I'm super excited to report good news. I've sliced Abigail's bad behavior by about 85%. Seriously: I discovered the secret. Routine.
I know what you're thinking. Jacqueline, you brag all the time about how AMAZING routines are, how much they improve your life. WHY the hell don't you just shut up and stay on one? Except you probably skipped the swearing part because you have more manners than I do.
I don't know why, my friends, I don't know.
Back in law school, a friend recommend a book about routine that I finally read while we were in Chicago. I loved it an instantly created and implemented a schedule in our lives and saw great improvement in my frustration levels and ability to keep the house clean without sacrificing Chica time. But when I got pregnant and then had a miscarriage, I fell off the schedule and then sorta forgot about it. Fast forward to last week. Eleanor never wanted to be put down, I felt like I couldn't even get dinner made, Abigail was constantly on a tear, always angry, I was always stressed. Every single day was a bad day and I was calling Matt every few hours to vent. Last Monday I finally decided that I couldn't live one more day like that. I remembered the book, went into survival mode (yes, crackers for lunch; yes, Blues Clues on a sunny afternoon; yes, stuff so thick on the living room floor that you can't walk across it (we have a small living room, it doesn't take much to get to that point)) - whatever it took to crank out a schedule. I polished it up over naptime and as soon as Abigail woke up: Routine. By the time Matt got home from work a few hours later, we were all calm and happy. He probably thought he walked into the wrong house.
Why The Schedule Helps...
-Me get more done - It stops me from wasting time. I am the stay at home mom of two kids in a 1000 sqft apartment. 24 hours is enough time. Scheduling out my time means less is spent wastefully. I also work harder because I know I'm guaranteed a few breaks that day.
-Keep my stress levels low - There is time for everything everyday, so when I can't get something done today, I know there will be time for it tomorrow. For example, if Eleanor is being super clingy and I can't get bread made today, I know that tomorrow will bring with it another chore hour and I'll get the bread made then.
-Abigail's bad behavior - It turns out a good chunk of her acting up was simply to get attention. With the schedule, she gets guaranteed Mommy time. She knows its coming, so she happily plays independently when I need to feed Eleanor or do some dishes. Plus, Abigail really, really likes helping and the schedule let's her know what's happening next, so she can anticipate it. For example, when it's time to go outside for PT/exercise time, she runs over to Eleanor's carseat, unbuckles it, pushes the shade back, etc. It makes her feel very needed to help out in these little ways. (The carseat snaps into the stroller).
-Keep me from getting angry when Abigail does act up - She's still a toddler, so she still does have her moments. Like last week when it took us 35 minutes to walk 300 years. I. Kid. You. Not. She wanted me to carry her, but the point of PT/exercise time is to burn some energy. She didn't take well to being refused. We had a complete a hysterical, tear-filled meltdown about every six feet. But I never once lost my temper. Why? Because I'd planned to spend this time outside with Abigail. Okay, so we were spending it screaming on the sidewalk instead of walking, but still, I was outside with Abigail.
Why Most Rebuttals are Wrong...
-My life is too unpredictable to have a schedule - Then you change your schedule. There are three times per day that Eleanor will tolerate not being in my arms, so I planned my three most important baby-free activities for those slots. When she switches it up, I'll switch up my schedule. On a day-to-day basis, you can move things around the schedule as needed. When Abigail is really rambunctious, I swap morning chore time and outdoor time. The schedule is suppose to make life easier, so as soon as it does the opposite, change the schedule.
-I like being spontaneous - So write it into your schedule. Seriously. Your routine can be as specific or vague as you want. For example, I just have PT/exercise written on mine. I can go to the library, the nearby splash pad, the soccer field, or just for a walk. Or schedule no schedule on a certain day of the week. Make every Friday a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of day. I bet your regular routine will enhance you enjoyment of spontaneity because it will be a bigger contrast. Like how chocolate tastes more amazing when you've been abstaining from it for a week. Or 40 days.
The Hardest Part of the Routine...
It takes discipline to stick with it. There is no threat of a boss standing over you at 4:00pm to say, "Hey, this is story time. Get to it." Sometimes I am really, really sick of reading We're Going on a Bear Hunt and I just want hide in the living room and stay on Facebook. It takes discipline to force yourself to sit on the floor and read that *@&$(@*$ book again.
My routine is very specific because I like it that way. In practice, it's a bit looser, but basically everything happens at about those times.
My Favorite (Two) Part(s) of the Routine...
- It saves the day. On Friday I decided to rebel against the schedule and have a lazy day, but by lunch time, we were all a mess. Friday was looking like the previous week when every day made me want to quit my life. So I jumped back in. I checked the clock, I checked the schedule, and I ran with it. By the time Matt got home from work, life was going smoothly again.
- I can make sure my girls are living enriching lives. Each person has their own column, so I can easily see what my kids' lives are like. Abigail's day involves independent play, helping with chores, outdoor time, a nap, story time, OT/art time, Daddy time, and prayer time. That sounds like a great day for a three-year-old. For Eleanor, it helps me figure out what I'm going to be doing with her at various times of the day, so I'm more likely to actually get that shower.
And on a TOTALLY different note, my favorite picture of last week: