In our household, we tend to take life a little more slowly than some. Frequently we just go day to day without much of a set schedule and overall, this really works for our family. Yes there are days when we may get a little bored or tired of the same things, but we’re a happy family with good kids and I’m not in a huge rush to change this. Actually, I’m not in a huge rush to do many things at all. And I like it that way.
I quit my job four years ago to stay home with my son, Little T, and I haven’t looked back. I had spent the last several years rushing to and from work places and my home. I don’t even want to think about how many hours I spent sitting in traffic. All so I could get somewhere I really didn’t want to be.
Staying home has is benefits as well as it’s struggles. I wrote a separate post about this which you can find here. Most days I love it and I feel like I made the best choice. When staying home with your kids, or even working part-time, it can be a challenge to come up with activities and daily ventures to keep everyone entertained. Do you want to know what my secret strategy is for this? It’s pretty simple.
I just don’t.
Here me out! There are some very real and very big benefits to simplifying your life. I’m specifically directing this post towards families with children of preschool age and below, but anyone with kids is affected by this. I’m targeting young families because these children do well with simple routines and are easily over-stimulated and worn out by too many activities in a day. They also typically nap and to me, naps are life. I would get NOTHING done if it were not for naps. Well, and school too.
Four days a week my son attends preschool while I come home and put my toddler down for her nap. I almost always spend this time working on blogging now. Other than the fact that we just recently enrolled Little T in a month of swim lessons, we have no other activities on our schedule. It’s wide open. Flapping in the wind like a nice, white bed sheet.
Now don’t get me wrong, we do schedule play dates and other fun outings but these things are never really set in stone. If the little one is grumpy or I’m running on empty, I’m not afraid to call and reschedule. Things come up and the other moms I visit with totally get it because they have young kids too.
The power of NO
The first part of creating a more simplified life for your family, is the ability to say “no”. NO you don’t have to agree to every meet-up, birthday party invitation and lunch date. It’s okay to not always have the best reason (or excuse) to pass on another trip to the noisy, over-crowded children’s museum. You’re living your life for you and your own family, not anyone else. Most of the time people are not offended by a declined offer, but every now and then they may take a personal offense. You can always emphasize that it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you, but if they still don’t get it, then say oh well and move on. Don’t feel guilty and don’t let it bother you longer than it needs to.
The quality time can be better
There are several occasions where my husband and I just decide to wing it and take the kids to the mountains for a day or to bowling and the arcade. There are no real expectations and it always turns out to be more fun and relaxing than that those bigger trips that require lots of planning. Last year we took both the kids camping and it was my daughter, Baby Bun’s, first time. She was NOT a fan. It didn’t matter how much we had prepared for that one, she was NOT having it! She cried almost the entire second night there. No one slept. It was awful.
I’ve found that with kids under 5, shorter trips are usually better in the long run. We get out, everyone enjoys themselves and then we come home and relax the rest of the day. Home is our safe place and I’m sure it’s yours as well. It’s where we can lounge in our jammies and let the kids run wild and be as loud as they want to. Where everyone feels comfortable and no one is worried about how were making too much noise or that the children are definitely not acting like little angels out in public. Toddlers are not meant to sit still. As moms we all know this now!
We’ve decided that at least once a year we’ll plan a bigger vacation that involves more travel time, packing and itineraries, but that’s probably about it. At least until the kiddos are a bit more self-sufficient and a little less…explosive. Making less plans means more time to spend together without all the hassle and hurry. We relax on the back porch, play board games in the evening and sing silly songs together. It’s simple and sweet. These kids of ours grow up so fast and I’d rather be there to watch it happen over worrying about when our next family outing will be.
Less time in the car
If anything truly drives me crazy, it’s how much of our lives we spend sitting behind the steering wheel of a car. Staring into the dying sun as our small people wail from the back seat. I. Cannot. Do it. I have anxiety issues and nothing triggers this more than hearing my child cry and being unable to do anything about it. Crying in general sets me on edge. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far into parenthood.
Anyway, before I ever had children I’ve always hated sitting in traffic and wasting away when I could be doing something I actually wanted to do. I would choose loads of laundry over that crap. So naturally, to avoid this we keep our activities fairly close to home, within 30 minutes driving time or less one way. I also do whatever I can to avoid going out during rush hour because that is just nonsense. Of course this cannot always be helped, which is why staying close to home is also a benefit.
It’s less pressure on you
So speaking of anxiety, having a busy and over-packed schedule can really create some issues. It took me a while just to adapt to my son’s school schedule and he only goes a couple days a week. We started out a two days a week last year and this year even though he was eligible for four, I only took him twice for the whole first semester. I moved up to three, and now four days a week this spring. People thought I was crazy but really it was because I preferred having no plans. (Also, his school time is smack-dab right in the middle of the day from 11-2.) We could do whatever we wanted to that day instead of me running around getting everyone ready to leave on time. Then having to drop what I was doing and turn around to go pick him up a few hours later because as parents we all have to be there like 30 minutes early so we can sit in our cars and stare at our phones while the toddler whines. I frequently have to wake Baby Bun up from her nap to pick up Little T, which as I mentioned earlier, is not something I’m a fan of.
Appointments and soccer practice and T-ball and swim lessons and toddler play groups and library story times. They all have specific times you need to be there. When your wrangling a one and four year old out the door it’s worse than herding cats. I don’t know how other moms do it with more than two kids. You all are saints. Patience is something I have really had to learn more of since becoming a parent (it’s pretty obvious with my intolerance for traffic and driving long distances). However, along with this impatience comes my anxiety. It rears it’s ugly head on days we’re pressured to get out the door on time and often manifests itself as a rage monster. And you know what? I really don’t want my kids to think of me as a “mean mom.” Because I’m not. I’m trying my best and if staying home more often equals a nicer mommy, then I’m all for it.
You can read my post about getting out the door on time with kids here, and hopefully lessen your own frustrations!
You save money
I don’t know about you guys but almost every time we have an outing planned, we spend money. Even if it’s a free day at the park we may stop for ice cream or grab snacks at the grocery store. Museums, play places, the zoo, aquariums, shopping, etc. It all costs money. If you’re a stay-at-home mom like me, then I imagine you’re also trying to budget a bit.
T-ball, dance lessons, tumbling classes – those all cost money too. I’m not saying don’t do these things, but I do think it’s best to pick just one activity at a time per child. Maybe divide it up even more so that you don’t have each kid doing an activity within the same week. Also, I really don’t feel like it’s worth it to put your three-year-old in a competitive team sport like soccer. They just don’t understand it yet and I’ve read a few things that say its better to start closer to the four to five year mark. This will be the first summer I’m planning team sport activities for Little T and he’ll be four and half. I really think he’s going to love it too. But like I said before, we will still be keeping it as one thing at a time per kid.
Check out my list of 16 FREE places to take your young kids!
Less schedule, more free play
There’s been a lot of recent talk about the benefits of boredom for kids. Boredom can encourage creativity, foster imagination and bolster your child’s problem-solving skills. Child-led play is extremely important in your kid’s social and emotional development. When they aren’t constantly being given a structured activity or stuck in front of a screen, their little minds will be busy at work inventing, learning and discovering new ways to entertain themselves. Let them run outside, given them some building blocks and leave them to their own devices. You don’t need a packed schedule to make your kids happy. You just need to let them be.
Social media can be soul-sucking
Before I started blogging, I was a bit of a social media addict already. But now? Ugh! I can’t get away from it! It actually affects me more today than it did before because I’m always finding ways to search for topics while promoting my blog. This means I see a lot of incredibly gorgeous Instagram accounts. Beautiful babies, fancy clothes and enough engaging, amazing family adventures to last a life time. All of these action-packed, fast-paced lifestyles may leave you feeling a little inadequate. You have to step back and remember that this isn’t real life! No one lives like this all the time. No one. The biggest lesson I have learned since becoming a mother is that comparison is the thief of joy. Never forget this!
There are moments when I worry we’re missing out. Like maybe I shouldn’t be scheduling everything around my daughter’s middle-of-the-day naps or limiting my son’s sports activities. But then I remind myself that getting caught up with trying to keep up is a pointless endeavor. I really have no desire to be that super-busy mom who is always going, going, going. I also just really don’t have the energy. Caring for tiny humans 24/7 can take a lot out of you.
I know our “simple” days are likely numbered, so I want to be prepared for that. Life won’t always be this easy, if we can really call it that. There are so many more things we will participate in (and carpool to) as the kids continue to grow up. So I keep myself busy watching them giggle and learn and play chase until their little sides are heaving with elated effort. Because you never get these baby years back. And I don’t want to miss them.