There are all kinds of perspectives on this, from proponents of free-range parenting to more rigid, autocratic styles, but our approach to everything related to our daughter thus far has been biased toward moderation. We’re against any particular extreme, have always been more middle-of-the-road. We don’t cry it out but we aren’t against it, either—it’s just not what our daughter has needed. We try to follow her cues, for the most part. But when I was at home with her for the eight months after she was born, I felt myself going stir crazy every morning as all of the hours in the day spread out before me. Now that it’s summertime again, and Mack is working more and more at his various jobs, I am yet again in the position of watching her for days at a time by myself. Let me preface this by saying that I could never be a stay-at-home mom; I love my job too much and am too selfish to let that part of my life go, and I truly admire my husband’s patience and the way he has taken on the making of our home as part of his life’s work. Throughout the day, though, now that school is out, I find myself constantly struggling to get things done while Harper wanders, aimless and bored, trying to entertain herself (probably expecting too much of an eighteen-month-old). It’s frustrating to me when she wants me to play because I’m in the middle of trying to do something else, like write this blog. And I catch myself feeling irritated that she needs so much attention.
Wait a minute. What I really said there is that I feel annoyed when she wants to spend time with me. What kind of mother says that? There’s something really wrong here, something I’m going to regret when she’s 18 and goes away to college and all I’m going to want is to sit and play with her for five more minutes. But really, that’s not me. I’m not that kind of mom. I do enjoy my child, love spending time with her and watching her discover life. So maybe the problem here isn’t me, necessarily, it’s with how I’m trying to do too much all at once. Trying play the role of stay at home mom but not really giving it my all. That’s why I came up with the schedule—it separates the time that she can be independent from the time I need to be interacting with her directly.
The schedule is as much for me as it is for her. Instead of getting frustrated about the clash between my needs and hers in the moment, I am engaged with each activity on its own terms. And she’s much more likely to play independently if I’ve just given her a good solid chunk of attention. I just get more done when I’m focusing on one thing at a time rather than multitasking.
So I started by planning out the entire week. This was based on several engagements that we had to schedule around--story time at the library, for example, or days that either Mack or myself has to work.
Then, I planned out more specific schedules for individual days, doubling up on the days that were the most similar. As you can see, some things happen every day--like nap time. The major activities in the mornings and afternoons are what vary most from day to day.
For example, story time at the library is always on Monday and Thursday mornings.
Sorry if they're a little difficult to read. I had trouble first embedding the Word files themselves, and then converting the Word files to images. I made them as big as I could here so that you can hopefully still read them.
Here's a look at the Tuesday/Friday schedule, when she has art/music time in the morning (this usually consists of me making a weekly list of Montessori-inspired art activities from Pinterest and leaving it with my husband):
Wednesdays are all on their own:
And Saturdays and Sundays are the most flexible:
Hopefully you can kind of tell that I wrote it in a way that would make it useful if she ever had a babysitter or nanny, or had to go to day care. I think having something like this to give a child care provider might either be very helpful or seem a little weird. But you can also see that the amount of time she spends playing with toys inside is minimized. This is the time when I’d usually go crazy, hovering around her as she needs this and that, constantly distracted but not really getting anything done. The schedule also prevents me from trying to do too much in one day; we don’t have to go to story time and swimming on Mondays, for examples, because I know we’ll make it to the pool at least twice in the week. In general, I think it helps to have a regular pattern for both me and her to rely on. Babies, and adults for that matter, flourish the most and are the most secure (and therefore able to take risks safely) when they are able to predict, within reason, what’s going to happen from day to day. This, I think, is essential to learning. So that’s kind of important. It’s also easier to mess with the schedule once it’s already in place. For example, as long as she has a regular bedtime and a solid routine, it’s okay if I want her to stay up late one night or skip her bath, as long as there is a reason. When there is a predictable routine already in place, she can understand why things might be different on any particular occasion, but if things were always different from day to day it would just be utter confusion all the time. So the point may be that the schedule isn’t meant to make our lives more rigid, but actually make it easier for us to mix things up when we really need or want to. A secure baby is a more flexible, content, well-adjusted baby in my mind. And anyone who’s ever stayed home full time, even if only for a few weeks, knows that when the baby isn’t content and flexible the hours just drag on and on.
Again, you don’t want to get too married to the schedule. If you are rigid enough in the beginning to solidify it in your child’s consciousness, then you can be much more lax about it later on. You just have to follow along until the routine is in place, and then you can adjust from there. Also notice that the schedule isn’t that detailed. I’ve found way more detailed versions than this online but again, I wanted to err on the side of moderation. And it’s important to keep things in perspective too—don’t get all bent out of shape if everything goes to shit one day and you completely lose your ability to think about life, much less the schedule. We also tried doing this in the middle of our transition from two down to one nap, which I would strongly advise against.
Okay so if you have any questions (or want me to go back and try to find my sources, primarily this one and this one) or want editable Word versions of these files, just comment. I wish you and yours happy scheduling and many timely and efficient days to come!