Are You Making these Two Scheduling Mistakes?

So you know, I can lean on the hyper organized side. I love me some organization.

When we first began to homeschool 18 years ago I was very structured. If you saw my homeschool style now versus then, you'd be hard pressed to believe it's even the same person! At one point for an entire semester I had our day scheduled in 15 and 30 minute increments. Insanity. I must have been nuts back then. It was after that semester that I began to walk away from hyper structure and scheduling and discovered a way of life that focuses on rhythms as opposed to schedules. It has been blissful. The time I have enjoyed with my children and my spouse as a result is nothing short of luxurious and I wouldn't trade it for anything you could think up.

We're moms. We love schedules. I get it, I do. I LOVE planners. I love color coded calendars and colored pens, my bullet journal and menu plans. I have loved me some schedules. I am obsessed with office supplies.

Organized is not the same as scheduled.

Those tools help me organize my world in a way that frees up more time and energy because I am able to work more effectively and efficiently. This is work, running the home is my work and I treat it as such. But scheduling has a dark side and I don't just mean over-scheduling. Which seems to be the only concern people have with regards to schedules. I think there are at least two important pitfalls in scheduling people often ignore.

Does the schedule serve you or do you serve the schedule?

The first pitfall in my estimation is becoming a slave to the schedule. Women too often place themselves at the bottom of the priority list. (I may have once held the title in this event) Sometimes we have to, that's reality. But as a way of life? no. Trying to do everything and be everything to everybody at all times is an impossible task. Hear that. It is impossible. Even when you think you are killing it and you ARE Wonder Woman. I can guarantee you, something somewhere is falling through a crack. Maybe it's prayer, church attendance, exercise, health, meals, charity, kindness, time with friends, free time, play time, sibling relationships, spouse time, or getting the oil changed and the water heater drained. Stuff WILL get missed. The schedule is supposed to help us remember the things we need do to, but what we normally do is write down every single thing and fill that schedule up to the brim. That's not how a schedule should work.

A schedule that is bursting with a flurry of activity, service, fun, work even when it's all good things and responsibilities can work well for only a time. If you aren't careful you can find yourself serving the schedule. Contorting yourself like a pretzel to do it all and there are consequences. Health, both physical and mental, suffers when schedules rule our lives. Marriages are most often the silent victim of schedules. Marriages that end after 20 years often do so because couples grow apart. They end because the children's schedules drained all the time, energy, money and enthusiasm out of life and when the kids start leaving or reach high school the parents look at each other and find there is nothing left.

A schedule should be a way to free up time, not fill up time.

I used to sigh and pray for lots of too busy moms. When lots of moms would gather for coffee and chatting we would bring our planners so we could schedule activities. It was almost a competition. Oh who am I kidding it WAS a competition to see who was the busiest. Because busy equalled successful supermom, right? It was a badge of honor. I say this because it was my badge once before I gave it up.

I recall a gal who loved to regale us with all that her three kids were doing. It was clear how much she loved her family. No one doubted that and it was clear how important she felt by doing all this stuff for them. I watched her get lost in it all. She was frazzled, she neglected self care, her marriage, her friendships, and her faith life to be SuperMom. Attempts to encourage to scale back, skip the specialty teams, and tourneys were lost on her. (Side note: a few years later that marriage ended and those kiddos long since dropped out of the sports that ruled their lives.) 

People love to talk about how busy they are, as if being busy were a means of quantifying happiness or success. Busy doesn't mean successful. It's not a virtue. It's also not very biblical. 

I don't remember in the Beatitudes where Jesus said, 
"Blessed are the Busy for they run with their hair on fire."

Not accomplishing the things on the schedule, falling behind, forsaking sleep, worship, friendships will ultimately result in feelings of failure and loss. I promise. When the schedule becomes the determining factor in your feelings of success or failure as a mom, wife, or woman the tables have turned and you are serving the schedule. 

Placing life and family on auto-pilot?

The second pitfall in my experience and observation is even worse than being over-scheduled and over-tired. When the schedule begins to lead the family we find ourselves on auto-pilot. A family can never run for very long on auto-pilot. This is how disaster creeps in.

Most families do not recognize that there are serious issues until their children enter the tween and teen years. Until then NO ONE sees it coming. It's during this time that families wring their hands and scratch their heads trying to figure out how they wound up with kids who won't talk to them. Kids who internalize their pain. Kids who are using drugs, sexually active, suicidal, choosing friends poorly, disinterested in life, dropping out of things they once loved. Parents are baffled and I do mean baffled. Utterly at a loss for how their family ended up in this place.

Sometimes stuff is just gonna happen, sure and you can't prevent everything. But many times what really happened is that the family was on auto-pilot for years, living by the schedule dictated by the activities and there were signs, red flags, warnings, clues that nobody noticed because the schedule was being kept. "We were doing all the same things we always did, so how did it go so wrong?"

People often say I had such a happy kid and then they became a teen and just changed overnight. No they didn't. They changed over time, slowly. You just realized it overnight.

Avoiding auto-pilot is more than just asking each year if your child still wants to do scouts, (which is good if you are at least asking). It's more than just not assuming they will play soccer because they always have. It's about recognizing an absolute truth.

The most important things 

are never urgent and never on the schedule. 

The most important things we do with our kids will never be considered urgent and they will never be on the schedule. If you are on the front end of this journey, consider this advice from someone on the back end (meaning I have launched two kids into adulthood with one to go).

The more important things were spontaneous. Lots and lots of listening. Talking. Snuggling. Reading. Exploring and adventures. This life produces kids that are rarely if ever bored too by the way.

The most important things were times of "carefree timelessness" with the kids. When we could do whatever we wanted because there was NO schedule pressing us to wrap it up and keep moving.

Our family is knitted tightly together. Peers and friends are an important piece of a happy, fulfilled life but they never took primacy over the love we had within our family. Sometimes all those activities shift the focus from family to friends (for parents and kids). Sometimes children get the message and learn that a happy life is a life in constant motion.

It's not.

The people who are happiest, the families who raise their kids and launch them and maintain that peaceful, loving environment are the people who find their joy in things that never make the schedule. They shift priorities so that those scheduled things are fewer and far between and real life makes up most of the time. They keep their hands on the wheel and never allow their family to go on auto-pilot.

The things that shape your children, the things that bring siblings close together, the things that build strong marriages are never on the schedule. No one pencils in: "waste away four hours on Saturday picking dandelions and making necklaces from them." 

Time can't be wasted or saved, only spent. When you look at the schedule how much time is there to simply be together - without others, without any activity to occupy them, without any money being spent, or friends to distract? Without electronics?

Planning is good. I love my binders. I have schedules for maintenance, meals, projects and such. But I abandoned exhaustive daily schedules long ago. I traded a schedule in for a rhythm. A more gentle way of life that has enough flexibility that I am not a slave to it and I won't miss the cues that life and family are changing.

Schedule appointments. Mark them on the calendar. Keep track of course of things that need doing, but if the schedule is running your life it might be time to take a step back and look at it. It's just a suggestion.

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