Dishes are piling up in the sink. The kids need help with homework. Your project for work has a looming deadline. How do so many women achieve family bliss at home? SheKnows spoke with several moms to gain perspective on what it is they do to keep it all together. We learned that routines play a big part in family life. Perhaps you'll see a situation similar to your life, as well as tips you might use to help keep it all together.
Setting routines, drawing boundaries and quiet family time
Sometimes it's difficult to separate work life from home life, particularly if your office is in your home. Pam has her own company where she works full time from a home office. With clients who often call "after hours," she explains that establishing routines for her young son is important. Along with school and extracurricular activities, Pam's son requires therapy five days per week. "Sticking to a routine is important just to get everything done," she says.
Pam shares parenting duties with her son's father who is with their son two nights a week, and one day on weekends. Both parents stick to the established schedule to keep expectations and balance for everyone. "We try to have a dinner together as a family three to four times a week, and I'm getting better at shutting off communication devices during dinner," explains Pam. "I think quiet dinnertime is one of the most important routines a family can have. If needed, we also use calming techniques, such as sorting dry beans, listening to soft music, and doing breathing exercises."
"Quiet dinnertime is one of the most important routines a family can have."
The importance of consequences
Donna and her husband have their hands full with one young son and furry family members, too (three dogs and three cats). Donna finds that with her hectic schedule, routines definitely work well. She says the days kick off with breakfast and go from there. "During the week, my son heads off to school after breakfast," explains Donna. "That's when I do cleaning, errands, doctors' and vet appointments, and grocery shopping. We have dinner roughly the same time every night when my husband is home, and on weekends we try to spend Sunday together as a family."
Aside from incorporating schedules into her family's life, Donna and her husband teach their son about consequences. "If he gives us a hard time, say, about not going to bed on time, we take something away from him. We feel it's a good way to teach him there are results associated with what he does or doesn't do," she says.
Family to lend a hand
Valerie is divorced and has three kids, ages 18, 13 and 6. Not only does she care for her children and work from her home, but she also cares for her father and her mother who has Alzheimer's. "We definitely have to have routines established in our house," explains Valerie, who paints a picture of all family members who pitch in. "My kids are a great help," she says. "My oldest needs to leave the house first, by 7 a.m., and my 13-year-old helps with my youngest. She helps with his breakfast and packs his lunch — love her for that!" Valerie describes the rest of the day: "After my daughter leaves, I take my youngest to daycare, then I'm back to the house to start my work shift. When the older kids get home, I head off to pick up the youngest, then hit the grocery store and make dinner. Then comes homework and chores (dishes, vacuuming, etc.) and before you know it, it's bedtime."
Valerie is thankful for her large extended family that she can turn to for help. "My sisters live nearby and have helped me tremendously in raising my kids, mentally, emotionally and even financially," she notes. "They give me a break whenever I need it, so that's always nice!"
Plan with flexibility in mind
As a telecommuting, working mother who also travels for work, Carol recognizes the importance of planning. As a stepmom whose kids split their time between two homes (as well as having one child in college), she explains that you can't plan without being flexible. "I try to plan a week's worth of meals and do one shopping trip a week. I make one meal that I double and freeze for another week, and I try to plan a leftover night, too" describes Carol.
"We also have routines like 'Sunday cleanup,' which we've done since the kids were little: Everyone has to clean up his or her space on Sunday nights before watching TV," she notes. "Now we turn up the tunes to try to make this time more fun! I also think it's important to give the kids some say in whatever 'the plan' is. That way, they feel like they own part of it. But I also allow for flexibility. Sunday cleanup might not happen, but I try to be firm, flexible and have a sense of humor."
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