not just talking about the hair!) I have noticed how Peanut thinks about things so differently now that he is older, his reactions to things are also different but thankfully, not filled with attitude…yet!

  3. Sometimes I feel like a bad mom for the same reason…being busy being busy! I literally have to have a schedule written down, including time for my kids and time to be on the computer. Otherwise, I feel guilty on both sides. I’m a new followers from NBH

    • Hi Meredith…thanks for following. Don’t think you are a bad mom…we all stink at the job now and again…just look at all you do in recognizing the need to schedule a little πŸ™‚

  4. Just found your blog via a Facebook post by my friend and the “Happiest Mom” Meagan Francis. I am a HUGE fan of schedules. Quite honestly, I just wasn’t born to be the loosey-goosey type, so I’d be this way anyway; I like to know what to expect, and when. I may not be hyper rigid (with a detailed list of, say, what we’ll have for dinner on various night),but I do have a penciled-in list on the back of a receipt somewhere in my kitchen that says, “Monday: lasagna. Tuesday: Fish. Wednesday: Porkchops” that I make up on Sunday after I grocery-shop. And in the 9-plus years since I became a parent, it became clear to me how much more smoothly a family runs — and how much more relaxed kids are — when they know what to expect. Well, as relaxed as a home with two boys gets, as you well know!

    Check out my site when you have a moment!

    aka, “Mean Mom”

    • So glad you found me…and now I have found you! Love the name Mean Mom….as soon as I’ve written this I have to dash over and check out your blog!! I think I will go with your idea of just noting a loose schedule for food. It gives me more flexibility with my whims…I just can’t give those up! πŸ™‚

  5. As a fellow working Mom, I can so relate to this post. I recently went from FT to PT, and it has been a lot easier. Baseball season is starting tomorrow, so having a schedule is even more important. I look forward to reading more on your blog!

    • Working really does get in the way of my big plans to keep home and family just as I want them! I have to roll with it. I’d love to be PT. Good luck with the baseball season and schedule.

  6. I know what you mean about being busy and working during the week and not really spending time with the kids and forgetting the reason you work so hard in the first place. I work at home and get to see my kids most of the day, but it really doesn’t mean I get to spend any more quality time with them and often I feel stressed because I am torn between the two. It definitely helps to balance things out when I have a good schedule and a good setup. A good work area is a must and something I am working on!

    • You are right, being at home doesn’t mean more time with the kids. In fact, I would have found it more challenging when my kids were younger. I love my new desk-space…will post it soon. Still completing the schedule πŸ™‚

  7. I am a working mom, my 3 yo daughter stays home with my fiance. Since my work schedule changes weekly and I never know when I will work until the week before it is difficult to plan much, but we HAVE to have a schedule! If I don’t he won’t get what I feel is important done. If I don’t he won’t have meals done in time for me to eat them before going to work. If I don’t then there won’t be any work out times or family activities, and I value those times so much! I miss not seeing my girl doing all her cute things but I have to pay the bills. Often when I do get a day off I am running errands or trying to get bills and budget organized so even at home I am busy. I need to schedule time to just spend with baby girl and hubby it is what keep s a family together πŸ™‚

  8. Pingback: Creating a Workable Schedule | Healthy Working Mom

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