I have been thinking a huge amount about our daily rhythm at the moment, and what I want that rhythm to look like. This summer has been quite difficult for me personally, and that coupled with the lack of structure that summers often bring has seen our rhythm flounder. I knew something had to change, so I re-read “Simplicity Parenting” (the bible on simplifying and rhythm setting in the home, I cannot recommend it enough). I started to make a mental note of what was working well and where the “low” points of our days were falling, observing patterns and thinking about where I could improve the flow of our day, as well as considering what was really important to me (lots of time for free play, daily time outdoors, habit forming, family meals) and how to be intentional about these things.
After lots of thought and observation, I think our current rhythm is working really well for us, so I wanted to share with you a little bit of what our weekday rhythm looks like.
I know that life is messy, and it won’t always be practical to stick to this rhythm. It might look quite rigid written down, but is actually much more fluid. At first when I read about having this sort of rhythm in the home, I will freely admit I thought “Gosh, how dull! Where is the excitement?” But my goodness, how my opinion has changed! I want Frida to feel secure, and confident about what her days and week look like. Life must often feel so powerless for young children, and I really believe that giving them back some power through predictability and stability leads to happier, calmer children who simply don’t feel as out of control. I know that the days where we follow a strong rhythm are just so much better for us. Less friction, less boundary-pushing, less stress, less impatience. More smiles, more cuddles, more joy. I end the day feeling tired but content, rather than tired and disappointed with myself and wishing I had done things differently.
I have put timings down to give you a rough idea, but I go by our moods and needs rather than the clock. If Frida has woken extra early or seems tired then everything might happen a bit earlier, or we might spend less time outdoors and more time snuggled up. What’s important is the rhythm and flow of the day, rather than what happens when.
Our weekday rhythm
6-6:30ish – Frida wakes up, which is my prompt to wake up too. I’m really not a morning person so before we get up we usually have a snuggly cuddle under the duvet which gives me a few minutes to wake up until she pulls me out of bed and into her playroom. Frida sleeps in her own bed in our bedroom, but often climbs into our bed in the middle of the night and I wake up to find her next to me!
I sit with Frida in her playroom as she plays, until either she wants breakfast or my need for a cup of tea becomes too strong, and we go downstairs. The cat usually joins us. Before we go down there is “tidy up time”, prompted by me singing (poor Frida!) and tidying up.
7:30ish – Before each meal Frida fetches herself the appropriate crockery and cutlery from her shelves in the kitchen, chooses a bib (if eating something messy), and fills a glass with water. I do have to prompt her still sometimes. Frida is as involved with meal preparation as she wants to be; sometimes she will want to help a lot, and sometimes she doesn’t.
We light some candles as we sit down to eat. Breakfast on a weekday is usually porridge or maybe cereal, often with fruit. When we are done eating, Frida needs to put her bib in the washing machine, bring dirty dishes to the kitchen, wash her hands and face, then go to the loo, brush her teeth, and get dressed for the day. I help where needed.
At the moment my focus is on habit-forming and gaining independence around self-care such as dressing, pulling pants and trousers up and down, and washing hands and face, so this after-meal routine is important to me. My hope is that eventually all of these things just become ingrained as a habit and that she will need less and less help.
9 – At this point hopefully we are all dressed and ready to leave the house at some point within the next hour. Frida plays, works, or does some art once she is dressed.
10-12 – Outside. Currently I am trying to make sure we are out of the house by 10am. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to the local park, or even in the garden – what matters is that we are outdoors. In September we will start attending our wonderful Steiner playgroup again, adding in an outdoor session too which I’m really excited about. We also may try out a local forest school which has weekly child / parent sessions. This will leave a day a week with no scheduled plans, and another day for Frida to spend with her daddy (they do a special outing together every week as he works four days a week, giving me a day to do some work).
12:30 – Lunch. We usually have something simple like soup, a picky plate with raw vegetables, cheese, falafel etc, egg on toast, or fish and vegetables. Again Frida is as involved with preparation as she wants to be, abd fetches the things she needs. We light candles (unless we are having a picnic in the garden) and then after the meal the same routine applies as I described for breakfast. I usually clean up lunch whilst Frida plays, although she is always invited to help me.
1-3 – Quiet time. Now Frida no longer naps, she really needs a good chunk of quiet time to feel happy in the afternoon. We usually start this off by reading some books together, and then we go into her playroom whilst she plays and I sit and read or, occasionally, write a blog post (exactly what I’m doing now!)
Frida sometimes asks me to play too, but I remind her that this is quiet time for both of us. I might join in for five minutes and then go back to what I’m doing. This is so important for me, as I struggle if I don’t have any down-time. I am a better mother and wife for it, and I’m right there if she needs me. Win/win. Before we go down we have tidy-up time again.
3 – Tea time! We prepare tea (herbal for Frida or a babyccino) and a snack, and decamp to the dining table. We light a candle and share some books together – I usually try and include poetry, a long story, and a non-fiction book. We might also play a game, or look at some sandpaper letters or some art, depending on Frida’s mood and energy levels. After a chunk of quiet time where I am not engaging much, this is a welcome time of reconnection and fun. The snack also keeps Frida going until supper time.
4 – Time for Frida to work, do some art, or play, or for us to go for a walk, go in the garden, have a dance party – whatever appeals to Frida!
5 – Supper preparation / chores. As ever, Frida is invited to take part if she wants. Otherwise she amuses herself whilst I’m busy.
6 – Supper. We eat as soon as my husband gets home from work. It’s really important for us that we eat supper together regularly as a family, so unless Frida is really exhausted we try to make it happen. On weekends or on days my husband doesn’t work we might eat at 5:30 instead so Frida isn’t so tired.
6:30 ish – My husband takes Frida upstairs for a bath, tooth brushing, and stories, whilst I clean up after supper and have a bit of downtime.
7:00 ish – Bedtime. Frida either goes to sleep in her bed with us sitting next to her, telling stories, or in the sling with my husband. The latter is often the most effective at the moment. We then have the rest of the evening to relax and do any final chores.
9:30 – Bedtime for me! I try to be asleep by 10pm so I can get eight hours of sleep. I don’t always succeed but it’s my goal.
Phew! If you have read all of this, thanks for sticking with me! I would love to know more about your rhythm and what works for you. I will try and write more about rhythm, and helping children transition from one activity to another, in a future post, but for now – motherhood beckons…