Monday, October 10, 2011

Mothering Milestones that Change your Life: Kids in School

A friend of mine with two young toddlers told me after seeing my schedule that she is much more determined to be organized and is working on a similar schedule for herself.

Rather than be encouraging in her quest, I wanted to cry out, "No! You're at a completely different stage of life than I'm in. Enjoy it!" I wish I could have taken the time to sit down with her and explain that right now, she's at a unique stage in life. There are no school bells and very few activities demanding she be somewhere at a certain time. Without that structure, she's free to create her own schedule completely around the needs of her little ones and her own desires. It doesn't matter so much if grocery shopping gets put off a day or two while she spends a few days working on a huge project. The dishes can wait a little bit while she read stories to children. If the weather is nice, it's wonderful to be able to take a walk and let the kids romp at the park without worrying about being back in time to pick up your kindergartner or that there won't be time later in the day to finish those kitchen dishes.

I miss that part of those days -- the unstructured parts of the day where I could just let whims dictate how I filled my time. When the kids seemed restless, I could rush off to the park or a museum at virtually a moment's notice. I hardly ever planned fun activities for my kids because they just seemed to happen.

(One of our favorite summertime activities was wading in the river behind our house. Here, Lillian is 6, Joey is 4, Michael is 3, and Allison and Sarah are 1.)


But I believe there are several milestones in mothering that change your life and your daily habits. The first is when you have children in school. Once the school schedule starts to break up your day, determining when you wake up and when you have to be doing what, you start to lose a little bit of that magical, let-things-happen part of your life. It happens gradually, but it happens. As more and more of your children attend school, your days are dictated more and more by that schedule (and yes, you homeschooling moms have a different story to tell). After school, the time gets filled more and more with homework, piano lessons, activities, and juggling all those balls means the "afternoon shift" leaves little time for catch-up if you get behind in the morning.
(Lillian on her first day of first grade -- I had no idea how much my life would change in the next five years!)

At my stage of life, with five kids in grades 2-7, three preschoolers, and pregnancy that divide my time and energy, I don't have the luxury of wasting much time. If I get behind on the housework or miss a grocery shopping day, our family suffers. I have to be organized and disciplined enough to stick to a basic schedule or things fall apart. As part of that scheduling, I've lost a bit of the ability to just let the days unfold. I've found that at my stage in life, I have to plan the fun outings with the kids or they don't happen. I have to set aside the day and time for library storytime or we end up missing it. It works well because I have gradually learned the discipline and work ethic I need at this point, but it's not something I relish about this time in my life.

But at my friend's stage of life, with just young children at home, life is so different and the schedule should be as well. So my advice those with young children is an echo of so much advice given to young moms: Enjoy these days! Enjoy these times when you can fit life around your family's whims and needs and not have to fit your life around a schedule. Sure, set up some basic structure and scheduling, and if your house is falling apart due to lack of attention, then get to work! But do it around your kids' naps and your husband's work schedule. Take some time to pursue your interests and talents (another thing I have to schedule in or it doesn't happen). Leave some time to just let life unfold.

9 comments:

Montana Blakes said...

Amen to this. I think a lot of this is super concentrated when you have kids at home and at school. I have friends who will call me expecting to chat for a long time, forgetting that while they have the leisure (b/c all their kids are in school)to catch up later, I don't. If I don't use the narrow window of time to clean or work on a project in the morning then before I know it lunch and naptime are here and I am locked in for the rest of the day. I think another milestone is when your oldest child goes to high school. At least it was for me--it took my stress levels to an all new high b/c all of a sudden there were a ton of events and activities that this kid had to be hauled to on a very consistent basis. But I am happy to report that once said child got a driver's license (and we acquired another car) that stress level went right back down. And then some. Now he drives himself (and some of the others) places they need to go. As long as he stays accident free, it will have been worth it! But I do miss those schedule-free days. I also miss when I could put them all to bed at 8:00 and know they were going to stay there while I went and decompressed from the day. It doesn't work that way anymore.

Side by Side said...

Now that my twins are in 3rd grade...our lives are so much more structured. Plus I am working while they are in school. We don't have the fun free time we used to have.
I loved being able to stay home and head to the zoo when I wanted to. I miss those days too.

Amber said...

Those were great days-- even with homeschooling, there is so much more that has to be done now than there was when they were all little and we have to keep on task and on schedule or it all falls apart.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I recently found your blog and I am loving it! You write beautifully!

I noticed a huge change in life when my oldest started school, and now she is in 5th grade. And like a previous commenter mentioned, having kids in school and having young kids still at home can be quite challenging.

A new challenge, though, is having our oldest stay up later. Gone are my evenings where I could put all the kids to bed and then decompress. I guess we will figure out new ways to do things :) !!

Diane said...

This makes me think "ugh" a little because back in the day when I had a lot of free time and really had to think about TV free toddler time, I thought I was impossibly busy. Then school started and I felt like I was back in school being dictated by some one else's schedule and having to do homework and all again. Now home school and in many ways it's more scheduled-- at least through out the day time (afternoons a little less so because of no homework)But I say ugh because whenever I think, "I am so busy I could not possibly fit in anything more" -- more happens and I have to find a way.

Lesa said...

I agree.

It took me too many years to learn to enjoy and do what I needed to do during each season of my life. Each season is different and good. I love being a Mom to two teenage boys. right now.

And, yes, I just wrote that I like teenagers. Best age ever. :)

Kazzy said...

There are blessings to schedules and non-schedules. I think what you are doing is pretty incredible.

Laura@livingabigstory said...

Wise words ... but now I feel such regret that I didn't do that when my kids were not in school....

Kacy said...

I totally agree.

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