As you might remember, I’ve been writing and thinking about how to incorporate more structure and routine into my day as a parent. My goal is to structure and plan time for things like housework and activities with the kids so that I know they will get done, and leave enough flexibility in our day for the benefits of free play, spontaneity and the luxury of becoming bored and having to figure out what to do.
My first step was to take an inventory of how and where I spent my time, and identify certain times of day that I wanted to add structure to. After that I made a weekly plan for the housework, with a task assigned to six out of the seven days each week. These two changes were going pretty well, and I noticed that by front-loading my day and tackling most of the housework in the morning I was less stressed and flummoxed by the idea of cooking dinner in the afternoon/evening. My house was staying clean for longer, and things were good.
Then we went camping, and it all went out the window. Usually I really enjoy camping, but this time I was stressed out and more than a little grumpy. When we got back there were the usual piles of camping gear in the kitchen while we aired everything out and slowly got it put back where it belongs. I’m trying to plan a birthday party right now too, and my regular routine is no longer working.
In an effort to stay positive, I’ve been trying to think about how my camping breakdown could benefit me. What can I learn from this in terms of how I approach structure and routine?
- Structure and routine work at home, but I can’t expect the same kind of control and organization when we’re camping. Letting go sometimes is equally as important as taking hold.
- Planning outings the night before or in the morning is still important when we’re away from home. Taking a long time to decide what to do and getting ready to do it uses up all the time we might have enjoyed doing it if we’d been ready earlier.
- My pace needs to match my children’s pace. Several times I got stressed out by Tom going ahead on a hike while Beatrice dragged her feet and she and I lagged behind. This really upset me, but it didn’t need to. If I could match my pace with Bea and let her stop to look at things, sit on a log and rest her legs or generally be in control a little more it would reduce our conflict. Tom will be able to figure out we’re not behind him and come back to find us.
One thing is absolutely true: I am really looking forward to the structure and routine of the fall. I wouldn’t say I’ve always loved structure in my life, but life with a toddler and preschooler is so much easier when we all know what is going to happen next.