Sunday, August 31, 2008

Balancing Your Time as a Young Family

Mrs. Idotf wrote this question in her comment on a recent post about time management:

I have a 20 month old and now a 5 week old and I am struggling with my time. I want to walk wisely and spend my time in ways that honor the Lord and that help my family. It often seems difficult when pulled in different directions to give everyone that quality time they deserve. Especially to have quality time with my husband- who seems to get neglected.

Since you are a mom- of more than two- do you have any advise?

Mrs. I, sure, I've got some thoughts about this.

First off, even if you're a laid back, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants family, once you add in a second (or third, or fourth, or....) child, you probably need more predictability than you did with no children, or with only one. This can be done in many ways. Here are some ways I have some predictability in our lives:
  • We operate on a flexible routine as a family, particularly regarding sleep and meals. We're not extra planned-out sort of people, but for us, having an expected naptime and a certain bedtime for all children makes things much easier. For example, in our home, all kids four and under take naps in the afternoon, every afternoon. Around age four is when, if their attitude allows it, they may begin staying up during naptime. Even still, they must have a quiet reading time for 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours every afternoon. It's good for everyone to have a bit of a mid-day rest and some quiet time each day.

  • The more children we've added to our family, I have implemented some helpful house routines. Mine mostly have to do with food and seasonal clothing shifts, but other moms of many often have laundry or cleaning routines. For the last year or so, we have operated on a 4-week meal schedule that never changes. That way, I don't have to re-make grocery lists, meal plans, recipe lists, or get stuck at 6pm wishing I'd thought in advance about dinner plans. But not everyone operates like this. I'd say, start with one routine-- whether you use Flylady for cleaning, or have a generic laundry plan (i.e., Mon- sheets, Wed- whites, Fri- colors) or some sort of cooking/shopping plan. As your family grows, you can add more routines if you need them, but this will take care of one pressure area and reduce stress.

  • We make time together as a couple a BIG priority. Every night, by 7:30 or 8pm, the kids are all in bed (yes, even the nursing infant who will be fed at 10:30/11:30 before sleeping through the rest of the night)... and we have time together as a couple. Time to talk. Time to chill out in the complete quiet. Time to watch a movie. Time to vent about the frustrations of the day. Time to sit next to each other and read on the couch. Time to do other, ahem, stuff together as a couple. The point is, that we make time for each other, and that is a GREAT part of each day... once the kids are down, we can chill out together for a bit before it's time to hit the sack.

  • Make some way to get some spiritual "food" throughout the day. Sign up for iTunes and download some great podcasts and free audioBible portions. Buy an entire audio Bible (you could probably get one at a used bookstore for fairly inexpensive) and get in the habit of listening to at least 15-30 minutes of Scripture each day (more, if you do it at various points throughout the day). You really will be amazed at how much of God's Word you can take in by doing this.

    And don't be afraid to meditate over the same portion of Scripture for a week or more. Keep listening to it and drinking deep from the well of wisdom and truth that God has given us in His Word. This is one EXCELLENT way I've discovered in the last year to be actively taking in the Word of God... to listen to it at various times throughout each day, soaking in the same chapters and book multiples of times over the course of a month.

I wanted to say, too, Mrs. I, that this time that you're in is (in my view) the hardest time on a mom... all of the little ones are too little to do anything for themselves. Once even one child is five or six years old, in my experience (and from what I've heard from others), it seems to make a huge HEAP of a difference in how "hard" it is. Having multiple babies and/or toddlers really is a time-consuming, difficult job, and yet it is a precious time, full of rich memories and sweet snuggles. I hope even one thing I've said can help make this a slightly easier time for you as you try to honor God and your family with these moments of your life.

I'm sure other moms have more ideas about how to balance time together as a couple with young kiddos... if so, please feel free to share your thoughts here!


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