We recently posted about Room for Wiggle: 6 reasons you need rhythm in your family life. It’s not an article about the colourful Australian children’s performing group (although they do indeed bring rhythm into the lives of many families!), rather it is about living a rhythmic lifestyle together as a family: allowing room for the important things, meeting family and individual needs, and having breathing room to have time for play and keep stress at bay. The Room for Wiggle article sung the praises of rhythm, but it didn’t say how to do it.
So this article is about how I BEGIN creating rhythm in my family home. I can only write about this from my perspective, so this article is not intended to give advice, it is offered in the spirit of sharing experience. For me, creative a rhythm is not just a process of drawing up 7 columns to the week and filling in the spaces!! That’s a sure way to create something that looks wonderful but may not be practical – or realistic. Before I even get to drawing up columns (and I do love a well-planned week!) I think about how I can best use my time and energy, because when it comes down to it, it is MY time I am planning here.
What are MY needs?
It’s no accident that this question is first. Whenever I review our rhythm I become aware of how essential I am as a parent to all parts of our day and week. This discussion on needs is the core component to our Effective Parenting Weekends. How can I possibly meet the needs of others if my own are not being met first?
I have to consider what I need to feel like a complete, functioning adult who can make rational decisions and approach life with joy because if these needs are not being met then any planned rhythm that follows will naturally try to adjust itself, regardless of what I try to put in place. If my week is scheduled around meeting only the needs of others then eventually I will experience burn-out … expending a lot of energy upon others takes its toll. So I ask myself:
How do I naturally move through my day?
When do I need rest in my day and in my week?
When do I feel my most energetic?
What are MY interests?
What do I really need to keep myself healthy and joyful?
What are my FAMILY’S needs?
Each person in our family is individual with a unique set of needs in terms of age, health, interests and energy. This is an opportunity to consider each person in my family and spend some time connecting to them, identifying what they really need to be healthy, happy and live harmoniously together. How often do we devote time to really sitting in thoughtful love about our family members? Spend time in meditation, drawing, writing – and BEING with each one – enjoy this process!
Now I look at my lists again – how does this feel? Do I need to simplify even more? Are we over scheduling? How do our needs as individuals weigh up against our needs as a family? Are my expectations of my family members appropriate and realistic? Do we need to have a family conversation (in an age appropriate way) about how we can meet everyone’s needs together? (Again, I have to admit, Effective Parenting has some wonderful ideas about how to do this!)
What are the OTHER priorities?
Now we think about what else HAS to be done. There are some parts of my week that involve non-negotiable commitments. For me, these are things like school, work and regular weekly commitments such as playgroup.
After these come the sorts of things that have to be done to keep my household running: thing like cooking/grocery shopping/laundry/gardening/cleaning/ paying bills/ filling the car with petrol …
Even if these things are not all my responsibility, they still need to have a place in the week so that they happen. Trying to leave these things out is another reason why constructed rhythms may fall apart. I have to make time for the essentials (even if I do not want to).
At this point, after listing all the things that have to happen I sometimes begin to start feeling overwhelmed! It is another wonderful opportunity (life is FULL of wonderful opportunities!) to consider what is REALLY important in MY life. Can I possibly manage all this on my own? I may need to have a think about how these things happen in my home, and whose responsibility they are. Perhaps it is time to begin teaching the children some new household skills, have a conversation with other adults in the household about roles and responsibilities, or ask for (or employ) outside help from others.
If none of these are an option for the moment it may be time to review some personal expectations. This is also a wonderful opportunity to consider my values! Keeping it simple, I ask again: What is really important? Are some of these essential parts to my week perhaps not so essential? Do I notice a clash of values between what I believe, what I want, and what I do? We have created an entire section dedicated to needs and values in Effective Parenting, and I have drawn on this work in my parenting many times since.
Putting it all together
I’ll continue this discussion about creating rhythm in another post – one where I talk about moving naturally within a daily, weekly and seasonal flow. This is the fun bit – and the bit I always want to skip to first … but it never works properly for me without doing this reflection first. When we are living in conflict with our needs we are living in stress. The wonderful thing about living with rhythm is the opportunities (there’s that words again) which present for us to get to know ourselves better!