We all want to give our kids wonderful childhoods full of time for outdoor exploration, but between work, taking care of our families, and moving kids through the schedule, it can be hard to find the time. Here’s how in my life as a part-time work-at-home-mom of three, I squeeze outdoor time in.
A kid wanders into our room to tell us he’s cold. He cuddles up with me, and for a second it’s so sweet I wish I could let him stay. But I know I won’t get any sleep this way, so I tuck him back into his own bed.
The toddler wakes to nurse. I pray to the patron saints of sleep that she starts sleeping through the night, but none of our kids have ever been good sleepers.
Nursing again. My husband takes her so I can get another blessed bit of sleep.
The boys mercifully slept in late today, and I hear them stirring in their room. I jump into the shower, attempting to be “dressed and ready” before they are. We had a record early snow fall this weekend, so we are in for a cold and snowy day.
The breakfast rush. I try to do as much as possible the night before, packing lunches, laying out clothes. Some days it all falls together and we eat breakfast as a family. Other days (like today) I am chasing them around the table begging them to sit and put their shoes on and breaking up wrestling matches to get them to brush their teeth.
The older two are off to school. I frantically try to clean up from breakfast. If I don’t get the breakfast dishes done, the whole day ends up being a disaster. Something about having a messy kitchen that just sets off a chain of unfortunate events.
The toddler and I are off to the local state park for a Hike it Baby hike. I find that scheduling hikes with HiB (or calling a friend to make a date) holds me accountable to actually getting outside. It’s so easy to spend my time while the older two are at school trying to play catch up, and if I don’t prioritize getting out, it doesn’t happen.
It’s pretty cold this morning. We had an unseasonably big snowstorm the day before, and the kids were delighted. Honestly, I’m not sad that it will melt and give us a break before winter really hits. But this morning was beautiful.
It’s slow going on a one mile walk with a baby. But we are also doing plenty of birding along the way. The final list for the day: a killdeer, a bald eagle, some ruby-crowned kinglets, several chickadees, a robin, a northern flicker, magpies, a raven, a few Canada geese, a mallard, a big bunch of American coots, and a merlin.
We head back home. I stop by the library to return some almost overdue books. My daughter falls asleep in the car on the way back, but luckily I’m able to get her back to sleep in her crib.
Time to sit down to work. I work from home part time as a freelance writer and as a policy researcher (and next month, will work part-time out of the home as well). Today I have a deadline, so I cross my fingers that the little one actually sleeps long enough for me to get it done. And miracle of miracles, she does!
She’s still sleeping. I decide to tempt fate and start folding laundry. I even put on an episode of Great British Baking Show, knowing this would be the final straw and she would definitely wake up. Amazingly she stays asleep for another half hour, and I get most of the laundry folded.
The babe is awake. We nurse again, and get ready to go get her brothers from school. She didn’t eat lunch, I realize, so I grab her a snack. Usually she doesn’t sleep so late and eats when she wakes up. Then it’s time to head out for school pickup. Sometimes we walk, but with the ice, we drove today.
Time for school pick up. Our school has recess three times a day, every day, unless temperatures are below zero degrees Fahrenheit, or if air quality is poor. The kids get about an hour of recess a day, which is great for their developing minds and bodies.
We usually hang out and play for an hour or so after school. Sometimes other families stay, but often times it’s just us. My husband is working late tonight, and since the kids get out of school earlier on Mondays, I am happy to do anything to keep them occupied and not making a mess at home.
We head home. I am exhausted and about ready to suggest we just go ahead and do bath, dinner, and pajamas, but my son asks if he can bring his Hot Wheels track outdoors. I say yes.
Honestly, I think my life would be easier if I said “no” more often to things that were obviously going to make a mess. But I am happy to see them exploring and learning and I hope the extra clean up is worth it. (Although, today they were excellent about cleaning it all up themselves).
We have snack outside too. Don’t be fooled – they didn’t touch the vegetables (I just get good mom points by offering them). They also somehow found a jar of sprinkles and poured them onto their rice cakes.
My son sees his friend biking on the street and goes to join for a bit. The rest of us are starting to get a bit cold and head inside. My other son listens to a Buddy Pegs podcast.
At this point, everyone’s gotten 3 – 4 hours of outside time. Some days, when summer is in full swing, it seems like we are outside from sunup to sundown. And other days (like tomorrow) will be filled with running to and from doctor’s appointments, meetings, and the grocery store. So even though today was cold and snowy, I was happy we got the chance to play outside for as long as we did.
Bath time. We don’t do baths every night, and I especially don’t like doing them when it’s just me at home. But at this point everyone is pretty muddy. All of our snow gear is in a wet, dirty pile. I really don’t feel like dealing with it now so I cross my fingers that the snow melts before tomorrow and they won’t need it again for school.
After bath, I check out for a bit and answer e-mails on my phone while the kids watch Molly of Denali on the iPad. They don’t usually get shows on weeknights, but when their dad is working late, I make exceptions. My kids don’t really have homework other than reading, so we don’t have any set homework routine at this age.
Dinner time. Thankfully, my husband made a huge pot of stew yesterday and we have leftovers today. While eating dinner, I read the kids Click magazine (our favorite magazine for kids!). They FaceTime family members while I clean up.
Bedtime for the little one, and more iPad time for the older two. Thankfully, she nurses and is ready to get into bed after 20 minutes. Last time my husband worked late, she took almost an hour to settle (much to the delight of the older two who were greatly enjoying their bonus screen time).
Time for potty, teeth, pajamas. My kids must have had an inkling I would be writing about them today and actually got into their beds without a fuss. Or maybe it was just that after playing outside in the snow for three hours today, they were actually tired. We read a couple chapters of The Happy Hollisters.
Lights out. Finally, I can relax get back to work. More writing (another deadline tomorrow!). Every few minutes, I go in to help a kid who is struggling to fall asleep settle back down.
I think it’s quiet.
I have to stop writing as my brain is no longer fully functioning. Time to finish folding laundry and see who won the biscuit challenge of the Great British Baking Show. I still need to sweep and pack lunches for tomorrow, but I’m not optimistic about both of those happening tonight. Usually, I try to be in bed by 10:00 but I’m not sure that’s going to happen tonight either.
I finish the day exhausted, but happy.
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