Creating a family routine and schedule to follow can be challenging for a couple in the best of times. Throw a couple of very young children into the mix, along with working from home, and it feels next to impossible. Do you have children? If you have lived through the baby stage, you know that it’s difficult to create a firm schedule when you have babies. Just when you think you have a schedule in place to follow, the baby regresses and starts waking up again at night. If you also have an older child, they are probably used to a daily routine. Incorporating the ever-changing schedule of a baby while maintaining the older child’s daily routine and taking care of a home all while working from home may feel like an overwhelming task.
My son and his wife are currently in this very situation. They have a 10-week-old son, a 3 ½ year old daughter, and they both work full time from home. Their little girl gets up at the same time most mornings, but their son sometimes gets up multiple times during the night. If you have children, I’m sure you’re not surprised.
As a professional organizer, parent, and grandparent I am well aware of the challenges facing families. Every stage of your child’s development presents new opportunities for a change in the schedule.
When you have a new baby chaos can follow for that is one of those life events which throws all sense of routine out the window. How do you meet both your children’s needs, maintain order in the house and your relationship with your spouse? This is a question many people ask.
Here are my 5 tips to help you cope as you deal with your family’s ever-changing schedule.
Maintain habits and routines that work and be willing to be flexible.
Maintain your routines and habits as much as possible. This will help you to keep order in your home. When you are in the habit of picking up and putting things away when you are finished using them it takes very little time to restore order to a room.
Delegate age-appropriate tasks to your older children. They can make their bed, pick up their toys, empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, help with laundry, as well as a variety or other tasks. Involving your children in the care and up-keep of your home encourages them to take ownership of their space, teaches responsibility, and takes pressure off the parents.
In the not-too-distant past every member of the family worked together to care for the home and the property. Everyone took pride in doing their part and doing it well. Give your older child the opportunity to learn age-appropriate routine maintenance skills to encourage this feeling.
Another benefit to delegating tasks to every member of the family is that it helps to maintain a schedule.
If your goal is to get out the door to go to school at a certain time because you have a meeting and you know you want to feed your infant before the meeting starts it is more realistic if everyone pitches in and does routine tasks.
Use the Organize Your Home 10 Minutes at a Time deck of cards to guide you in maintaining different areas of your home.
Accept Good Enough
Many people think that if you are going to do something it’s best to do it perfectly or not at all. I submit that doing something to the best of your ability at any given time is better than doing nothing at all.
Allow your older child to make their bed to the best of their ability and praise them for their effort. It may not be exactly the way you want it. Accept the way it is and do NOT fix it. Fixing the bed send the message to the child that their effort was not good enough.
Since you know your scheduling is changing and will continue to change until your infant reaches the stage when you can follow a defined schedule allow some tasks and chores to slide.
Ask yourself which part of your daily schedule is most important to maintain and focus on that.
You are probably working from home, like many families. Be fully at work when you are working, even though you are at home. Create a mental boundary and don’t let home related thoughts intrude on your work time.
I know that is difficult to do. Sometimes it may be impossible. The more you can be mindfully present in your work and honestly focus on the task at hand the more you will accomplish and in less time.
If you were working in the office, there would be times when you would get up from your desk, stretch your legs, and perhaps have a casual conversation with a colleague.
It’s still important to get up periodically from wherever you are working in the house and take a break.
If you have young children at home this is a time when you can swap with your spouse and take over childcare while they do something else.
With both of you working from home you may need to look over your schedules every night.
Talk about when you have meetings. Be upfront about how much prep time you need before each meeting and discuss any wrap up time you need. Create your schedule for the next day and assign work time, childcare time, and you time for both you and your partner/spouse.
Yes. I said ‘you’ time. You can’t care for others if you haven’t cared for yourself first. Make time in your daily schedule for a little alone time every day. Depending on the day, it can be something short like a 10-minute walk around the block. Just do something that allows you to refresh and recharge your personal battery.
Do Fun Activities Together
Build one or more fun family activities into each week. Explore different parts of the place you live. Take long walks. My son and his family have been finding different playgrounds, coffee shops, and doughnut shops where they live. They are active and love to exercise outside so going on long walks and admiring the spring blooms is a fun family activity for them. Stopping for coffee and doughnuts is an added perk for almost every member of their family.
Find what works for your family and make a habit of scheduling something to look forward to each week. It can be a special meal that you make together or an outing to a favorite playground. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is something everyone in your family will enjoy.
It is easy to let chaos reign when a life event happens. Use these 5 tips to guide you as you manage your busy family’s schedule.
- Follow the structure of habits and routines that have worked for you in the past but be flexible.
- Remember to accept good enough.
- Create boundaries between your work and your homelife even though they are both happening at home.
- Schedule breaks during the day
- Plan fun activities
If you would like some additional personalized guidance, consider signing up for the Clear Space for You online clutter support group Diane moderates with Jonda Beattie.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization. Diane and Jonda Beattie are the best-selling authors of: Filled Up and Overflowing.
I love the idea of accepting good enough. I know as I have gotten older and am dealing with arthritis, I can’t always do the thorough cleaning job that I used to do. Instead of washing out all of my cabinets and cupboards I now sometimes just empty them and use a swifter. But that is good enough! I am accepting that.
Perfectionism is over-rated. Getting something done is so much better than insisting on getting everything done perfectly. I’m so happy you are accepting good enough!
I bet your child cried when you had to leave and head back home. I cried when my Mom left after both of my babies. I didn’t think I could it without her. I love your point about “good enough.” My years with young children were not my prettiest or most organized, but they were wonderful in so many other ways. Also, they were hard in many ways. I always tell young parents that I remember how hard it is, and try not to act like they should enjoy every minute. There were lots of minutes I did not enjoy. So, it goes both ways. Having a simple, firm baseline of chores and structure is always helpful, even when chaos ensues and you have to flex. Such helpful and practical advice here!!
Thank you, Seana. That’s great advice for young parents. How can you enjoy every moment when there’s an infant crying and a toddler throwing a temper tantrum – impossible. These years are hard but there are many, many sweet and tender moments mixed in. Maintaining an element of order is important for everyone.
As always, you offer such solid, compassionate advice. I’m smiling because I know your heart must be so full from your recent visit with your family. You got to see them AND welcome your newest grandchild too. What a joy! But I can also see that you were able to observe firsthand some of the “chaos” challenges that having little kids brings on. Flexibility mixed with boundaries, routines, responsibilities, and a “good enough” philosophy will all go a long way to bringing some peace and harmony to even the most hectic times.
Thank you, Linda. This visit with my son and his sweet family was so heart-warming. We played pass the baby and experienced many of those hectic chaotic moments. Being flexible, creative and understanding are key elements to maintaining an element of consistancy.
You never cease to amaze me with the warmth and wisdom of your posts. All of this advice must be such a comfort to overwhelmed parents (just as I’m sure your family was comforted to have you there with the two tiny humans to help set up new systems and refine old ones). Accepting “good enough” is an essential concept for survival with tiny humans!
Thank you, Julie. It was so wonderful to be with my son and his family. I was able to help them reorganize a few spaces to increase their usability not only for them but also for Susana – the 3 1/2 year old.
“I submit that doing something to the best of your ability at any given time is better than doing nothing at all.” Amen! Anything you can manage to create stability in your routines while being woken up multiple times during the night is amazing. Neither of my kids slept through the night and I can still remember how it felt like walking through molasses to get through the day.
Lucy, I love that image of walking through molasses! Creating stability in any one area of your day is so important. Something you can count on as being a consistent is so reassuring.
Great tips! We have been working from home since our 21-year-old was a toddler. We did have to split the tasks each day to get our work stuff done easily. Then, when my 19-year-old child was born, I quit my job and started my business to allow my husband to work at another job that was out of the home. After two years, he came back to work from home, and with my business, I had to get really creative with visiting clients. Back then, my clients were mostly moms like me, so 8 pm decluttering/organizing sessions were popular and convenient for both of us. I find that it is important to be creative when it comes to working from home. Self-care is so important. Even if it is at 8 PM, do something for you and your partner to stay connected.
Thank you, Sabrina. If you can be creative and flexible with your scheduling it’s easier to keep a balance in your life.
You speak from experience. Flexibility is key. I like to work with expecting parents to set up systems. If they have good habits down before the baby arrives it makes life easier. But you are right, new parents (all parents) need to give themselves some grace.
Thank you so much, Janet!
Your messages here strike a chord with me. I started using the phrase “ Good Enough.” (Is it good enough? Can it be good enough?) around 10 years ago. It was when a client of mine, who was driven by perfection, couldn’t be happy with anything less than. I tried to show her that there could be another way. It did take time but we made progress.
Young family routines are so challenging. Like you, I’m off to be a grandma again in June. I always thought of early motherhood as the best on the job training. I also know that my daughter and son-in-law don’t know what they’re in for when baby number 2 arrives (my grandson will be turning 3.) They’ll figure it out just like everyone else.
I’m going to stay with him for a few weeks. An extra set of hands will be helpful.
Oh, Ronni! That’s just the scenario in my son’s family. Their daughter is 3 1/2 and their baby boy just turned 10 weeks. They had no idea what they were in for – adding a second child. I was so happy to be their to lend an extra pair of hands. I loved the time I got to spend with them, although – now I need a vacation!
I agree, it can be challenging to get someone to accept good enough as a result when they are eager for perfect but I think over time our definition of perfect changes.