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I’ve taken a bit of a break in the series because so many of you on the Facebook Discussion Group seemed to be still on Challenge Three as it was taking more time than you expected. Today, we’ll pick up with challenge six.
Your Method Looks Great, But…
Kids. Yes, you have kids. I do, too.
I get it. You don’t think it’s possible to ever get onto a schedule because you homeschool, you have small children, you have kids that come home at 2:30 in the afternoon and wreck everything you’ve done. Why bother?
Children are not deal-breakers. They are deal-modifiers. Women have been working with children beside them for many years. The trick is to figure out how to make it work for your family while you still get your work done.
I have written, and re-written and written this post again. I don’t want it to come off as snarky or anything less than understanding. I know what it’s like to be a mom with small kids and feel like you aren’t accomplishing anything and your life is passing by because for everything you get done, they create another hour or two’s worth of work. And as soon as you are done washing dishes, someone sits another dirty plate in the sink. It never ends.
So please don’t take this post the wrong way. I’m trying to help you determine what works for you.
As the mom, you set the tone for the home, and you also are the decision maker about what goes on in the home. Outside of a child who is special needs, your guidance should control the children’s behaviour, not the other way around. Turning that around can be amazingly tough work.
Mom, it is your job to teach the kids from an early age to not be destructive, but constructive, while limiting their ability to destroy anything indiscriminately AND giving them items they can explore (read: destroy) in ways that are both safe for them AND fill their need to be busy. Toddlers, especially, have a huge need to explore, and a ton of energy to expend on it.
To that end, with younger children, I strongly recommend you limit their ability to ‘explore’ (read: destroy) the majority of the house. A series of baby gates combined with a child-proofed, safe room with plenty of explore-worthy things that are easily contained or picked up is the way to go. Plainly put, if they are making more of a mess than you can reasonably clean, then you need to limit their ability to make those messes.
Then keep them with you at all times when they’re in an area in which they could make a mess.
I’ve been known to fold laundry on a table higher than they can reach while distracting them with toys, leave it there, then quickly put it away once they’re asleep. Things that didn’t need to be folded, like washrags, took up permanent residence in a bin out of their reach in the bathroom. I would let them ‘help’ me fold that, so they felt a part of the process and could explore it. Underwear and undershirts got stuffed into drawers after being sorted into piles and play folded with the toddlers.
In warm weather, feed them wearing only a diaper. Keep them out of every bedroom except the room in which they sleep, and have that childproofed. This is especially important if you have older kids have that toys on which they could choke, such as Legos. Take them outside to let them destroy in the sandbox, or on a water table on the porch, or the like. Let them make LOTS of messes. Outside. Run around, get messy, burn the energy. In the winter, let them make LOTS of messes. In the bathtub. Take them to an indoor play area and let them run themselves out. Be sure you’re fulfilling their desire to both explore and to be busy in ways that are not overwhelming to you. Let them wear themselves out. Then put them in a sling on your back and get busy getting your work done.
I found it was far better to drive to an indoor play area and let them wear themselves out than to stay at home and try to work- in the grand scheme of things, I got about the same amount of work done, but we were both happier if they had had time to run themselves out first.
To that end, it is important that you have reasonable expectations as to what you can and can not accomplish with children in the home, and come up with creative solutions to minimize their mess-making abilities. This will change as your children grow.
However, sometimes the problem isn’t working with a child’s natural tendencies, but of how the child is being directed as they grow. If older children are running rough-shod over mom, wrecking everything and the needs of the adults in the family are being completely ignored and the adults are wasted of their energy due to a litany of bad behavior, you need to start there, as no schedule will fix children who have not been taught kindness and consideration. A schedule will be a tool to help THEM, not you.
If you have special needs children, you are best to use a routine and not a schedule, as your child’s needs can be unpredictable, and should take the priority.
However, if your children are just being normal kids and will allow you to guide the way, you have some options to make this type of a lifestyle work for you.
First, you can run the schedule while they are at school. Or, if you homeschool, you can run the schedule during the day after school is done. Or flip it- run the schedule in the morning and do school mid-morning and afternoon if that fits your children better. When we return to homeschooling this Fall, that will be what we do, as I have a child who strongly prefers to sleep until 9am and her brain doesn’t function until 10am. My schedule will run from 6-10, then resume once school is done for the day.
Second, you can run a routine instead of a schedule. This works particularly well if you’re dealing with the time-suck that is known as a toddler. Small children have no concept of time at all. In order to accomplish this, double the amount of time you think a project would take as a guideline, and do everything as a routine instead. We will cover routines very soon. For now, get everything on paper, and instead of blocking out time, just work on the most important thing as much as you can until it’s done, then move to the next important thing, taking breaks as needed to care for the kids and handle normal meals and naps/bedtime.
Make A Mix
You can also mix routine and schedule, which is what I personally do to some extent. I have a daily routine that I start my workday with for things that are done every day, then move into a schedule once the routine is done. This allows me the flexibility of both methods, while minimizing the time limitations that having a family can give.
Yesterday was a particularly stressful day. I live in a heavily-wooded suburban neighborhood and the neighbor’s garage caught on fire. Fire can VERY easily jump from house to house in this type of a neighborhood. We have a very tense few hours in the middle of the afternoon, waiting to find out if our house would be at risk, if we would be evacuated, and if our neighbors were alive. I stopped my routine while we waited. Once things were over (no one was home at the time, they were finally able to contain the fire even though the neighbors suffered a total loss), I was able to finish my routine before readjusting my schedule and moving on for the day.
Normally my routine covers the beginning of the day, but on days where it gets delayed due to appointments, sickness or emergency, I just pick up the routine when I can and move onto the schedule once the routine is done. If there are no more hours in the day that day, I simply push those items back on the calendar and reorganize.
So the key to working this with children is to create a flexible routine with some scheduling towards the period of the day where their love cup is full and you can get things done.
I have made some videos for my It Works business about working your home-based business around your children. But really the concept works no matter what you’re working on, paid business or not. These principles also apply to doing projects at home.
Photo credit- From Chaos to Order by Sebastien Weirtz on Flickr