Designing Your Day (for stay-at-home moms): What I learned after 6 years of trial and error
It's taken me a long time to find balance in my days. I'm still a work in progress. I've been mothering as a stay-at-home mom for six and a half years now and have been successfully raising two strong boys. I've learned a lot along the way about balance, time, productivity, and rest. Most of my lessons have been learned the hard way with a lot of trial and error, which is why I really like sharing the lessons I've learned out of those hard times.
One of the biggest things I've learned is how to go about arranging the daily tasks of parenting and running a home. My favorite word that comes to mind when I'm arranging my day is “design”.
It sounds smart, creative, and orderly. It's not just about structure and what I can get done but also about the beautiful moments scattered in amongst the hard work.
Work vs Fun
When I talk about design, I'm talking about a balance of hard work and fun. As moms, our days are filled with both. However, I know I'm not alone when I say that I can so easily get caught in the trap of either extreme. I can be very productive and no fun at all, or totally fun and even the most basic tasks fall by the wayside.
Identifying the day’s biggest task
When I start planning my day, I look at the biggest thing that needs done that day. This can be something like grocery shopping, paying bills, cleaning (if you do that on one particular day), laundry, a play date, errands, etc. The thing that has brought me the most balance is remembering that I can only do one “big” thing a day. Typically, any pairing of these big tasks only brings chaos and meltdowns or, at best, just makes for a very stressful day. Sure, we have weeks when those tasks pile up and there's nothing we can do about it, but as we design our days more and more, those will happen less and less.
Prioritize time around this event
I plan the “big” moments at strategic times. I grocery shop in the morning when we're all fresh with energy and not pushing naps yet. I budget, write, or do quiet projects that require concentration during nap times. Depending on the ages of my kids, I clean during naps when they are little and undo everything or I clean in the mornings when they can help me with more things.
It's important to think about what times of the day work best for everyone and keep those big moments for your best times.
Design your day with down time
I also schedule in “down time” for myself. I keep this at nearly the same importance as my big tasks. In certain seasons, this is more challenging to fit into our days, but I've also found that those are the seasons when this can be the most important thing.
My down time consists of things like closing my eyes for 10-15 minutes, reading a chapter of a book, listening to a podcast, reading a blog, or any activity that is good for my heart and soul and that doesn't require a lot of effort on my part.
Everything seems to stay in better balance whenever I do this. And when I design my day with rest in it, I don't feel guilty for taking the time to do it. I don't feel like I'm just doing it because I can't handle the day or the frustrating things that have happened and am trying to escape from those things. I look at it more as balancing the scales and helping us all be happier – that it's just another part of our day.
Scheduling the secondary activities
After my big tasks and my down time are arranged into my day, I design the rest of the tasks: things like making dinner, playing a game, picking up toys, or some other smaller activity. I try to hold these smaller things with open hands.
If dinner turns into a frozen pizza, that's the way it is today. If the game just isn't working for the kids that day, we move onto the next thing. If I end up kicking a path through the toys the night before so I don't trip getting to the kitchen to get bottles during the night, then that's just how today went. Have grace for the in-between moments, hold them with open hands.
Attitude of gratitude: each day is a gift
Our days are gifts to us, even when they seem long and very challenging. We don't have to do everything every day. It helps when we choose the most important things and let the rest fill in the cracks. We can do our best to pace ourselves and if absolutely nothing is working today, we know that tomorrow we get to design a whole new day – the big, the small, and the in-between. Find balance in the big things, purpose in the quiet moments, and balance for the rest of the activities. You might be amazed at the difference it makes.