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.