Keeping a Morning Routine During Busy Seasons

Morning routine

By Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer

I just recently had my fourth baby.  My oldest turned 5 a couple of months ago.

As you can imagine, it’s pretty busy around here!  I have been lucky enough to have my husband stay home for two weeks (as he has after each baby), and my mother came to stay for two more weeks. So I had help from at least one other adult during the first month.

I know a lot of moms don’t have that kind of support.  It certainly does make it easier!  By the end of this time (it’s not over yet), I’ll be ready to get back to “our” routine, though, and feel normal again, even though I won’t have the help anymore. It’s like coming home at the end of vacation…it was fun, but you’re ready for “normal.”

Although I haven’t been on my own with four yet, I did make it through the last stretch of pregnancy with three active little ones without any major issue. It’s possible — even ideal — to keep some form and normalcy to your day, even when you are very busy or have an unusual situation. It really helps the kids and you, too!

Our Morning Routine

The first thing to know is that our morning routine was similar each day but I built in a lot of leeway, depending on what each of us needed that day.  That is so important during busy seasons.  Build in lots of extra time, give yourself (and your kids) some grace, and prepare for unexpected needs.

7 a.m.: Everyone wakes up (this could happen anywhere from 6:30 – 7:30).  Snuggle time in bed with Mommy.

8 a.m.: Get dressed and ready for the day.  (Sometimes I turn on the TV in my room and sneak a bath at this time, when I was still tired or sore at the end of pregnancy.)

8:30 – 9 a.m.: Breakfast (and sometimes on a lazy morning this stretches out to 10 or so), followed by morning chores (dishwasher, ice trays, wiping down counters, sweeping floor, starting laundry).

9 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Play time/work time. (I have a babysitter come in two days a week.)  Or, outing, if we’re up to it.

12 – 2 p.m.: Lunch time, then play.  (Kids have to clean up their playroom before lunch, so sometimes lunch doesn’t happen until 1:30.)

2 – 4/5 p.m.: Quiet Time (all kids have to be in their rooms; older ones can read books in bed if they prefer).  Sometimes I nap, too.

5 – 8 p.m.: Daddy time, dinner, bed.

Simple, flexible, with lots of leeway and play time built in. It seems ridiculous that we could wake up at 7 but not have breakfast until 9 or 10, but sometimes that happens.  And other days we’re all fed by 8 and ready to go somewhere. Sometimes we get a lot of chores and activities done; sometimes not. Sometimes we are on top of everything and out the door by 9 and run lots of errands; sometimes we barely get out of our PJs by nap time, and we watch a lot of TV.

Our homeschooling takes place usually in the 9 – 12 window, and our 5 year old reads with Daddy in the evenings.  We don’t spend a lot of time on it yet and we don’t do it every day, but the kids have folders of activities from which to work when they want as well as their own notebooks.  Their notebooks are for drawing pictures, writing letters, or whatever it is they want to do.
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Tips on Making it Work

Everyone’s morning routine will be different depending on their situation and needs.  During busy seasons, though, it’s especially important to set up some guidelines.

Say No or Maybe to Activities

I didn’t promise anyone anything and still won’t for awhile.  I didn’t schedule play dates in advance or agree to regular mommy group meet ups.  I let them all know that in this season, I’m always a “maybe.”  I also stopped going to my evening activities and clubs in the last several weeks of my pregnancy because I knew my focus wasn’t there, and I was needed at home.  I do not feel guilty about taking a break when I need it, and once things are settled I will go back to it all and be more reliable in what I promise.  You shouldn’t feel guilty for saying no either!

Keep Your Boundaries

Don’t let others make you feel guilty for needing to say no.  There was a woman at my church who was due with a baby (also her fourth) a few weeks before I was.  She never missed a single meeting until the week she delivered, she never had to sit down and rest, she never seemed to slow down.  That was her experience.  Mine was different and sometimes I did need a break or to sit down (we were volunteering in a preschool ministry so there’s a lot of chasing/playing with kids).  Do what is right for you and don’t worry about what others are or aren’t doing.  Now is not the time to “Keep up with the Joneses.”

Move at a Slow and Steady Pace

There are no prizes for keeping up the pace or looking like Super Mom.  If you are feeling really good one day, maybe you do get up early and get a lot done — that’s great!  But maybe another day the kids kept you up half the night or you don’t feel well and you are dead on your feet.  Snuggle in, watch TV, eat easy foods for breakfast….Who cares?  The most important things will still get done (caring for and loving on your family), so ignore the rest.  Most of the time it will fall in between, so build in a good hour or two to get things done.  If you have several small children or are pregnant or have something else going on, it’s probably not realistic to get out the door 30 minutes after waking, so don’t plan on it.  It’s okay.

Keep Things Simple in the Kitchen

I bought a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and no-junk cereal (something I don’t typically buy) in the last weeks of pregnancy.  The kids ate these and a lot of cheese.  I also fried up potatoes and sausage quickly, served a lot of plain steamed veggies, pan-fried chicken breasts, etc.  I often made double batches of anything I did cook, so we’d have leftovers.  Brown rice pasta was another quick favorite, sometimes served with fresh veggies and plain ground meat.  I stocked my freezer about 6 weeks before my due date so that we would have food to eat after baby arrived. I used my pressure canner, too, for soups.  It was not fancy.  But it was reasonably healthy, and they had enough to eat.

Ask for Help

If you need someone to come watch your kids so you can shower, ask them.  If you need someone to bring you a meal, ask!  Many communities and churches have a way to ask for these types of things.  Don’t be a hero and think about how you can get along without the help.  If you’re in a busy season, ask for help.  When you’re feeling stronger again, offer to help others.  (I know I often personally find excuses for why I don’t “really need” help.  Lots of people have it harder than I do.  But still, it’s okay to ask.)

Everyone has busy seasons.  Sometimes they last longer than others — really, any time with mostly or entirely littles is busy!  And that’s okay.  It’s about doing what works for you and not worrying about what other families are doing.

How do you keep a routine during busy seasons?

About Kate Tietje

Kate is a work-at-home mom to (almost) 4 kids -- Bekah, age 4.5; Daniel, age 3; Jacob, 1; and baby #4, due mid-March 2013. She is married to Ben, a wonderfully supportive husband! She blogs at Modern Alternative Mama, where she writes about natural health, real food, parenting, and all things “green.” She also recently launched Modern Alternative Kitchen, a site about traditional cooking, and is about to launch Modern Alternative Pregnancy. In her “free” time, she enjoys sewing, crafting, cooking, and playing with her children. Follow her on Facebook!

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Comments

  1. I appreciated your post and especially your further explanation in the comments about the “quiet time”. This is something I am trying valiantly to maintain with my 2 children, ages 2.5 & 16 months, but the 2.5 year old stopped napping when she was 15 months old and has never looked back. :( When I put her in her room to play, even if I give her toys she doesn’t get to play with often, she frequently fusses to get out and it is definitely not a restful time for me (and I NEED that rest; I am in the first trimester of pregnancy with baby #3!!!) A friend encouraged me to keep doing the quiet times and I have but would still like to come up with a better solution for activities for my oldest child to do during that time. The 16-month old still takes a really good nap, anywhere from 1-3 hours, and so I’m extremely grateful for that. Also, she is content to stay in her bed and play with toys or look at books for as much as an hour at a time. It’s just my “big girl” that I struggle with, for now.

  2. Thank you for this. I just had my third in December and my oldest is 3 1/2. It’s so nice to hear that it’s okay to not be superwoman. I wish I had accepted the offer for meals, but I’ll definitely not turn it down if we’re blessed again!

  3. While I do appreciate Kate’s thoughts (and definitely appreciate sweet newborn pics *swoon*)….I must say, it would be helpful to have a post written by someone whose oldest child isn’t only 5 years old and who hasn’t even experienced REAL homeschooling yet. For instance, I am a WAHM (work at home mom) to four children currently (praying for more, so I expect this busy season again!). We’re in our 8th year of homeschooling and this year I have a 2nd grader (8 y/o), a 4th grader (10 y/o), and two 6th graders (12.5 y/o twins). {Doing the math, you can see that when my current youngest was born, I had 4 kids ages 4 and under.}

    Juggling three grade levels has been quite challenging at times, especially as a WAHM. I’d love to hear advice/tips from someone actually homeschooling and who has children older than 5.

    • I’m sure someone else can address this issue — however, that was not the point of this post. The point was simply about keeping a routine in your home during “busy seasons” and I mentioned that we do some homeschooling, but it was not specifically addressed to homeschooling moms. I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic *at all* and only mentioned it because it is something we are starting to do in this season of our lives. Perhaps another writer who has older children can write a post in the future that is intended to address this specific topic.

  4. Angela C. says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I often feel guilty about too much T.V some days, but in the end, I’m just becoming more and more thankful that I’m able to be at home with my young children. In this day and age it’s a privilege. Thank you also for including your schedule. I am still working on this as I am one of those moms who overschedules and doesn’t give enough time to get from one appt. or olbigation to another. I strongly dislike rushing my children and I am working on changing this.

  5. Thank you!!

  6. thanks for this-just what i needed to hear today :)

  7. Michelle D says:

    Ahhhh yes! Today I was grumbling about not waking before the kids. Yesterday I was up at 5:45 had 2 hours to myself to pray, clean and be me. Today however, baby kept me up all night nursing and fussing and I am dragging around at 9:30- tossing cereal at the kids. Routine is something I am working on with 3 littles 5, 3, 1. We have days where nothing is cleaned, no schooling is done and everything is a mess and I feel like a slob- thank you for reminding me that they are little only once and I can cherish these busy times when I can’t meet friends for lunch with my tahoe load of kids in tow lol.

  8. I have older daughters to help out, so my help is always there after a birth. Even so, I slow down during the last months of pregnancy. Some say having a baby when you are 40 is easier, but I find that I am more tired and achy. This last pregnancy was especially bad. I don’t think I left the house more than a handful of time during the last trimester. We also ease back into life slowly. But like you wrote, that is ok. I had people who could help and around here, everyone would rather snuggle the baby than be out and about. I have also learned that babies grow up fast. Now that I am an older mom, each pregnancy and birth could be the last, so I treasure the slow time more and more.

  9. What a helpful post! I’m in the midst of a busy season and have found not having weekly commitments (beyond some basics like church small group), allowing more Sound of Music while I’m cooking dinner :), and being careful not to over-schedule weekend time really helpful.
    I’m intrigued by the concept of a 2-3 hour afternoon quiet time for the older kids. :) Mine still nap, but I’ve wondered what afternoons will look like when they don’t. Are they pretty content to play or read quietly for the entire time?

    • Having an afternoon quiet time, even when they don’t nap, is a wonderful thing! We used to do 90 minutes. Now that the kids are older, they play quietly with Legos, read books, and draw. Sometimes I even get my older girls coming and just sharing a cup of coffee with me. We’re still quiet, but memories are being made.

      • That’s great! Yeah, I think it’s a good idea, too. I’d just never heard of it being quite so long as 2-3 hours :). Not opposed to that by any means, just wondered how the kids did with it :).

    • They vary. :) My 5-year-old is pretty social so sometimes she can get creative and a bit loud, but we try to give her coloring sheets or books or whatever she requests to do. Sometimes we let her stay with us and do something quiet instead, which she enjoys. My 3.5 YO just stopped napping a couple weeks ago (sigh, right before baby was born) and he has a set of trains and tracks in his room. He will play quietly with that on the floor for two hours no problem. The littlest two still nap. I’m sure this will evolve as they get older and will be awesome once they can actually read! I think it works because it has just always been this way, first as a normal ‘nap’ time and then transitioning to quiet time. The older kids know that when the babies get up, they can too — and that’s whether it’s been only an hour or three, so it varies by day. We’re flexible with it but generally it works out.

  10. I really enjoyed reading your post, though I must admit it made me a little anxious! :) ha. Hubs and I are planning for baby #3 now, and we’ve got a ways to go before we have #4 but when it’s all said and done we will most likely have 4 under 5 years old as well … Our routine of [breakfast, gymnastics, shopping, lunch, nap, play, dinner, bath, bed] just with the two boys can be a little touch and go and attitudes get a little out of whack when we don’t follow our schedule – God bless you mamas with 4! – but when things start to get away from me that’s when i turn to the crockpot, freezer meals, and lots of outdoor play! Something about being cooped up inside that makes me a little crazy :: I’ll do anything to get the boys happy, occupied and worn out! ha!

  11. raisingcropsandbabies says:

    You were me! I had 4, 4 and under. While the transition was better with the 4th than with my 3rd, it was still like my days were a giant whirlwind. While I was recovering from my c-section, I was able to have 3 weeks of help and that was amazing. I also did 4 weeks worth of freezer meals while pregnant for after the help left. We didn’t go to church for over a month (the c/s recovery kicked my butt this time and I knew it was better to rest than to over-do it).

    As far as our routine for the first 3 months (what seems to me like the biggest transition time after a newborn)… it was: breakfast in morning, lunch in afternoon,, and supper after farm chores. When Baby Girl was around 4 mos. old we had settled back into a routine.
    Good post and blessings to you!

  12. Julianna Davis says:

    Thank you so much for this (especially this morning!). I am also expecting my fourth child in a week and my oldest is 4.5. I think, like most moms, we put too much pressure on ourselves to ‘get it all done’ and need a reminder like you just wrote about for allowing a break in between. I know I’ve felt frustrated with my to-do list this week before delivery and I have to put things in perspective again to understand its going to be alright if the base boards aren’t dusted this week..Yes, I’ve had horrible ‘nesting’ with all of mine. ;)
    Thank you again for the perspective and God bless you and your family!