This is the hope of the busy parent, right? To find the perfect schedule for the family, where all things are not only accomplished, but in balance.You juggle the kids’ activities and your own, looking ahead to every school year like each season is a Tetris game in your head and you’re trying to best fit in all the pieces: sports practices, classes, dance and/or music lessons, church activities, time for schoolwork, time with family unit, time with extended family, and, oh yeah-this mom should exercise?
This past August, I though I’d hit upon the year of perfection. It was going to be balanced and not too crazy! (Well, at least until baseball season starts up in February. Five months of craziness!)
My husband and I are serious about not letting activities control our lives. The aforementioned baseball is the one sacrifice we’ve made for our son who is obsessed with it, who is interested in no other sport, team or activity. And we have a one-activity-per -child rule. (I know, some find that limiting–you’ve gotta define your family goals and parenting goals, and each family has to figure that out for themselves. For us, juggling dance, piano and baseball is enough. Last year we did archery too, bending our one-activity-only rule. This year, that was taken off the table; the club no longer exists.)
But yes, at the beginning of this school year, I had it all figured out. I even could get myself to the gym one morning a week. It was perfect–on the way to a weekly commitment this one weekday, and there was childcare! It was not even out of my way-it was on the way.
And I found my preschooler a dance class one morning a week, which felt like a win, because I do my best to protect at least some evenings a week to prioritize having time together to relax as a family. For the first weeks of the school year, I got used to his routine, and it was great.
But then it fell apart. Just one little piece of the puzzle no longer fit. And the whole “balance” thing came crashing down. My yoga class that one morning–well, it’s one of those classes that is done to a soundtrack, in a routine. And the teacher sticks with it for a good four months or more. A new one began in September, and it became abundantly clear after I tried it three times that it did not fit me. It just made my body hurt. I hurt myself. It required way more upper body strength than I had. And yes, I’ve done yoga long enough to know I can alter certain poses if something isn’t the best for my body. But half the routine fell in this category. It was grueling. I couldn’t find any pleasure or relaxation in this class. (And isn’t that why one takes yoga?) I left class with muscle spasms between my shoulders.
I looked at every gym in the area trying to find another yoga class to fit my schedule. No luck at all. Join me for just one moment–one moment of lament! That’s a legit literary form. (It’s even Biblical.) I won’t wallow too long–I promise. But can anyone hear me in my lament? To have had it all figured out and then something you thought was invariable changed?
So I gave up exercise for myself this fall. It was the sacrifice I made last year and that I swore I would not do again this year! My body could really tell the difference last year. It takes a couple months of forgoing yoga, and then I just feel stiff all the time, inflexible, and…brittle.
Other moms mention doing workouts at home, for free! Do it first thing in the morning, they say. Do it after kids go to bed, they say. (I’ll spare you paragraphs to explain why my early mornings and late nights are already booked with other activities I need to do without kids around.) Some moms even talk of exercising in their home with awake children! I’d not found success with this.
But I’m all about being persistent–to solve the problem rather than give up! But I first had to train my boys to stay busy in another room. (Because nothing is more counter-productive to yoga that constant interruptions and pleas to make decisions! “What are we having for lunch? Can I stay up late tonight to watch that show I like? Have you seen my scissors? What page did you say again? Next week, can we ___”) For my youngest, there was just nothing for it though–she has magnetism to me, so as I did yoga, she sometimes wanted to do it with me, and other times, on me. But it was what it was. We just made it our Tuesday morning routine before lunch. My kids had been accustomed to that time slot when I went to the gym, so I never got rid of it completely. I told them, “It’s just like I’m at the gym. You stay in one room and I’ll be in another, exercising.” It sorta works. Some days.
So the perfect schedule, that ever-elusive thing… In the words of U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. But that is life, that is parenting. (Back in college, I thought it was just a college thing! Trying, semester by semester, to create ideal week, even ideal days–loving the control of my new adult life.)
As when I had infants and struggled with lack of sleep, nursing issues, colic–you name it–I kept reminding myself: the only real constant in the life of being a mom to an infant is that it keeps changing. Every 1-3 months, your baby was a different animal, doing different things. By the I got a routine down, mastered handling whatever the challenge of the stage was, the stage changed! There was a comfort in that too for the things that were really hard; they were not forever.
Likewise, my schedule challenge of today is not forever. I’m noticing the cycle of three pretty distinct phases our school years. Fall/early winter, baseball season, summer. Very soon, it’s time to regroup and re-do my mental Tetris challenge to fit the needs of our life around baseball. And I *may* even get to go to yoga again. (Rumor is that the class’s soundtrack/routine will change by the end of he month.) So I’m optimistic! (Also because I made a friend in another mom at baseball last season who has suggested we can share handling the baseball practices for our sons. Her husband too has a job with hours that don’t often leave him free to help share the sports demands. That gives me hope too!)
So does anyone else out there share the goal to create the perfect weekly schedule and balance??? Has anyone found it??
As a homeschool mom, my other obsession is finding the “ideal homeschool schedule” that makes the best use of my time and my kids’. (But that’s another topic. I wrote about it in “Making Your Homeschool Schedule (and the revelation of a circle graphic).”)
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