"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Making Peace with a Schedule

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A few weeks ago, I got an email from someone looking to flesh out the concept of unschooling a little more. One of her (paraphrased) questions was "Do you ever feel like you're just spinning your wheels, and/or putting out fires all day?"

My answer: Yes. And when I notice it's happening frequently, I know it's time for something to change. More specifically, I know it's time for me to make a change. It's not a good thing for me OR the kids if I'm scattered all day, flitting here and there and not really present for any of it. Unschooling shouldn't be about reacting, but about being there, right there in the moment.

Since getting all renewed and re-inspired at the conference, I have sadly realized that I really have been doing all too much wheel-spinning lately. Further, I've realized that I have done the same exact thing when each of my boys was Tegan's age (3) as well. When my kids are around 3 - not quite babies anymore - I sort of have a little life crisis. They are more independent, and playing on their own more often, and needing me in very different ways than before. I start to feel that itch of wanting to take on a new hobby, or start a new business, or devote some time to a certain passion. The difference this time though is that when the boys were her age, I was either about to have another baby, or I'd just had one. So the feelings would go away, and I'd happily immerse myself once again in diapers and onesies and dimpled elbows and chubby feet and sweet smelling baby heads. This time there is no pregnancy and there is no new baby. Which is in turns heartbreakingly sad, and strangely exciting.

Lately my heightened crisis has caused me to become suddenly interested in 20,000 different things. And of course I still want to be present for my kids, and fully invested in unschooling and hands-on parenting. I want to figure out this whole "homemaker" thing, and make (and keep) a nice home for my family. I also want to have some time for myself, and some time for blogging, and some time for pursuing my own interests. As a result, I'm sorry to say, I feel I've been only a little bit good at all of the above. I've also been anxious about the new season, which is suddenly thrusting us from having zero standing weekly plans to having basketball, gymnastics, scouts, church, and bible study meetings.

And so, I've decided to get organized and make a plan. Instead of a zillion personal pursuits, at the moment I'm going to focus on one. And you're reading it. This blog is my fifth baby, my heart, and my soul. I don't know what is going to happen in the future, but for right now, this is what I need to be doing. I need to be doing it so badly that I actually made myself a schedule.

I'm not a big schedule person (in fact I sort of hate them with a passion), but I also know that they work really, really well for me. They help me focus on what I'm supposed to be focusing on, and they help my scattered brain get a little less scattered.

Here then, is my - always flexible, always subject to change - schedule:

Morning: Coffee, emails, empty the dishwasher

Rest of the day into the afternoon: Leave the computer alone (instead of checking emails/Facebook in 2 or 3 minute little bursts all the live long day). Be present and focused and available for the kids.... for playing, for projects, for questions, for reading, for talking, for hanging out.

2:00-4:00ish (still working on this): Take time for myself to blog, answer emails and comments, and work on other writing-related stuff, without feeling guilty about it.

4:30 Pick up our messes for the day to get ready for the evening

5:00 till whenever we go to bed: Dinner, dishes, activities, television, playing, and hanging out (and maybe I'll check emails and Facebook somewhere in there too :)).

The idea is that when I'm with the kids, I'm WITH them. When I'm doing something for me, I'm doing something for me. And so on. It's still very much an experiment, because honestly, it's something I've never really tried before. I had grand plans to start it yesterday, but instead had an unexpected (and welcome) outing with friends we haven't seen for 3 months.

So we started it today. I did pretty well with ignoring my computer until 2:00, although I'm thinking I'm not so great with the cold turkey thing. The kids were all 100% on board with giving me my time at 2:00... but I spent 10 minutes of it in the tub with the girl, and another 5 explaining to the 14 year old about researching "completed" listings on Ebay to help price something he wanted to sell... both of which were momentarily more important than my own needs. At the time of this writing, it is 3:00, and all four kids have settled into a happy, comfortable groove. I'll commit myself to giving it an honest try, and a fair amount of time, and we'll see what it brings. I'm kind of excited at the prospect though, even if it means some adjustment, for all involved.

If you're a stay-at-home parent, do you have some sort of schedule for your day? How does it work for you?



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