A Family Rhythm for Winter

The Dining Room / Friday, January 11th, 2019

The Christmas Decorations are packed away. The presents and new acquisitions have found their places in the home. The house is stripped back to it’s bare bones. Outside the cool air smells fresh and promising. We’ve arrived on the other side of Winter. The less pompous one, a little cooler, a little clearer, a little lighter every day. 
The fresh year’s side of winter always sparks an urge to strip back, cut down, let it all rest and breathe for a while – not just the decorations in the house but our schedule too. Subsequently our family’s rhythm has been given a good shake-over at the beginning of this year.

Much longer than usually, I pondered not only how to make new seasonal opportunities and commitments fit, but how the overall shape of our days (still) suited us. Questioning whether the cornerstones of our days and the tasks that keep our little boat afloat still serve us, in the way they break up our days. Consequently I’ve revised my daily and weekly housekeeping to do list for the first time in years. Finally changing things around to fit us better. However, the freed up time has not been filled as usual, but rather left with friendly reminders of could does: playdates with our neighbours, arts and craft, walks in the nearby woods. Soulful place holders for the days we really can’t think how to fill our time.

This will be the third year I craft a family rhythm on paper and it still feels as liberating as in the beginning. 
Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the costs of decision making. She told me how she used to go to the train station during maternity leave, determined to go on an adventure. Only to find herself standing paralysed in front of the departure board, not being able to choose from the many trains and often ending up not going at all. We began wondering if a simple rule would have helped that, like catching the first train North or taking the train that leaves next from platform 5. In a way we realised, coming up with a rule is not as energy draining as making a conscious choice. Yet, with a rule in place the decision on which train to board has already been made.

The practice of crafting our daily and weekly rhythm is exactly that: it’s the rule book of our days. However, I do not craft the rules. In fact, many of them are in place without me even thinking about them. I simply take the time to observe our habits and routines to learn about the time we really have available and in return can use that knowledge to shape our days a little better. In addition, as someone who has a lot of decision freedom over our day to day activities, it allows me to fill our schedule with gentle suggestions beforehand, keeping the daily decision making costs lower. 
All this in return ensures that I have more energy and time to do my favourite job: mothering and loving my littlest lady.
Below is the outline of our current winter rhythm. Our family’s parameters are still the same, I stay at home with our two-year-old while Daddy works. Thankfully, his work hours are a little less unpredictable in these early weeks of the year, bringing him home to us many evenings. Apart from a few long-standing commitments, we have little influence that pulls on our schedule.

Our Winter Rhythm

6am* / Mama wakes up and enjoys a first cup of tea, before making use of the fringe hour with some writing.

7.30am / The littlest lady wakes up and we get ready for the day.

8am / Breakfast

9am / Daily housekeeping tasks, including the morning chores of clearing away breakfast and prepping lunch. 

Currently the littlest lady enjoys 15min of her favourite tv show before tending to her baby doll or rampaging through the downstairs with her play push chair.

10am / Time to head out on our Morning Adventures. We try to get out of the house every day, unless the weather really doesn’t permit it. 

Our activities vary from day to day. There are a few fixed commitments, which we’ve enjoyed for several seasons now. However, particularly this season’s rhythm offers a lot more space for unexpected adventures.

Monday / Playdates, walks, crafts at home or something else
Tuesday / Swimming
Wednesday / Playgroup
Thursday / Allotment
Friday / Playdates, trampolining, Library or something else
Saturday / Walks, visits or something else
Sun / At Home

12.30am / Lunch

1.30pm / Nap time for the littlest lady = Work time for Mama.

3.30pm / Littlest lady wakes up again.

4pm / Weekly housekeeping tasks & free play.

6pm / Dinner. To take the pressure of the late hour, I write a meal plan for the week in advance. That way the decision what to cook has already been made, and there is little doubt that all required ingredients are in stock.

7pm / Playtime together

8pm / Bedtime for the littlest lady

9pm / Mama and Daddy Time

*The timings are always approximates. Writing out our daily rhythm is a practice to ease my mind not the other way around. So stressing about time is what I’m trying to avoid. If I wake up late, the littlest lady sleeps longer, our morning adventure doesn’t get us home on time or we’re not hungry at 12.30am we simply continue to go with the flow. Generally speaking we’re back into the rhythm before we even know it.

As the days brighten and nature comes into bloom again, our rhythm will soon change once more. I anticipate the fading out of many indoor activities to spend our precious time outside, breathing the warm, fresh air and investigating the seasonal changes. Until then, we’ll take the rest and time for inner reflection that winter has to offer. Every now and then braving the cold winds to clear our heads and fill out hearts.

A few further links:

Our Family’s Rhythm for Autumn from last year

Some more thoughts on how I found freedom in routine


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