Creating a family rhythm

I recently wrote about Falling into rhythm and a few people have asked to see the chart I created for our family.  I want to share it here, along with some tips on how to create one for your own use.

Here is my family’s rhythm:

Deep Breath of Parenting family rhythm
Click on the underlined words above to download a .pdf of my rhythm as an example.

Kohlhaas Weekly Rhythm example

Kohlhaas Weekly Rhythm example

Of course, this is specific for my family and our needs.  I am really excited to have a year at home with little work and wanted to capitalize on that.  I prioritized having three days when I didn’t have to get all three children (ages 1, 3 and 5 years old) in the car.  This was important to me because it allowed for a mini-rhythm when my children and I could really relax and our time could expand.  I tried to make those three consecutive days as much the same as possible with little changes (like what kind of artwork we did) for interest.  I also wanted to have days where I could run errands or have fun activities with my children.  I am very sanguine by natural, so it is hard for me to hold on to a rhythm for a long time.  But, allowing a day of possibility, a day of spontaneity, meets my personality needs while also allowing me to maintain the rhythm that I believe is best for my family.  This “adventure day” allowed me and my children to go grocery shopping once per month, as well as go on fun adventures both locally and into the city for a little fun.  There is also a day for connecting with friends which gives us another day out of the house to play.  The afternoons are very similar for the children, but give me a chance to work a little twice a week, have a day one-on-one time with a child, and even a micro-date with my husband once per week.  The weekends are more open, allowing for flexibility and encouraging more time for family, as well as opening up possibility for my husband and I to do our own thing at times.

Here are some ideas of how to get to started on creating a new rhythm for your own family.

Rhythm is not the same as creating a schedule.  A schedule is often created piece meal, with each part of the day added in without regard to how the day fits together as a whole.  But, rhythm develops as a whole.  There is a breathing in and breathing out quality to the day and week and year.  The time for one activity blends into the next and the day flows along, ideally seamlessly.  So, how do you create a rhythm for your own family?

Wheel of the year from Chalice Well Trust

Wheel of the year from Chalice Well Trust

First, write out what is already happening. You can begin by looking at the rhythm of your year.  You can draw out an illustration of the year as a circle with the different seasons and holidays/ festivals highlighted and blended into one another.  Which time of year is your family most busy?  When are the times for renewal or focus time at home?  Are there activities that you do each year that your family anticipates?  Then, move to your family’s monthly schedule.  Are there things that happen each month?  Then, look at the week and finally look at each day.

The next thing to consider is the breathing in and breathing out quality of the years, months, weeks and days.  When are the moments of great energy and expansiveness?  When are the moments for quietness and reflection?  There is a rhythm to life and we can tap into that truth throughout our day.  At the base of it all is breath.  Breathing in… Breathing out… The moments we breathe in we are working, concentrating, thinking, controlling… The moments we breathe out we are moving, feeling, freeing…  How do we allow this breath.. in and out.. throughout our day, our week, our year?.. It is a big question.  A question Waldorf teachers work with in their classrooms constantly.  And one in which we are becoming increasing lost to in modern society.  We feel the need to always work, always entertain, always enrich, always move towards the next big thing… How exhausting and unhealthy.  There needs to also be time to process, reflect, understand… to quiet oneself, reflect and get ready for the next step.  So, a big difference between a rhythm and a schedule is a rhythm takes into account this breathing in and breathing out quality of life.  If there is activity that requires a lot of thought, it is balanced with a time of movement or meditation.  If there is a time of great activity, it is balanced with a moment of stillness, comfort and relaxation.

What kind of daily schedule/ rhythm has developed naturally?  Perhaps, you always read a story with your child when he first wakes up.  Or naptime always happens after lunch.  Maybe there is a little meltdown everyday right before dinner, like clockwork.  Or your child runs to the window to watch the mailman drop off the mail when you get home from preschool.  What happens that marks your day?  What works?  What doesn’t?  Make it a little study.

Make a list of the different aspects that you would like to see incorporated into your family rhythm.  For example, time outside everyday, time with friends, exercise/ sports, work, etc…  Now make a chart with the days of the week and times of day.  Write out what happens each week which you want/ need to occur, but you have little control over the timing.  For instance, your work, your partner’s work, your child’s school/ daycare, other extracurricular classes, playgroups, naptimes, bedtimes, mealtimes, etc.  Of course, in the end, nothing is in stone.  But, it is good to start with what we believe must happen at a certain time.

If your child is in school or daycare, what is the rhythm/ schedule of their day away?  What time are their meals, snack, rest time?  It can often be supportive to have these times the same everyday, so you can see if it is possible to hold on to these times the other days that your child is at home.  So, for example, say your child is at preschool on Tuesdays and Thurdays and on those days, he eats snack at 9am, eats lunch at noon, and takes a nap at 1pm.  One possibility would be to have snack time everyday around 9am, lunch time everyday around noon, and naptime everyday around 1pm.  Of course, there is a bit of flexibility with a rhythm, so the time does not have to be exact, but it allows a framework which honors and incorporates your child’s experience at preschool.

What are the times of day that can be consistent during the week?  Can you commit to having dinner around the same time each night?  What happens right before dinner?  Is there something that prepares you all for this time together, for instance a family walk (like we do), homework, or  a certain chore that everyone does that prepares the dinner table?  What time does everyone wake up?  What do you do to start the day? Is there a simple ritural that you and your children can share each morning?  How do you mark the passing of the year aside from the calendar?

Now what are the different needs of the members of your family?  Is there a caregiver who needs a little time away each week to process, reflect and renew?  Do individual people (children and adults) have specific interests or extracurricular activities that need to be honored?  What are the primary needs of the individuals of your family?

And when is the time for your family to connect as a group?  When are you all together?  Can you commit to having breakfast or dinner together each day?  Is there a special activity you enjoy doing together each week?

When you look at your daily rhythm are there large periods of time when your child has scheduled activity, for instance preschool followed by lunch and then a music class.  Is there a way to adjust the schedule so that your child has time to play and rest at home to allow for an “out-breath” after school?

It is often helpful to create a picture of the ideal for your family and then slowly introduce lasting change.  For instance, you may create your weekly rhythm, but first only focus on implementing a new dinner and bedtime routine.  Once that is established, then you could add another layer of your plan to your day.

There is a lot of nuance in how to define a family rhythm.  Please feel free to post questions and comments so we can share with one another ideas and strategies for creating a space where we and our children can freely experience our work, struggle, play and joy of life.


9 thoughts on “Creating a family rhythm

  1. You inspire me my wise friend. I need a before dinner rhythm. I am alone with five kids right before dinner and it currently looks a little like civil unrest bordering on anarchist uprising. I do most dinner prep during nap time but still have some preparing to do and my oldest recently got home from school so there is homework and the baby is hungry before dinner is served and the other two want attention. Need a brainstorming session on this.

    • You amaze me my dear friend. You juggle so much and care for so many. You are definitely in advance rhythm training. I’m happy to brainstorm with you, but you are truly in another class than me. 😉

  2. Our weekly rhythm is, no doubt, my anchor. When the weekend comes, however, off it all goes in a hand basket. My husband leads a free-fall, of sorts, and the children follow, and I feel like I trail behind, gathering pieces, getting grumpy, fearing my Monday morning rhythm will be sabotaged due tithe wake of the weekend. I see your Saturday is wide open. How does your family approach weekends so that one parent isn’t left holding the broom and dustpan, so to speak?

    • For me, it is important to have the weekends more open. My husband is pretty steady and I am very sanguine. In many ways it goes against my natural temperament to hold a clear rhythm during the week. But I see the benefits for me and my children to do just that. The weekends are my time to let go and be more spontaneous. And to plan fun activities for the family. The rhythm is held during that time by breakfast, nap, dinner and bedtime routines — which stay pretty consistent.

      Your family may need more anchors on the weekends. Maybe there is a way to bring your husband into the planning. What would be something that he would enjoy doing with the children on a weekly basis? Would it be possible for you to have a two hour babysitter each weekend so you could have a date together? My husband and I love having breakfast dates together. 😉 What about meal times, rest times (depending on your children’s ages), and bedtime? Maybe there is a family ritual you could establish on the weekends, like a game night or a walk in a nearby park? It could also be a time to do chores together or something else to prepare for the week ahead. Think of one or two things that would help you feel more grounded during the weekends. And then add slowly from there so your husband can adjust and be a part of the change.

      Feel free to reply again with more thoughts or questions. Best wishes to you.

  3. I am just reading your post now though I know you wrote it back in 2013. We are a young family; one 1-1/2 year old son. I have been going stir crazy for the last year feeling so stuck in the proverbial rat race of life. My New Year Resolution was to develop stronger spirituality in daily life, develop more meaningfulness and awareness as well as simplicity. Your entire blog has been inspiring. I have been thinking about my family’s rhythm and its chaos!!! I want so much to incorporate more family time into our days and more breathing room but I have no idea how. My husband and I both work full time. We don’t get home until 6pm during the week and are back out the door at 7am the next morning. It doesn’t leave us much time to calmly do cooking, chores, family time and sleep. Do you have any suggestions for those who cannot be home much due to work and who may still be struggling to balance responsibilities with self-care time?

  4. Pingback: Constancy and Change on the Path of Parenting | deep breath of parenting

    • Thank you, Rebecca, for reading and commenting. If you click on the blue words in the post it will take you to other posts on creating rhythm in your home. As my children get older, it is my hope to be able to post more often.

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