I asked some moms with young children to write the first words that came to mind when they thought of trying to “organize their time with little ones.” On Facebook, one mom just typed LOL in response to the question – that got 6 likes from other moms. Other moms said: “Inconceivable!” “It’s an oxymoron.” “Chaotic.” One mom simply said, “That’s stupid.” That comment was courtesy of my older sister. She has 3 babies 3 and under and she’s my sister, so she can have some leeway for being that blunt.
I totally get this. Life with 3 kids that are 4 and under has been one of the most unpredictable and stressful seasons of my life! Getting my husband through law school or completing graduate school while simultaneously teaching college writing courses was a breeze compared to raising small children.
What I want to share here is simply a challenge to embrace God’s heart for this season of life and to choose to make the most of each day, whatever that looks like for you. With this heart in mind, it will probably encourage you to build in a little more structure and routine to your days, so I’ll share some strategies you can use to create a custom made routine that works for you and your little ones.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE A PLAN?
Before you think about organizing your time, I’d encourage you to think about what it is you’re trying to do and why.
After my third baby was born, I heard God speak to me very directly – don’t just survive these days I’ve given you, I want you to thrive in them! That was a little unnerving. “Surviving” sounded so comfortable and natural with 3 little ones that were 3 and under and no immediate family nearby to help. But God brought the verse in Ephesians 5 to mind that says, “…make the most of every opportunity, for these days are evil…” I started to realize how precious this time that I have with my little ones is.
While babies might be less intellectually able to grasp the gospel, they are still little eternal people who have souls that can engage with His spirit. In these early years, we have the opportunity to plant eternal seeds in our children’s souls. These are really valuable days!
There are a lot of ways that we can accomplish the good work that God has called us to as young moms, but I’ve found that without having some sort of plan it’s pretty difficult to be as purposeful and fruitful in my time with my children. So let me give you 3 reasons to encourage you to develop a routine for you and your kids.
- You can do more. You can do more of what God is calling you to and do it better. Stewarding our time as a precious gift doesn’t leave a lot of time for wasting and having a plan helps prevent that waste from taking place.
- You can think less. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted and barely functioning a lot of days. The idea of waking up each morning and coming up with what I’m doing with three VERY energetic little people is really not appealing to me or even that probable. I’m lazy. I like to minimize my work by figuring out something that works well and sticking with it for a while!
- Your family will be happier. Most children like routine and will do better knowing what’s going to happen during their day. For me, a routine makes nap times are less of a battle, clean up is less of a problem, meal times go more smoothly. It doesn’t eliminate stress altogether, but it sure helps when everyone is on the same page!
Doing more, thinking less, and having a happier family are some pretty good reasons to consider embracing some kind of plan for your days with your kids, as well as just that underlying calling from the Lord of making the most of this time with your little ones.
HOW DO I COME UP WITH A PLAN
Over the past four years since Gideon was born, we’ve probably had at least a half dozen or more “schedules” or routines. If you know me very well, you know that I use my schedule as a guide and not a rule. Each day I adapt to the needs of the kids, but having a guide or routine for our days is so helpful to me for the reasons I just shared.
The reason we’ve had so many schedules is that my kids needs change, my needs change and our commitments change. But that’s the beauty of learning strategies for creating a good routine for your family – you can adapt it to what you need in a given season! I want to share how I develop a routine for our days:
- PRAY – Pray and ask the Lord what He has for you in this season. God knows the number of our days, the lives he wants us to touch, the work He has for us to do and living by his direction is the only way to completely fulfill his calling on our lives. So ask HIM where your precious time should be spent.
- SIMPLIFY – Teaching and caring for little ones is a full time job. I’d really encourage you in this season to simplify life and pair down any commitments outside of your home. Before kids, my husband and I did international ministry. We were involved in our church ministry, and we participated in various organizations. After baby #2, life changed. I had to cut things out to be able to handle my job at home. After baby #3, I had to cut out even more. If you read Titus 2, it’s evident that God allows us the privilege of living a beautiful and simple life while our children are young. Encouraging young moms to stay “busy at home” isn’t a controlling, misogynistic comment, but it’s instead a liberating comment for moms to give themselves permission to do something that demands a lot of time and energy. This is valuable work here, and God is pleased with the work young moms do at home!
- WATCH – Before making a schedule, you might want to spend a week or so watching for natural patterns and rhythms in your day. Ask yourself questions like:
- When did the kids wake up?
- When did the kids get hungry?
- When did they have burst of energy?
- When did the kids crash and need a rest/nap time?
- When did I need a break?
- When is the kids best time for quietly listening?
All these things can become the framework for your schedule.
- LIST THE NON-NEGOTIABLES – Here are some of the regular jobs young moms have to contend with:
- Diaper changes
- Getting dressed
- House cleaning
- PRIORITIZE EVERYTHING ELSE – We all have the same 24 hours in a day to work with whether or not we like that. And we can’t do everything. If we to watch the news in the morning, we may lose out on time for morning devotions. If we want to go the park, we may be unable to do our science project. I’m not saying in these scenarios one thing is better than the other – you just need to figure out what needs to be prioritized in your time. Here are some things that were important things I wanted to have in our routine:
- Bible reading time.
- Outside time.
- Quiet time.
- Craft time.
- A family outing or field trip.
- MERGE YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES, PRIORITIES AND NATURAL RHYTHM – Now you can start creating a schedule that merges the natural patterns in our day with the things you want to see happen in your day. Here’s an example of how this can work:
- Because the kids are sitting at the table to eat breakfast, that’s a good listening time for my little ones – so that’s when we do our Bible reading.
- The kids get super energetic in the late morning, so that’s when we need to get outside.
I like to use a simple table in Word to format my schedules because I have flexibility in formatting, but there are all kinds of planners available online!
- TEST YOUR ROUTINE – Sometimes what looks nice on paper doesn’t work in reality. Like having music and dancing in a room next to a napping baby…!
- ADJUST YOUR SCHEDULE – Altering the schedule is an ongoing thing. Baby’s naps change. Commitments shift things to new times. Yay, that you are in charge of figuring out what best meets your needs!
In the end, I don’t think it matters so much what method you use to develop a routine or even that you stick by your routine very closely. I’ve just felt the Lord really challenge me to treat these days carefully – to be purposeful. Maybe having an aunt die of cancer last year…maybe having friends and family members struggling with chronic diseases…maybe it’s just very evident that we’re not going to be here forever, and that I may not even have a full 18 years to share with my babies the passion for Jesus that I so badly want them to have.
Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up, and I get that day with my kids. I want to treat that privilege with care and, with the Holy Spirit as my strength and guide, be purposeful with the day God has given me.