A lot changed when we moved last month, not least the fact that I’m now at home 24/7 with the kids. This isn’t entirely new to me, but in a way it’s very new. I spent 7 months at home on maternity leave with Amelia when she was born, and I was out of work for 6 weeks when she was around 15 months. I also spent 10 months at home on maternity leave when William was first born. The big difference this time around is that I am at home full time with both of the kids.
When William was born Amelia was at nursery 3 days a week, meaning that for those 3 days it was just me and Wills. When I was off work with Amelia, it was just me and her. I knew that being at home full time with both of them would have its challenges, and after just a week of our new routine I am beginning to realise the importance of just that; routine.
I’ve always been a stickler for routine, and the kids thrive on it. But it’s way too easy to fall into the trap of wasting your days away when you’re at home full time. When we were all at home together just 2 days out of the working week, 1 crappy day didn’t really matter. Being at home full time is a different beast, and routine is the key to staying sane – for all of us!
- Get Dressed. It might sound like a no-brainer, but I’ve found the key to a successful and productive day is getting up and getting dressed. You’d find it pretty hard to get motivated if you went to work in your pj’s, and the same rule applies at home. If you’re up, washed, dressed and breakfasted it sets the tone for the day. That way, if and when you decide you want to pop out with the kids, it won’t take an hour to get ready!
- Don’t turn on the TV. I’ll level with you here; sometimes I think “fuck it” and turn the thing on straight after breakfast so I can get dressed, thinking it’s the easy option. But I always regret it. Wills isn’t at an age yet where it keeps him occupied for more than about 30 seconds, and there’s always a huge drama when I turn it off again, so usually I get them set up playing in their room before I do my thing. On a (rare) really good day, I’m up and dressed before they wake. As a general rule, I don’t switch the TV on until well after lunch and nap time, and most days it doesn’t go on until after dinner. Not having it on means the kids have to use their imaginations, they bug me less because they become absorbed in whatever they’re doing, and they’re more responsive when I need them to be. And the big bonus is there’s no tantrums about turning something off that was never on in the first place!
- Set a time for lunch and stick to it – every day! For me, this is a key part of our daily routine. Every lunchtime I ask Amelia “What happens after lunchtime?” and she replies “Naptime.” Lunch in our house is between 11:30 and 11:45. If we sit down any later than that, I know naptime’s going to be an arse. And I do not need to lose out on naptime! By starting early-ish with lunch, I don’t feel the kids need to rush, and they’re not yet so tired that they whinge and moan and don’t end up eating a thing. Usually by the time we’ve finished it’s around 12:30 and that, my friends, is holy grail time.
- QUIET TIME. Quiet time is so named because it doesn’t necessarily have to be naptime. Luckily for us it still is, most days. However, when Amelia really can’t sleep, the rule is that it’s quiet time until (at least) 1:30pm. This means that she finds something to do either in her room or her play shed and we are quiet for that period of the day. It might sound harsh, but we all really value that time, and let’s face it, we need it! It’s certainly not a bad thing for kids to learn to entertain themselves for a short while. I also think that the value of peace is a good thing for kids to practise too. I’m not going to lie, I’d go NUTS without nap/quiet time!
- The 20/20 rule. I’m all about allowing the kids to learn how to play together, without the need for constant adult input. I also have things that need to get done throughout the day, and trying to do those things while a 3-year-old thrusts a wooden cupcake in your face declaring it’s tea party time isn’t my idea of fun. So was born the 20/20 rule. 20 minutes of my undivided attention followed by 20 minutes of go-play-now-and-leave-me-the-fuck-alone. The 20/20 rule seems to keep everyone happy. The kids get regular attention throughout the day from me, and I’m more fun and playful having had the time I need to get things done, or simply drink a cup of coffee!