Do you ever feel like motherhood is putting out a series of fires throughout the day? You have a plan, but it doesn’t happen. You have a list, but it doesn’t get finished. Your agenda is put on hold, and the necessity of the moment takes precedence. Your kids are asking, “Mommy, what are we doing today?”
“Mommy, will you play with me?”, “Mommy, when are we going to ________?” Setting a routine can be so challenging because so many unexpected events happen throughout our days at home with little children.
When I was teaching I used to call my students “Faithfulness Monitors”. “Mrs. Hickox, you said we were going to play this game.” “Mrs. Hickox, you said we could listen to music while we were writing.” “Mrs. Hickox, you said you’d read us another chapter today.” At times...more than I’d like to admit...my flesh would get annoyed, but then I would think, “Thank you Lord, for this reminder to keep my word and be faithful.” Occasionally I’d have to say, “Thank you so much for reminding me! I did say that! Because ________ happened today, I don’t think we are going to get to it. I’m so sorry, we are going to have to move that to tomorrow. Thank you for understanding.” Other times, I had to scrap part of my agenda and be faithful to my promise. One thing’s for sure: I became very careful with the promises I made and the words I spoke! Now I am a mom, and it amazes me how busy I can be, and how much of my plan for the day seems to get pushed to the next day… and the next day… and the next. Being faithful AND flexible seems like a tightrope walk most days. One other thing remains the same: every promise I make is remembered!
When Lincoln, my oldest, turned three, my middle son was fifteen months, and I had a newborn baby. Right after breakfast he would ask, “Mommy will you play Toy Story guys with me?” “Sure, Sweetie!” We’d sit down on the carpet (often as I was nursing), and the baby would spit up. As soon as I had that cleaned up, someone needed an immediate diaper change. Then I had to get someone down for nap time. Then someone needed to go potty. Then it was time for me to make lunch. You get the idea. My son desperately wanted me to play with him. And I really wanted to! It just wasn’t always happening. He was often gracious with me in word, but it was definitely a season of him acting out. The added discipline time did nothing to help us play more. I realized Lincoln must be very confused. He never knew what was happening in his day. As much as I needed to give myself grace as I adjusted to a season with another newborn, his world was flipped upside down and he needed to know what was coming. Plans change, kids need to be flexible, but we need to not exasperate them. Betsy discussed this in Lesson 10: Putting Off and Putting On: Learning Godly Habits. A godly mother does not exasperate her children. She reminded us that “Unpredictability of Home Life” causes exasperation. “When a child doesn’t know what to expect, his life will be out of order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.” Putting on orderliness is particularly difficult in some seasons, but the Holy Spirit will empower us to be faithful to the call before us.
After some prayer, I got the idea to make a visible daily schedule for Lincoln to see. First I made a list of general activities in our day and week. I made sure to keep it general. I wanted the schedule to allow for flexibility, but to provide a framework for our day. It also had to fit on the fridge. I used all one color for occasions requiring us to leave the house, another for meal times, and another for learning/quiet times. I made simple drawings on the schedule strips since he could not read yet.
I had asked for a laminator for the previous Christmas, and I ordered magnetic strip tape to attach the schedule pieces to the fridge. I used colored paper I already had, and Sharpie markers to create schedule items. The format used is not the main thing; the main thing is communicating to your child what is coming up. You may have another location to share what’s ahead, but this was the best place for us.
(A word of warning: there is not a highly-rated magnetic strip tape available. I hot glued the magnets to the back when they arrived, and I have had to repair them a few times. Getting a secure bond from the magnet to the laminator plastic is tricky. The magnetic format works so well for me I have decided this frustration is worth it, but I wanted you to be forewarned!)
What does this look like on a daily basis? I switch the schedule after I have cleaned up breakfast. It takes me one minute max. Sometimes I have Lincoln come over to look, and sometimes he is already playing, and I don’t interrupt him. I will just inform him what the first order of the day is. He often goes to the fridge and yells out, “Cool Mom! We’re doing an art project today!” He has excitement and hope for his day, knowing I have him in mind. Often as I am giving his brothers their one-on-one time (which I will admit is tricky!), he will interrupt and say, “I don’t want it to be Ryder’s time! I want it to be my time!” This is a great moment for me to talk about selfishness, or I can simply refer him to the schedule. As time has gone on, I’ve realized this schedule is a blessing for me too! It is a reminder to be faithful, and to make sure I get in the non-negotiables of the day.
Does having a schedule on your fridge mean everything gets done?! (Boy if that were the trick, I’d laminate my to-do list every day!) No, it doesn’t always get done, but because I have made general, prioritized, in-sight goals, it is definitely happening more than it was before. I am not striving to be a mom that crosses everything off her list, but a mom who is a faithful steward with her blessings.