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I Resisted Creating a Schedule for Sloan When I Should Have Embraced It

Focusing on what I can control (and letting go of what I can't).
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For the first two weeks of quarantine, creating a structured schedule days fell fairly low on my priority list. We were feeling a bit shell-shocked and learning how to run our business from home, all while keeping our five-year old entertained in the absence of school, extracurriculars, and playdates. At that time, we were anticipating that shelter in place would only last a few weeks; our primary focus was simply getting through the day and keeping ourselves and our community healthy. 

Each day, as a result, looked a little different from the last as we acclimated minute by minute to our new normal. Most mornings, we would set Sloan up with a movie while we tried to plow through work, taking intermittent breaks throughout the day to run around outside or do a fun activity like painting our nails or dancing. This model worked until it didn't. While I can still see the value in this "organic approach," it also meant that we were eating lunch at 10:45 A.M., or forgetting to eat entirely until 2 PM, and not staying nearly as productive as we could be. More than that though, I was seeing the direct impact of our lack of consistency most severely on Sloan. 

It wasn't until two weeks in that we were reminded that, like many young kids, Sloan really seems to thrive from a steady schedule. Without a clear schedule of what to expect each day, we realized we hadn't set her up for success during this time and she was acting out in ways completely unlike her. Though Sloan is incredibly rule-abiding by nature, we realized our fault in not creating any for her to follow. Something had to change.

We ultimately reached out to her pre-school teacher for a loose layout of Sloan's typical day at school, which became the foundation for how we created our family's schedule. Just like in her classroom, her daily schedule, and ours by proxy, is posted on a large sheet of butcher paper in the kitchen (low enough so she can see it). Even though she doesn't totally know how to tell time, or read without our assistance, we go over the schedule together while eating breakfast, pointing to the numbers and words so she can follow along.

No exaggeration, there was an almost immediate shift in mood once we got into the rhythm of our new routine. I love catching her continuously checking the schedule throughout the day to give her an idea of what she should be doing and when. Sloan seems to take great pride in owning her routine and being able to anticipate what comes next. While things still look a little different day to day depending on our work schedules and lives (things happen!), this is what is currently working for our family: 

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After breakfast together, the school and work days begin, respectively. G has mostly been the one taking charge of keeping Sloan engaged with her schoolwork. As an added bonus, he's quite an amazing teacher⁠—one of my favorite personality unknowns we've uncovered as a result of quarantine. I love watching her and G share this time together; there is nothing better then peeking out the window in my "office" (aka my guest room), to see an outdoor lesson on science or a PE class unfolding. It's incredible to witness how invested, sensitive, and supportive G is as a father.

Sloan is a fiercely independent kid, but given the current circumstances, we weren't having her spend any alone time without a movie on (our once strict weekday "screentime policy" quickly went out the window). Since talking to her teachers, we learned that after lunch is when they have quiet time for about 30 to 45 minutes. So, after eating as a family, Sloan goes into her room and decides what she wants to do with her downtime, whether that be reading, drawing, or playing imaginary games. It's empowering for her to be in the driver's seat during this time, and it also allows us to have a moment to attend to work and ourselves. 

Part of learning what works for you and your family is also learning what doesn't at all. For me, seeing other people's routines, sometimes scheduled down to the minute, can feel extremely overwhelming and restrictive. A bit more wiggle room in our day, including an entire block of time dedicated as free-time, is helpful for us. If it's a gorgeous day we're definitely going outside, keeping coloring books and board games for the rainy weather L.A. has been experiencing lately. 

Additionally, we've since shifted her morning movie time to become a late afternoon treat. It ultimately didn't make sense setting her up with a screen when she is at her highest energy level, so it's now something she gets if she's been really well-behaved all day. Spoiler: Since implementing this reward system, she hasn't missed her afternoon matinée once. That's not to say that she is perfectly behaved at every hour of the day (she is a 5-year-old, after all!), but there's been a shift. At 4:30, she usually settles in for her movie as our workday winds down. After dinner, I take over for the evening with a bath, Barbies, and our bedtime routine. 

While it is always difficult being a working mother, I know I'm not alone in feeling a new level of stress and guilt right now. Our family is continuously in the process of adapting, learning, and doing the best we can. I've chosen to share what is currently working for our family, with the hope that it might help someone else who is feeling a little defeated right now. Good luck! x 

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