So you are all “in” with the idea of schole – time to learn, think, create – but you have toddlers. This is different than having a demanding job that requires you to travel and work long hours, that requires a different strategy. For those people who are staying at home to train and nurture their little people, a special kind of diligence is required.
Remember that if we don’t feed our minds we will starve them and wake up one day with no good, true thoughts to sustain us and no interesting conversation to offer. That is a dry and terrible place to be and I think a lot of moms who are stay at home moms can find themselves in this place.
The very nature of a job outside the home requires some sort of growth – whether in skill or thinking because you are interacting with people and ideas that push and prod and exasperate you – and if you don’t grow, you most likely (I realize not always) won’t be getting that paycheck that you go to work for. You’ll get fired or laid off. But a stay at home parent will probably not get fired AND will not be challenged to grow and learn unless that person asks it of themselves. A supportive spouse in this area is such a bonus, but even without that, each and every person must decide to grow no matter what. It is on no one else’s shoulders or mind that you do so, it’s entirely up to you.
Now, if you have little people you know how quickly things change. One moment, everyone is playing happily and the next it’s disaster of a HUGE order: the dirty diaper leaked or someone discovered that little jar of Vaseline that you didn’t realize was within reach of the sneaky one. The wonderful ability to do as you please for 30 minutes to read and think or write or paint or play the recorder feels more like one minute long segments because you are interrupted, yep, 30 times. That is a recipe for NEVER TRYING and throwing up your hands in complete despair. So, getting creative with your toddlers and your schedule and your home is going to need to happen!
Here’s how it works for me:
First, I have schole that I work on when my little people are around me and I have schole that I crave uninterrupted silence for. But I do want my children to see that being an adult is not all work and no play; I want them to see that a normal part of life is being creative for its own joy. So I choose things that don’t take as much concentration to do around them: reading lighter books, watercolors with them, writing on my laptop or in a notebook, playing the piano. I get interrupted but it’s part of life and it will get easier as they get a bit older. They will learn to expect Mom to say, “I’m reading right now, you can sort it out or wait or whatever!” (If they can – use your expert parenting judgement to size up the situation.) Expectations are key here and they play into getting schole time on your own.
First, if you’re getting night time sleep (and not waking up with a baby), getting up an hour or so before your children is incredible for knocking off some thoughtful reading.
Second, every single day, expect your children to consistently play in their rooms/cribs and/or nap at the same time. Line up those schedules and get yourself a mental break. It’s harder (obviously) when you have a new baby but just patiently work towards the big picture of you having of a quiet house at certain parts of the day. For me, this is from 10-11 each morning and from 1-2:30 each afternoon. (My 15 month old sleeps longer but my three year old is done with her quiet time/nap at 2:30. We do school together from 2:30-3:30 which consists of playing uno, watercolors, learning letters, baking something, reading longer stories, etc.) These two segments are where I can do the schole I need and want – I also exercise and often shower during these times or make phone calls that take longer than a few moments.
Setting up expectations both for yourself and your family is so powerful and helps. It will be harder to enact quiet times if you’ve not started yet and your children are old enough to realize what’s changing, but making it fun for everyone will help. And just taking 6-8 weeks to make that new, daily habit will pay off. Be consistent.
Some tips for older children are:
Have special toys that only come out during that quiet time.
Play a recorded book quietly in their room.
Cheerfully greet them and get them out at the end – if Mom is happy to see them when quiet time is over, it’s such a good thing. You don’t want your kids to think you don’t like them!
For babies, I am a huge fan of “On Becoming Babywise” by authors Buckman and Ezzo. It’s got good practical tips for the “why’s” of sleep scheduling and the website, BabywiseMom, is amazing for real-life tips.
You can do this! It’s not pie in the sky. And there’s never a better time to start schole than now, the rewards are instant. And while there will be days where you just can’t get that time, you’ll crave it and keep trying with renewed energy, fresh each day for the challenge. It’s so wonderful to invest in your mind! Your will and emotions and body will all benefit and so will your relationships. Do you have some tips for working in schole with toddlers?