When we got pregnant with Axa, Tony and I were living in student housing at Brigham Young University. Having witnessed too many friends whose every move suddenly revolved around naptime (and every conversation around diapers, precocious developmental milestones, and infant bodily functions) we swore that having a baby would not change our lifestyle. Sure enough, tiny Axa went along with us to the International Cinema, campus lectures, Tony’s computer lab job, and midnight shopping runs. When she was two months old, we even took her on a summer-long field study to the Philippines.
Nope, having a baby didn’t put a kink in our lifestyle. We wore her everywhere in our various baby carriers, and she ate when she felt like eating and slept when she felt like sleeping. In fact, she never had a regular naptime. Never, that is, until at age 2 1/2 she was joined by a baby brother.
Suddenly our free and easy lifestyle became a sleep-deprived, chaotic nightmare. Where we once had enjoyed the freedom of heading off into the sunset whenever the spirit moved, we were now struggling to parent two small children without established routines. And it wasn’t pretty.
We had to change tactics, and fast. The first thing I discovered was that my toddler was not (as I had previously thought) an anomaly of a child who just didn’t nap. I began putting her down for an afternoon nap at the same time as her baby brother, and she took to the routine readily. She (and he) slept two hours every day for the next couple of years. Even now, in the post-nap era, we maintain a family quiet time after lunch, in which the children listen to audiobooks and play quietly in their bedrooms.
It wasn’t just the children who got a schedule makeover. Tony and I discovered that we were also happier and more productive when almost every minute of our day was planned and scripted. Since that time, we have gone through numerous family schedules. Whenever we have a problem, the first solution we try is adjusting the schedule. More often than not, it works.
This was a hard shift for me to make at first. I am not a “Type A” personality, and I’m one of the least organized people I know. I really value creativity and spontaneity. In college, I was voted by my roommates “most likely to marry a man who will pull you outside to dance in the rain.” And it came to pass. But I’ve learned that for me, those wonderful moments of spontaneity feel best and matter most when they interrupt a schedule that is there to interrupt. After all, even if you’re marching to the beat of a different drummer, there’s still a beat.
Our obsession with schedules is probably largely due to the fact that we have a bit more responsibility for our schedule than some people. Not only do we homeschool, but we work from home. So we don’t really have any outside help when it comes to organizing our life and setting boundaries on our time. It’s all up to us. Having a clearly defined and detailed schedule helps us feel sane and in control, and nudges us toward actually accomplishing (most of) our goals.
Here’s our schedule right now. It’s not the most detailed schedule we’ve ever made, but it does the job.
The top portion is Tony’s creation, and schedules our week (Monday through Sunday) from 5 a.m. to bedtime. The bottom half is my expansion of the time between 8:30 and 10:30, when we do our formal homeschooling. These two little pieces of paper are our lifeline. To the extent that we follow them religiously, our life tends to go well. And after a particularly bad day we usually find ourselves recommitting to the schedule.
Whenever we sit down to plan or alter the schedule, I always think of Steven Covey’s advice from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “Schedule your priorities — don’t prioritize your schedule.” Our current schedule is also partially a result of the many schedules I’ve examined of people whose lives I admire both for their balance and productivity. And of course, I’m always looking to collect more scheduling ideas and tactics. Are you a scheduler with wisdom to share? Or are you one of those enviable people who can make it all work with no schedule at all?