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Is it really possible to find the right balance between structure and flexibility as a mom? Many organizational books and resources lean drastically toward one extreme or the other.
Either we should schedule each minute of our day to make sure no time is wasted, or we should just go with the flow and let the day happen as it unfolds. The first option leaves us feeling guilty if we sit down for a break; the second gives us guilt at the end of the day that we didn’t get more done.
In my mind, guilt is a mama’s worse enemy–and I’m tired of it knocking at the door of my thoughts. There is a way to ride the fence between structure and flexibility, bringing freedom for yourself and your home in the process.
Here are four things to keep in mind.
1. Know yourself.
What is your personality? Most people naturally veer toward organization or toward spontaneity.
Whichever way you lean, you shouldn’t feel guilty (see above paragraph, remember?). Your personality is one of God’s gifts to you and your children, and you should thrive within it. As much as possible, try to do what comes naturally.
The only exception enters when what comes naturally isn’t serving you or your family best–if your organizational tendencies creep toward micromanagement, or if your relaxed nature means there’s never any clean laundry.
Neither extreme will bring you joy–so you’ll want to find a way to balance yourself. Create a simple morning routine if that helps, or give yourself two hours of unplanned time with the kids if you need to loosen up.
2. Know what season you’re in.
Parenting ushers in a variety of life seasons, and just like the weather outside, the seasons of our lives require modifications to enjoy them.
Three years ago when I first began writing my book, I had a four-, three-, and two-year-old at home. Days in the house felt loooooong, and I needed a serious plan in place to help me feel good about them. This was definitely a season of more structure in my life.
I never would have written a book during that stage if I had not reserved time exclusively for that purpose once a week after the kids were in bed. Some nights I would sit down to write, exhausted beyond belief. At times I would just shut the computer down and go to bed. Other nights, I would offer up a desperate prayer, “God, all I have to offer are these words, coming from a tired, discouraged mind. Please make them worth something to someone.”
If your kids are older, you may need less structure. If you have a new baby, that will seriously change the look of your days. If you’re just getting started with homeschooling, your life may need something very different to the mom whose kids leave for the bus stop at 8 a.m.
Don’t fight your season; flow with it.
3. Know your children.
You have a personality to honor, without a doubt. So do your children. What do they need most from you right now?
Is there an overall peace to the rhythm of your home? If so, you’ve found what works for you. But if each day all day is a challenge, a change in either the direction of structure or flexibility could be the answer. We all have bad days and even bad seasons, but if it life always seems difficult, something is wrong. Your life as a mom is meant to be a joyful one.
Young children need plenty of unstructured time to play and move those restless bodies; older kids may need decompression time alone. It’s not all about them of course; a family learns to compromise. But by making sure you take their needs into account, you create a more pleasant atmosphere for everyone to live in.
4. Know that you should never compare.
This ever-present temptation lurks in the minds of all mothers at times, and it can be especially provoked by the blogosphere.
“So and so does all that? Her kids do what? Or so-and-so is so laid-back, I wish I could be like that.”
No, no, no.
If you know yourself, your season, and your children, then you won’t need to compare.
Personally, I am not a high-output individual. That might sound strange, given that I have two blogs, three homeschooled children, and wrote a book. But it’s really true. In each of the facets of my life there is always pressure to do more, and I routinely say no to many things. I prefer slow, simple days, so I make the choices that are right for me and my season.
No matter what you see in someone’s life, you never know what happens behind the scenes or what has gotten her to that place. When the comparisons come, shut your mind’s door and distract yourself with another thought immediately.
Finding the right balance between structure and flexibility is an ongoing, never-ending project. Just as we find what works, our seasons as a mom often shift. But don’t give up.
The journey brings freedom–to embrace your personal groove, set yourself up for success, and relish where you are in your life as a mom.
Which is your natural tendency–structure or flexibility?
Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as the editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Check out her book Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.