I am obviously pregnant these days, and I seem to have the same conversation with people everywhere I go. The interchange usually goes something like this:
"You're expecting! That's great. When is your baby due?"
"The baby's due at the end of April."
"Really? And is this your first?"
"Um, no. This baby will be our fourth child."
"Your fourth! My goodness, you must be busy! How do you keep up with it all?"
At this point in the conversation I will usually give a prepared answer such as:
"Well, we've been blessed with great kids."
"I think it is easier to have our children close in age because they all play together."
"I pray lots and take naps." (Sometimes both at the same time...)
While all of the above statements are true, I think one aspect of our family life is key. We stick to a daily routine. I strongly believe that young children thrive on routine. Kids feel secure when they know what to expect during the day. Our own children are very well behaved --- most of the time. Throw a monkey wrench in their routine, though, and they can get very cranky very quickly. (And so can Mommy, unfortunately!)
Our days flow pretty much the same way all week long. We don't stick to a rigid schedule, per se, but each day has a predictable routine. The only scheduled "anchor points" of our day are meal and sleep times.
Here's a sample of a typical day:
- We all wake up at around 7:30 or 8:00am. (I would love to be a morning person, but I am just not. It's a shortcoming I am learning to accept...)
- Get everyone dressed, with hair combed and teeth brushed. Make beds and tidy rooms. (The kids know this all has to be done before they can play downstairs.) I usually lay out the kids' clothes the night before. Our five-year-old is big enough to get himself completely ready in the morning.
- We eat breakfast at about 9:00am each morning. I try to set out the dishes and non-perishables the night before.
- After breakfast I always clean up the dishes, wipe the table, etc.
- Our mornings are flexible. The kids play, do crafts, read books. Our daughter still sometimes needs a morning nap. We might go out and run some errands or invite friends over for a play date. I often start supper prep in the morning when I have the most energy. I also do some cleaning and laundry. (If I do a few chores every morning the work doesn't become overwhelming.)
- I start making lunch at 12 noon. The kids are allowed to watch a video at lunch time. (This tradition started a couple of years ago in order to stave off the "midday grumpies"! It also gives me a few peaceful minutes to get lunch ready and/or cleaned up.)
- We always clean up the toys and tidy the living room / kitchen area before we eat lunch.
- Lunch finishes by 1:00pm. I clean up the kitchen and start the dishwasher if it's full. I get the kids' coats and boots on. We aim to be out the door and in the van by 1:15pm.
- I drive our five-year-old to junior kindergarten. (On the weekdays.) His school starts at 1:30pm. I usually return home with the other two children by 1:45pm.
- I put the little ones down for naps. I lie down in my own bed and read and/or sleep. This quiet time is sacred! I have a hard time functioning without it!
- My alarm is set for 3:00pm. I haul myself out of bed, wake up the other two children and get everyone bundled into the van. (On non-school days the little ones will often sleep until 4:00pm.)
- Our son is finished school at 3:30pm. We come home and have an afternoon snack. Some days I will squeeze in an errand on the way home. (It is easier to run short errands when I already have the kids bundled in the van anyway. For example, every Monday we go grocery shopping after school. On Mondays I bring a snack for the kids to eat in the van.)
- We often have a bit of free time between snack time and supper time. The kids play. I'm usually pretty tired by this point of the day. If supper prep is minimal I will play downstairs with the kids.
- I start making supper by 5:00pm. Making supper always seems to take longer than I think it will! Ben comes home by 6:00pm and I try to have supper on the table when he arrives.
- Ben and I believe family meal times are extremely important. We eat supper together nearly every night. This is another sacred time of the day!
- After supper I clean up the kitchen and do the dishes. Ben plays with the kids. (I like this arrangement because I can work much more quickly without the kids in my hair. And Ben hates doing the dishes.) We tidy up the toys in the living room / kitchen area. Our family often cleans the downstairs play room after supper as well.
- Ben and I try to start the kids' bath time by 7:00pm. Our bedtime routine is pretty much set in stone. We have baths, brush teeth, put on jammies, do Bible time and pray. It's the same every night. The kids love this particular routine.
- Our kids are often in bed by 7:30pm, and most certainly no later than 8:00pm (unless we are out for the evening).
- Ben and I breathe a big sigh of relief!
- This is our free time of the day. I usually work on my blog. We often read. I sometimes work on projects (sewing and crafts). I might go out for coffee with a friend. Ben and I talk. Ben often catches up on his work.
- We head to bed at about 11:00pm.