Thursday, October 09, 2008

Self-discipline and learning the art of a peaceful day

This is one of those "wordy" posts. I've strategically placed cute pictures throughout to help things along a bit, but they have nothing to do whatsoever with the subject matter -- well, except for the fact that this is about organizing children, and the pictures are OF the children (feeding ducks off the bridge, digging for bugs). Of course I realize that I don't even need to say this, but if you don't wish to read, please just feel free to enjoy the pictures. =)

One last note: I do not pretend to try to understand, nor can I explain, the glasses.

How does a mother make it through a day? More to the point, how do they succeed at their day. When I see other mothers "out" in the real world, make-up on, clean hair, children dressed presentably, I often wonder: did they plan for this day? Do things just come together for them? Did they get impatient with their preschooler over breakfast too?

I've found that for me, a successful day takes careful planning, strategy, and practice to make it a habit. For me this also requires a good deal of self-discipline and thought to make it a habit. This is to say, I have times in my life when I have the occasional Really Successful Day, and then other times when I am able to live a Successful Life. I've also found that the more children I have, the more essential it is to have things really pulled together (and be self-disciplined) so that we can all have happy, productive and peaceful days.

I was just emailing with my friend MA about this, and decided that it would be a great idea for a blog post -- I'll tell you the things I've discovered that make my day really work well, and then you post to your blog and give us your ideas. What does your day look like? How do you keep everything going? How do you keep everything from going all to pieces? Leave a comment here linking back to your post so that we can all read and get ideas from each other. (Of course, if you don't have a blog, just share your ideas right in the comments!)

Before I continue, let me remind you that I do not imagine myself in any way perfect: I was too harsh with Andrew before dinner tonight, and I yelled at my children just before bed. Together, we have much to learn.

Over the summer back in NY, when I didn't have the added urgency of dinner and cleaning and errands and such, I started making it a point to get up every morning with my children (rather than with whoever else happened to be awake -- like my mom), and spent quality time with them in the first part of our day. Then, since I had started my second trimester, I started baking again (I get so much satisfaction from baking, but always have trouble with it, of course, when I am in my first trimester with morning sickness), and I would try to get something in the oven (or if it was yeast-raised, at least rising on the counter), before I even sat down to eat. Being productive in the morning feels good, and I can't count on having energy later on in the day, so it's prime time to accomplish things.

The next step was establishing a bedtime routine. Our normal thing when Greg is home is that HE puts them to bed, and he has his own special, exciting, "Daddy" way of doing things, so I had to completely re-think the whole process: I began bedtime an hour before the official Lights Out that I have established at 8pm, and we would brush teeth, tidy the bedroom, read books, visit and sing.

Before I left NY, I had some brainstorming sessions with my mom on how I was going to manage things once we landed back in Germany, and this helped immensely. From the very first night (and every night since), I've enlisted the boy's help as my "team", so to speak, with tidying. I have them drive laundry baskets through the house and load up all of their toys and books that they have scattered everywhere throughout the day, and then bring the baskets back to their room to organize them into their proper places. It was hard at first, but they soon started to remember where everything goes, and now they can do a lot of it by themselves (small toys get put into 4 or 5 small containers on the dresser so they don't fall to the bottom of the toybox, big trucks get lined up and parked under the bed, big toys in the toy box, stuffed animals in two large baskets, misc toys in one med-sized basket).

My tidying team still get side-tracked, of course, and on nights like tonight, they couldn't have the bedtime snack they wanted (popcorn), because they wasted time throwing Tigger all around the living room instead of cleaning while I was doing dishes. It's all a work in progress though.

A little over a week after we got back here, our homeschool curriculum arrived (as you all know), and I found that our new team-work attitude and scheduling were key in getting anything done.

I get up now at 6:30 in the morning to do yoga and get centered, taking care of MYSELF before they even wake up, which helps me so much. I've discovered that, although it sucks to rise before the sun does, I find great freedom in taking control over that one part of my day. I tend to start feeling really depressed and hopeless if all that I feel like I'm doing is taking care of my little people every single day with no breaks, so I've found that this is an essential part of my weekday.

So, my other mother friends, how do you make your day succeed?
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The Kansas City Hoovers said...

Here is my blog about it.

Mom2Zoey said...

Here is mine:

MA said...

hmm... a successful day... unlike you good moms that get up before their children, i'm more of the "get milk into cups in the fridge at night so i don't have to get up in the morning" kind of gal. i'm not a morning person. nor do i drink caffeine. so i'm just sol in the morning. when daddy is home, he graciously feeds the kids before i'm up, which is sooooo wonderful not having to deal with that. read more at my blog... =) love you F!