Thank you to all the dedicated Calm Mommy Blog followers who answered the Calm Challenge survey! Today’s blog is in direct response to your answers which were b) small kids and then e) keeping house. These are your biggest challenges, so let’s discover some ways to keep calm while juggling it all!
Balance is key. In all areas of life. Today, we will talk about one area. Stability vs spontaneity in parenting.
You can call it responsibility vs fun time, certainty vs uncertainty, routine vs spontaneity. The bottom line is, without a balance between the two, you have a problem.
Here’s how it goes. You wake up in the morning, get the kids out, clean up from breakfast, run to work or the gym and errands, make lunch, the kids come home, then homework, after-school activities, dinner prep, bathtime, and finally bedtime. It is SO easy to fall into the routine of over-responsibility. With little kids, big kids, a spouse/partner, a household, careers, healthy extra-curricular activities, errands and shopping, life is a blur of responsibility. Getting it all done in a day can be a daunting task. Falling into a routine, or creating a routine, to build the structure and framework for getting it done is a responsible thing to do. Schedules and clearly named tasks for each family member allow greater calm and ease in taking care of the needs of all.
Not to be underestimated, or just chalked up to “efficient”, routine also adds another very important factor to all family members, but especially the littlest ones and the ones going through transitions (ie teenagers) or difficult times. Routine adds certainty, stability, security, and comfort. The child knows his needs are being met. He feels secure and safe in the comfort of the routine. He knows what is expected of him at a given time of day or night, and knows what responsibilities he has, and who is taking care of his needs. He sleeps better going to bed with a ritual bedtime routine, and gets off to school more smoothly because of the morning routine.
There is one catch, however, and one which is reason to add spontaneity in healthy doses from time to time. A child whose life is completely structured and is not exposed to healthy mild (impromptu playdate) to action-packed (we’re going to Great Adventure instead of school today!) doses of spontaneity faces a set of challenges: difficulty dealing with change when it happens, and lack of variety and sense of adventure.
The same, my dear, holds true for us as parents. When we get into over-responsibility, focus-on-getting-it-done mode, we lose our sense of fun and adventure. We settle into routine and focus on checking off to-do lists, and after a while we wake up and look into unhappy eyes. We wonder where the days and weeks and years have gone between carpools and business meetings and PTA. We lie in bed counting up the hours spent doing laundry and washing dishes instead of the minutes we spent on the floor doing puzzles with our kids or going on a scavenger hunt. When’s the last time you took the kids out for ice cream, just because?
I know all of this because I lived it. With many young kids, and being alone with them for many hours of the day, I focused on getting it all done. Besides for a puzzle or a block tower or reading a book, I learned quickly that if I wanted to truly spend fun time with my kids, I needed to leave the house. At home, the chatter I would hear from the dishes in the sink, the laundry piled up, the chicken waiting to be cooked would all have me telling my kids “one minute, let me just finish this up”. When that one minute was over an hour later, there was no time left for fun! So I left the house. Walked up the block to the park, where the chatter couldn’t reach me or bother me, and I PLAYED with my kids!
Here is the bottom line: we need both. Comfort and routine have their place. You do have to get stuff done or there won’t be room on the floor for a family game of Twister. Or clothing to wear to the zoo. Or nutritious food in your kids’ bellies. Or that overall sense of stability and security. But don’t get caught up in all the “stuff”. We only do all that stuff so that we can have a healthy functioning family. If we prioritize cleaning the bathroom over laughing with our kids, we’ve gone deep into over-responsibility and need some serious spontaneous fun time.
[I know there are some of you reading this saying, this is not my problem. I love spontaneity and variety! Getting the kids into a routine is my issue! Well, then, same problem, just in reverse. Read up on some organizational quick tips to get a routine started in your house. Get stability and structure into your kids’ lives. Keep healthy doses of adventure mixed with this new organization and you have the magic balance! Security and passion for life all in one!]
Adventure puts the pink into our cheeks and the sparkle in our eyes. Take a family fun day and go to the zoo the next time a warm sunny day comes your way. Pull a kid out of school for an hour to surprise them with a trip to the ice cream shoppe. Go for a hike with your spouse or to the mall with friends. The dishes will wait J. And eventually they will get done. But not now.
Added bonus: Reality is…drum roll please….when you take the time to have fun, MORE gets done! There is passion in your life! You have more energy to tackle everything! Your kids are more excited to help because they are having FUN. Routine is comfortable. It is also BORING. So while it works and you enjoy its benefits, shake it up every once in a while. It is totally worth it!
With love and a sense of adventure,
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