When I had my first child, I figured we would wing things. We would just eat and sleep when it seemed right. We would live in the moment. While that sounds like a nice, relaxing idea, the reality of it meant that I often had days that 7 PM rolled around and I realized I hadn’t yet brushed my teeth that day. There was no predictability to our lives. Making an appointment for something was super stressful because I didn’t know, at all, if my baby would want to eat right when it was time to walk out the door or right in the middle of the appointment. I felt completely out of control of my life.
I lasted all of four weeks like that before I started seeking out ways to add some predictability to life. We started out with a routine and moved toward schedule. I have not looked back since, and with all four of my children, we have stuck with having a schedule. Here are six reasons why I love it and won’t ever go back.
1-I like predictability (and my kids do too)
Schedules aren’t necessarily for everyone. They are definitely for me, and whether by nature or nurture, they are for my children, also. Whenever I have gotten lax on our daily schedule, I find I have grumpy, sassy, emotional, and disobedient children. My children thrive in an environment of predictability day in and day out. This is true enough for all children that the CDC has an entire section on their website about how to create structure in your home. Children feel secure and confident when they know what to expect each day.
Some parents worry that if they have a daily routine, their child will not be flexible nor able to go fun places. They envision days on end stuck in the house. There is some merit to that concern. My children certainly never napped as well on the go as they did at home. However, most of my time was spent home, anyway, so I was happy to have most of my days with good solid naps in the crib and the days that were exceptions to have the sleep that was not as good.
We have plenty of days that are off schedule. We do a lot of fun things as a family. We take extended vacations. We go to an amusement park for the day. We go on short trips. We go have fun on the weekend. These experiences have all been positive. When you are flexible, it means you able to bend easily without breaking (The New Oxford American Dictionary, “flexible”). This insinuates you have a starting point, a state of normal, that you bend from. We have our normal and are able to be flexible when needed. We don’t break. Then we move back to our original state of normal and rest there before our next moment of flexibility arises.
2-I am able to make plans
I have always been able to schedule dance classes, piano lessons, etc. and have it fit within our daily routine. I have been able to shift our daily routine to work around these outside activities. These plans and activities are possible for us because of our schedule. I know when the children can function well. I know that I can have them at their activities without some massive blow-up preventing me from getting there.
When we travel and do fun things, I can plan our days to work with our schedule needs so everyone is happy and well-rested. I can plan around aspects of our schedule so the activities we participate in are positive experiences.
3-I am able to commit and be reliable
When I say I can help in my child’s class, the only thing that will keep me away is a sickness. If I tell a friend I will meet her for lunch, she knows I will be there. I won’t be late or be cancelling because my child finally fell asleep for a nap for the first time in five days.
Yes, things happen at times. They happen to all of us. But most days are very predictable for me. I was able to start up and direct a musical at the elementary school when I had four children, including a 3 and 1-year-old at home. I was able to schedule out rehearsals and never miss a day because I knew what my children needed when. The schedule we have allows me to be reliable and serviceable. I have served on the school PTO board, including president for two years. I have served in my church. I have coached sports teams. I am able to give time to my community because I have a schedule I can work around.
4-I have time without kids each day
I love my children. I love being a mother. It is the most rewarding job I could have. I also love people. I am an extrovert by nature and thrive off of interactions with others. Despite all of that, I need time each day without my precious children. I need time to talk with adults. I need time to go to the bathroom in peace. I need time to relax in the way I like to, whether that is binge-watching a television series or reading a book. I need time to complete a sentence in my head as I talk to myself. Those times come when the children are occupied. Scheduling things out so all of the children take a nap or rest time at the same moment means I have some time, time I not only want, but need. This time allows me to give my full self to my children when they are with me.
5-My children and I have fewer power struggles
When we have predictability to our day, my children just don’t argue or fight what is coming up. If we practice piano every single day before school, then there is no debate to be had as to when the piano will be practiced. If my preschooler doesn’t ever watch a show until after nap time, then she won’t fight to do so before nap time. My children know exactly what to expect and are more cooperative when we have a consistent schedule going on in life. We all sleep better, and we get enough sleep each night, which means we have fewer meltdowns and power struggles during the day.
6-I am able to set my children up for success
In this world, we run on schedules. We make appointments to see the doctor. School starts at a certain time. Work starts at a certain time. Story time has a start time, as does dance class. All of these things we want and need to participate in run on schedules. Our family is capable of working with those schedules. I am able to ensure my children are set up for success to fit in those schedules. If I know we can’t make something work, we don’t participate. If my children need to wake up at 7 AM so they have time to get ready for school, we have no problem going to bed at a reasonable hour the night before because for literally their entire lives, we have had a bedtime. Because we are participating in a world with schedules, having a schedule at home allows us to have success fitting into that scheduled world.
A schedule isn’t always easy to implement. It does take sacrifice and planning. It isn’t all sunshine and roses, but I find these six reasons are powerful enough benefits that any sacrifices and effort we have to make to have a schedule are more than worth it.