Our base family is made up of myself, Amy, my hubby Dan, and our two babes Miss F who is 3 years old and Master H who is just over 1 and a half. We have Baby S due in May 2020 – and I also have two step sons who we see during the holidays. We haven’t always had a family rhythm, let alone a slow one; read on to find out how we discovered the magic of making our own rhythm.
As I shared in How to Create a Slower Rhythm – we’ve been that typical busy household. Dan was working long hours, and I was out ferrying the kids to different activities and play dates and parks etc. By the time Miss F was diagnosed with ASD, our schedule was so jam packed with appointments and therapies in addition to the usual activities we would do.
I remember when Miss F was maybe 13 or 14 months old. We would go to Baby Sensory – a baby and Mum class where there was singing and sensory play. I loved it; I learnt so many things to do at home with Miss F, and gained lots of knowledge about baby development. Miss F, however, wasn’t that keen. She would actively avoid the activities and be off playing on the play equipment – being that ‘bad influence’ that would attract other babies to leave the group and go do what she was doing. A lot of the time, she would spend the class running to the door to leave and go out to the carpark.
It was the same at swimming lessons. While she loved the water, she hated the restrictions around timing and transitions. She couldn’t understand that she could only do an activity for so long, before having to move on to something else. Most of the swimming lessons ended in her having a huge meltdown and me rugby carrying her out of the pool.
It took me a while to tune out the white noise – but once I did, the huge question in front of me was:
Why was I taking her to these activities if she didn’t enjoy them? What benefit was there?
There is such an expectation on mothers today. To keep the house nice, cook nourishing food, bounce back from birth, be present in play with your children, go to activities, socialise and the list goes on. For some – this works well! I have many friends who love having a busy, social schedule. And their kids love it too. But for others, like my wee family, it doesn’t work for any of us.
Changing Things Up
After realising that things just weren’t working – I almost did a 180 degree turn. I basically cleared the calendar. Tuesdays became appointment day – I dropped many of our appointments down in frequency and packed what I could into a Tuesday to get them over and done with. We still went out, but I started to be more mindful in observing what things Miss F enjoyed, what things recharged her, and what things completely overstimulated her.
Right now, Miss F and Master H are both at home with me. My husband works and I’m a stay at home Mum, and I do the occasional day of relief teaching. We have a pretty natural rhythm at the moment as the kids are both into similar things. It stays pretty similar throughout the year, regardless of season – if the weather isn’t great, we just adjust our clothing accordingly.
Our anchor points are predominantly just timings in the day – morning, midday and afternoon.
We are always up early – as much as I would love the chance to get up before them, they are early birds – so we’re all up early haha! We eat all our meals together as the kids were brought up on baby led weaning, so that’s easy. If it’s an outing sort of day, we are out the door by 8.30am/9am and are generally heading out into nature – a park, playground, beach, bush walk – whatever combination that works! Very occasionally we head to an indoor playground or a set activity – I find that these really drain both kids, so we don’t do them often. We have morning tea out, and head home in time for Master H to nap at lunch time.
With the littlest babe napping, either Miss F has a power nap too, or we have quiet time together: eating lunch and doing a puzzle or some stickers. When Master H surfaces (he doesn’t nap long, maybe 40-5minutes) he has some lunch, then we have a quiet afternoon.
Our afternoons are chill. Over the past year I have observed and come to realise that my kids don’t do well with overstimulation. We do a morning activity, then the afternoon is home time. It is either made up of the kids playing inside, roaming the backyard and playing in the paddling pool or on the tramp, or having their Nana come and visit. Or a combination of all three. They lead the play, and I join in when invited. Otherwise, I cook dinner early and get a couple of chores done.
I’ve had to be strict on our quiet afternoons and have turned down play dates or invites to activities. I used to try to make it work, but it just wasn’t worth it. Why try to make the kids do something they don’t feel up to, and then you have to deal with the fall out later that evening. No thanks!
The key for us has been determining which experiences recharge myself and the kids, and which expend their energy. We value our time together and our time in nature the most, so our rhythm is built around that. I find ways to fit the chores in throughout the day – but they aren’t the priority any longer. It’s very simple and very loose at the moment – but as the children grow older and become more independent I envision different things taking priority in our rhythm. It is something we reassess as things start to feel stagnant or like they’re no longer working.
So what do you think – Do you have a family rhythm? Or would you like to create one?