Implementing Rhythm in Our Home Changed Our Lives, Kept Our Sanity and Improved Our Relationships

Do you live with rhythm in your home?  I didn’t because I didn’t even know what that meant.   After I learned about it and started to really implement it, my family and my life had been completely transformed.  Here is the story of how it all started…

I was brought up in a home that did not have much structure.  We had meals at mealtimes but not always together, especially breakfast, it was often eaten standing up and completely rushed.   A lot of times packing it with me to eat on route to school or an event.  Sunday church was the only thing that was non negotiable.  Other than that, most family activities were off the cuff.  Of course I did not see anything wrong with this picture.  I turned out “fine”, as most people have.

My adult life before kids were just things that happen to me and all decisions were based on the result of how comfortable I would or would not be.  No one would realize and see how self indulgent one is until you become a parent, no matter how giving you think you have been. Don’t feel bad about this if you don’t have kids. It is only natural that you would want to be good yourself.

Parenthood will bring out the dark stuff, from the inside out.  What you do with these feelings/emotions/realizations and whether you want to learn from it is entirely part of your path.  To me it is a choice, you either choose to ignore/bury it or you face it head on.  If you choose to face it then it will probably be the most uncomfortable, self inflicted hard core (pun intended) decision you would have to make.  The worse part is, there are so many layers and once you go in, it is hard to come out unscathed.  The layers are extremely overwhelming.  It takes courage and guts to face this darkness.  To me, this is actually THE hardest part about parenting – dealing with your own crap.

Most new parents talk about how hard it is to take care of highly emotional infant/toddler set, about how to deal with their tantrums, asking around for tricks and tips on discipline, seeking for the best methods to getting them to sleep through the night…the list goes on.  The truth is, when your kids are “acting out”,  it is actually them asking you to look into yourself.  And if you want things to change, you have to change yourself first.  In the world of kids, words are cheap especially in the early years.  I have learned that one has to model the behaviour you want your kids to have.  THAT to me is why parenting is not easy, the smelly diapers and the tantrums do not come close to the difficulty of inner work.

There is light at the end of this blog post/tunnel.  I worked hard on my own crap and I got rewarded.  Let me tell you how it happened.  Lets get back to the topic of rhythm.

From the beginning of my parenting journey, I thrived on the attachment parenting philosophy of how to be attuned and keeping close awareness of your child’s needs.  I was that mother who “wore” her baby everywhere.  First slings then wraps and then the Ergo carrier.  The used McClaren stroller we purchased via craigslist the day before he arrived collected dust.  I was into keeping my baby close to my body as much as I can and as close to my face and head as I can.  He and I definitely bonded.  I was happy and he was happy (so I thought).  I was breastfeeding on demand and I was okay with him needing to feed throughout the night (and day).  He could sleep when he falls asleep and eat when I sensed he was hungry.  I would prepare meals for him first, feed him and then think about what we’d eat AFTER he falls asleep – a lot of times that is after 10pm.  This baby-led lifestyle was working for us – so I thought.  I remember even commenting to myself on how “rigid” this mother was when I learned that she would put her 6 month old to nap and sleep for the night everyday at the same time.  I remember thinking: “Kids would sleep when they are tired.”

Wow, did I have something to learn.  Enters my own unhealthy connection to sleep.  I grew up not having a set time to sleep.  I was allowed to sleep as late as I wanted throughout my childhood (a lot of times, pass 11pm).  I never recall on having to nap or being asked if I needed one.  I slept because I was exhausted, not because it was bedtime.  I was always tired during the day and would crash out in the library on a desk while trying to do homework after school.  As a result, when I got older I had insomnia and would stay up two days or more in a row during exam times throughout university.  I did not know how to self regulate.  That was my normal.  Yeah.

Here I am, totally “handling” my sleep-deprived life like a pro.  As this lifestyle continued, I was starting to fall apart and not realize it.  I would have trouble keeping up with housework, I couldn’t take a shower without thinking that I would wake the baby up, I was also working part-time.  I thought I had a handle on it.  I thought this stressful, surviving-by-a-thread mode was normal and that was what parenting a young child is like.   I accepted it and both my husband and I were game for the challenge.  Until one day I came across the Waldorf School and their child development philosophies while researching for schooling around my community.

Enters a WHOLE NEW WORLD. Total and absolute epiphany.  What an eye opening experience.  This was the first time I had encountered the words rhythm, home and family in the same sentence.  Rudolf Steiner?  Who is that?!  (I’ll have to take a rain check on the elaboration of Mr. Steiner.  What I have learned from his philosophies are many a blog posts to come.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here is the link to his wiki world to make it easier for you know now )

From the moment I “walked-in” to this new-to-me world of Waldorf Education and its philosophies on child development, I knew I had found something I can really sink my teeth into.  No one, and I mean NO ONE I knew throughout my diverse life experiences had ever talked to me about the existence of this philosophy. It felt like I was censored from it my whole life and all of a sudden the curtain was lifted.  Eyes wide open I went in head first into the deep end of this fascinating new pool.  I may as well have just discovered a new planet.

I am a really fast learner.  I’m even faster if I feel a fire in my belly about something.  Well, my stomach was burning alright.  I only had to read a few of books and articles out of the milieu of teachings for me to change our family’s way of life 180 degrees.  Of course I have the best partner who was in complete support to this new research and was so on-board with trying anything new if it has to do with improving our family life.  So we went out there, worked our butts off in making changes within ourselves and got us some rhythm in our home.  Here is what it looks like (please keep in mind that we have pre-school age kids, this will change as they grow of course) :

  1.  7am: We have an epic un-rushed breakfast before father goes to work.  When I said epic, i mean we all eat together sitting down, with table set, no cereal in a bowl of milk but instead fresh fruits, yogurt, eggs cooked in different ways in different seasons, sometimes bacon or sausages and toast.  On weekends and special occasions we take it even slower and grander, doing pancakes or french toast etc.
  2. 8:30am: After breakfast activity (for the ages from infant to around 6/7) consist in the form of a walk around the neighbourhood visiting cats, saying hi to the postman, chatting with neighbours, pick berries and throw rocks in the river or a short hike in the forest, then back home for a bit of circle time – singing, stories and snacks then free uninstructed play while I prepare lunch.
  3. 11:45am:  Lunch time happens in the same time frame everyday, again together, no matter where we are.
  4. 12:30pm:  2 to 3 hours of nap/quiet time in a room where there is a bed – no sleeping in the stroller, in the car seat or in a carrier.
  5. 3pm: After nap activity would be similar to after breakfast and 2 days out of a week, we make get in the car and go explore somewhere a bit further.
  6. 6pm: Dinner time happens in around the same time frame, and dad would do everything in his power to be present for this meal – even meaning having to work a bit in the evening.
  7. 6:45pm: Bath, story and a song – for the first 3 years we didn’t even read books.  We would all lay in bed in the dark and tell stories that would pertain to our boys’ day/life.
  8. 7:30pm:  Lights out.

So this is what the basics framework of what our rhythm looks like.   Of course it gets flexed with the ebb and flows of the seasons and developmental milestones.  In general,  everyday of our lives now looks more or less like this ever since I’ve discovered this way of organizing our days, yes even on weekends!

It may seem boring or its just a time schedule if you look at it at face value but the kind of discipline and creativity it takes to sustain this EVERYDAY takes a lot of hard work, especially when you have never experienced this throughout your life.  We have been at this for over 3.5 years now and we are constantly refining the details and making it even better.

Every since we got rhythm, both my husband and I been rewarded with quality “me and us” time every night starting from 7:30pm.  The boys sleeps through the night.  I get to have a bonus 2 hours of quiet uninterrupted time in the middle of my day where I can recharge.  But the real reward is how the kids are.  They both feel secure and joyful knowing their day is predictable, they are well rested therefore able to absorb new things with much focus and ease, well feed with regular timed meals and snacks to keep energy levels even-keeled, the pro list is very long. Ultimately they are genuinely happy, physically thriving and has an overall great sense of peace about them.

What I really want to say to all the struggling, sleep deprived parents out there, is that you CAN keep your sanity, have time for yourself and your relationships even with very young children in your home.  Two years ago when our second boy came into our lives and into this developed rhythm of ours, his ability to self-regulate from the very beginning never cease to amaze us.  So yes, you can have rhythm in your home from day one.

I strongly urge all families to try this out.  There are lots of trails and errors that we’ve worked through and ironed out throughout this journey and we know with every developmental change, there will be a new shift in the details of our rhythm.  I will be writing more on these shifts and changes in many posts to come for if I can inspire one family to develop a peaceful fulfilling home life, I would be more than happy to share our stories.

To learn more about how to set rhythm in your home, here are some great resources to dig deeper into:

Carrie, one of my biggest parenting inspiration from The Parenting Passageway,  has many many amazing insightful posts on this topic, this one is a good one to start with:  Eight facets of a family culture: Rhythm (Part One).

Helle Heckmann, renowned Waldorf Kindergarden teacher and author of books like Slow Parenting wrote an in-depth and detailed article on how to create rhythm in the home.  It is called Daily Rhythm at Home and its Lifelong Relevance.

These two articles alone will open the door wide into looking at parenting from a different perspective than what we are mostly exposed these days.  It is truly inspiring to know that there are such great resources out there and I feel so grateful to have stumbled onto this for it has changed my life significantly and continuing to do so.

Please feel free to leave a comment or sent me and email if you want to discuss more about this, especially if you are thinking of making this change.

With much warmth and love,

GracePlenty of Simple

Our simple yet epic breakfast

Our simple yet epic breakfast

14 thoughts on “Implementing Rhythm in Our Home Changed Our Lives, Kept Our Sanity and Improved Our Relationships

  1. I grew up, much like you, without rhythm in my life. I’ve known for a long time if I had kids, I’d want a real sense of structure in their lives.

    I’m expecting a baby due in February. Help! Do you start this with newborns? Do you have any resources to get me started?

    Thanks!

    • Dear Blackberry Honey,

      Absolutely I have resources to get you started!
      First of all, thank you for your comment. I am sorry for taking so long to respond. I have been thinking a lot on where to point you towards first for there are lots of amazing resources out there, but then again that could be very overwhelming for a new mama as well.

      To answer your question on whether you should start living with rhythm with a newborn…YES! I can say first hand that I have experienced the difference between starting without structure and starting with structure. With my first born (almost 5 years ago), I was at ground zero. By the time we had #2 (2.5 years later) I had learned so much more by then and had already implemented a rhythm in our home. So I can say that newborns do take to a solid rhythm with total ease. In my case, I was more grounded when #2 arrived so we had a very peaceful beginning and he is now a very calm, peaceful and delightful little 2 year old. You are way ahead of me so I think with the right inspiration, your beginnings with your newborn will be a wonderful experience.

      Now just some amazing resources for you to start with. One of my favourite and “go-to” on parenting is Carrie Dendtler’s blog The Parenting Passageway. Here is a great article from the archives about the first 40 days and beyond of your newborn – http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/17/40-days-after-birth-and-beyond/. Her take on parenting is Waldorf/Steiner inspired, which is a philosophy that really resonated with me.

      Another author/parenting coach/grandma that really changed my life is Aletha Solter. She is the founder of Aware Parenting Institute and all her books are a must read in my opinion. They are easy to digest and practical. It was her that taught me how to really understand what crying is all about, and much more of course. She does not have as much of a web presence but be sure to get all her books. (you can giveaway that “What to expect” book :), really). I would start with The Aware Baby.

      Last but not least is Kim John Payne‘s Simplicity Parenting. This is THE book that really helped me figure out how to simplify our lifestyle, kept me on track with keeping a rhythm in the home and a completely screen-free for our boys. Both my husband and I really resonated with Mr. Payne’s work.

      I hope this helps. Please do not hesitate to email me or comment here if you have more questions. I am more than happy to help – especially new mamas, for I have been there. I look forward in hearing about your journey.

      With affection and much blessings,
      Grace

      • Thank you so much!!!

        Sorry it took me so long to reply! I can’t wait to dig into these – and you can bet I’ll be in touch if I have any questions.

        Best, Melissa

        PLENTY OF SIMP

  2. I love your rhythm and your thoughts. We have a very similar rhythm to our weekdays with my 2.5 year old and I’m due very soon with baby #2. My question is this: when do you do your errands? Go to the grocery store, etc? Appointments? I feel like every morning we have something scheduled and it drives me nuts, whether we need to go to the store or (lately) prenatal appointment, chiropractor, etc. Do you have a set day of the week for shopping, or goin to a playgroup? Thanks!

    • Dear Rebecca,

      Thank you for your comment and your totally valid question. Firstly, my husband and I had made a decision that we would not take our kids grocery shopping unless it is a farmers’ market. Going to the mall and any big box stores are out of the question as well. So here is what we’ve worked out for running errands and appointments:

      – Groceries: We only do groceries in the evenings after we have put the boys to sleep. Since we have an early bedtime (7pm lights out), this had made it possible. I actually find this time therapeutic and very productive. I even get to listen to my favourite podcasts from time to time. I remember in the beginning when my second boy was a newborn, I would use our city’s organic produce delivery service. It did cost a bit more but worth every penny in the time saved and had made it an exciting event for my older boy to wake up to from his nap on delivery days.

      – Appointments: I would coordinate my appointments with either my husband or my mother-in-law so either one would be here to look after the boys. I would schedule them during nap time so they can be here and I would have dinner prepared before hand so I would not feel stressed or having to rush home.

      – Playgroup: So far I have yet to do playgroups with our boys. We have 2 families that we have made a point to visit and play with either at their homes , on a trail or at the beach. These 2 families we have picked have very similar family values and rhythm as us. We only meet once or twice every 3 months and usually it is during the morning times and we would be home by nap time. Especially during those days we would stay home after nap and have a very chilled afternoon.

      Weekly Rhythm at-a-glance:
      Monday – quiet day. We do not schedule anything on mondays
      Tuesdays – Grandma visits. AM we go for a walk, PM I may go do quick errands, go for a workout, or attend my appointments. I would be home by 4:30 to prepare dinner.
      Wednesday – Outing day – beach, farm visit (we live close to a working farm) or forest walk (not every week though), only in the AM. PM would be quiet for we have preschool on Thursdays and Fridays.
      Thursday – Preschool in the morning. PM we have a simple quiet afternoon at home.
      Friday – Preschool in the morning. PM we go to the local pier and have a picnic dinner meeting up with my husband
      Saturday & Sunday – Daddy time! Activities vary.

      I hope this helps :) Please let me know if you have more questions! Much blessings to you and wish you a wonderful birth.
      Grace

  3. I am so inspired to start this rhythm in my home. But my concern is that I have a 2 year old and a 9 month old. Is it harder to start now? how can I implement this on a toddler and an infant without going crazy with tantrums, ect. ?

    • Dear Jael,

      Absolutely not too late to start now!!! Yes of course with any changes there will be resistance. Be prepared for the tantrums but implement your rhythm knowing in yourself that these changes are what is best for your family. Sit down with your partner and come up with a solid game plan to try out. Commit to it. You will need a lot of support to make this happen.

      Much blessing,
      Grace

  4. Love this article, thank you. My mother told me that her mother said kids always felt safe when they have a routine and they know what to expect next. That, and when kids are cranky make sure they are not thirsty as they can get dehydrated quickly.

    These two things have stuck with me and in all the reading I have done since our little man came into the world 16mths ago, these two things (as well as a number of additional things you covered above) have all come together.

    We travelled for 9mths when our son was 6mths old (as the ‘Intrepid Monkeys’). At 7mths old, we took him to South America for 6mths. A lot of people think he must be very robust and adaptable. I can tell you he was not a dream baby, and only slept through the night when he 10 & 1/2 months old. Perhaps the travel has made he fairly adaptable now, but I totally believe that the routine, or rhythm, we maintained while we were away (bed time 7pm every night, sleeping in the same portacot with the same sleep ritual: sleeping bag on, comforter etc.) all meant that our boy felt save even though we moved accommodation every 5-8 days on average with a couple of longer periods in one place.

    I’ve come across Rudolf Steiner before and I’m keen to read more from the links you have posted, thanks.

    • Wow Kylah! What an adventurous life you must lead!

      Thank you for your comment and your story. At the end of the day, through any kind of chaos, if our babies are with us and that we are present with them, they will thrive. I love how you said your boy felt safe even though you move every 5-8 days. This really proves to me that a solid rhythm is vital in raising children. Wishing you an amazing journey and hope to see you here on the blog again soon.

      Much blessing,
      Grace

      • Totally agree on being present with our children. I notice my boy’s mood and energy change if we have not spent enough time being present with him, either in specific activities or just ‘being’ with him. We are back home now, as of 5wks. I’ve found it is almost more difficult to be present with him now that it was when we were all travelling. Daily and weekly tasks seem to fill our lives so much more now. I can totally relate to Rebecca’s questions about errands and thank you for being so open with sharing your weekly routine.

  5. In our house naps and bedtime were non-negotiable. Naps were at home. Bedtime 7-7:30 until the kids were almost 9. People thought I was crazy, but I almost never had kids that had melt downs or were unpleasant because they were rested. We also had a great rhythm with breakfast and lunch – even having a set rotation of what was eaten/packed in lunches. It made life so much easier. We have never been able to get an evening rhythm though with activities changing so much. I do wish we could have figured it out. My kids are 13 and 15 and still know what they will eat for breakfast each day :)

    • This is so inspiring Melanie! Thank you so much for sharing this. I want to give you a big virtual hug for letting me know that people think you are crazy too – so I don’t feel so crazy when people look at me funny :)

      Yes and yes! Our kids rarely have meltdowns and tantrums and I rarely get to share that with other mothers with toddlers because they a) probably don’t believe me and b) think I’m trying to show of as being a better mother. Meanwhile, I could barely hold myself back in telling them my story and how I have made changes that really improved EVERYTHING in my life. I guess ultimately this is how this blog started. I just want others to benefit in what I have learned and hope to help other families to come to this wonderful experience.

      Thank you again for sharing and hope to see you here again soon.

      Much blessings,
      Grace

  6. Hi Grace,
    I was truly inspired by your article on Implementing Rhythm. I’m at a stage in my life wanting to find rhythm in retired life. Any suggestions?
    Much love,
    Nima

    • Dear Nima,

      It is delight to “meet” you. Thank you for stopping by my blog and for your wonderful comment. What a great question you asked! At this point, I can only draw inspiration from my parents. Both of them are now retired and both are hard at “work” doing what they love most and I really cannot keep up with their busy schedules. My father is a minister and he is now much busier travelling the world on missionary projects than he was before retirement. My mother had been deeply into Tai Chi and discovered that she has a great talent in teaching it as well as deepening her studies in the natural healing modalities.

      From my observation, their rhythm is developed around getting really good rest, eating well, exercising, spending time with family and all the rest of their time learning more about what they love. I enjoy seeing them so involved in their “work” and I hope to find this kind of rhythm myself when our kids are all grown up.

      Please keep me posted!

      Will deep gratitude,
      Grace

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