Your values are more important than your schedule

At the end of our Christmas holiday, and in the days following New Years, I roughed out our winter schedule. The week after that I revised the schedule. The week after that I tweaked it again and wrote about it, with the plans to publish about that this week.

I, like many mommy bloggers, take a somewhat perverse pleasure (I say perverse because it always seems to bite me in the bum when the schedule doesn't go as planned) of publishing schedules, routines and organizing tricks. I do this because FIMBY is family story blog and I like looking back on these schedule posts.

And I do it also because I love reading homeschool schedules and routines, and so do other homeschoolers. Even people (maybe especially) who don't homeschool want to know "how you do it?" What does it look like to educate your kids at home? And in our case work at home also. I think it's interesting and so I was going to publish our winter schedule this week.

And then I hit a low point emotionally and my vulnerability sky rocketed, and the schedule, well, I've been struggling this week to find my equilibrium in that.

Like I was telling Damien yesterday, tissues near at hand, it used to be that when I felt pulled in too many directions and wondered how to manage I simply dropped things from my schedule. Lower your expectations was one of my early years parenting mantras.

I knew exactly where my priorities were - food, kids, love - some combination of those things. Even on a bad day meeting my kids needs was pretty simple - stories, tickles, lunch, playing outdoors together, a video in the afternoon. It wasn't always easy (as any mother with young ones will tell you) but my responsibilities as a full time stay at home mom were clear cut. I like clear cut and well defined spaces.

Things are not so well defined anymore. Or so I think.

My work contributes to our family's income. Damien is taking over more homeschooling responsibilities. This was the plan, I remind myself. And this is the direction we want to move in, the sharing of these responsibilities. As such, the activities in our home flow through the day. Eddying sometimes around my leading and other times around Damien's.

I've tried to schedule this flow (please don't laugh) because, like I've already mentioned, I feel most at ease with well defined boundaries. But when the boundaries blur and responsibilities flow how am I to know if I'm doing well? How do I measure this?

Last week I wrote (I am embarrassed to bring this up) "this shift has not been a difficult one for our family in terms of time management or family dynamics." Um... What the heck was that all about? Wishful thinking?

I think what I meant to say is we're not running around like crazies trying to "fit it all in". We've never tried to do it all or have it all, and we're not starting now. I think what I meant to say is that one of us is almost always available for our kids because we're not working the equivalent of two full time jobs. I think what I meant to say is we're not relying on take-out because healthy eating is a non-negotiable for the majority of our meals.

But "not...difficult... in terms of time management or family dynamics" Ack! I didn't mean to lie, honestly. But it appears I have. Because this week has been difficult, on top of my emotional vulnerability (because of my emotional vulnerability?) for that very reason!

Families are always changing, growing and moving through life stages. Always in transition is not a part of life I'm particularly at peace with. I make an uneasy truce with it simply because I have no choice. But mostly I try to box up my life and make it conform. And when this works, it works really well. And when it doesn't, I struggle.

I struggle to let go. I struggle to shift. I struggle to accept what actually is happening vs. what I had planned to happen.

A schedule that served our needs the first week of January, did not serve us so well this week (when last weekend's emotional crash necessitated more margin in my life and also tapped my creative energies and drained me work-wise). Which is why I just couldn't post that schedule this week.

And so I've been thinking about this. How to make peace with this reality.

I love our schedule. I love planning a season and fitting the pieces together to meet our family's needs. The kid's learning needs, my learning needs, our goals for outdoors and adventure, healthy eating, meaningful work and creative projects. I love putting it all together. But when it doesn't play out the way I think it should I struggle with feeling like a failure.

I'm guessing you can relate.

And so here, mere paragraphs away from the end of this post, is the point. Schedules are great. They help us meet our goals. They are necessary even to get certain things accomplished. But...

Schedules are built on values, and when your schedule fails you, your values still remain intact and provide solid footing.

A household schedule is a tool, nothing more, for putting your values into action. When the schedule falls apart one week, or two (I'm publishing next week, hopefully, some tips for creating family schedules) life itself doesn't fall apart because underneath that schedule are solid values. Which are more important than a good schedule in the first place.

We have a bunch of values, but at the core there's only a handful. They are our faith in Jesus Christ, lifelong learning, family & relationship, health, and the outdoors. (Imagine those as a circle, with Jesus Christ as the inner core to it all). On top of those, like the next layer of the onion and in no particular order we add simplicity, adventure, creativity, plant-based eating, community building, freedom education, hospitality, physical fitness, stewardship, and a few more.

These values are more important than the schedule. And when I expressed my concern to Damien this week that I wasn't "doing a good job of this" ("this" meaning the next stage of family life where we share our responsibilities more), I came back to these values.

The values are what we're trying to live. The schedule is just the tool.

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  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on Jan. 25, 2013, 1:07 p.m.

    So true. I feel the same with all sorts of things, not just a schedule but with thoughts like parenting philosophies, etc. If it's not working, it's okay to throw it out, or at least throw out the aspects that aren't working. We're not here to serve our philosophies. This reminds me of one of my favorite posts of yours, the "Usually, Not Always" post. I can't tell you how freeing those 3 little words have become to me! Sarah M


  • Aimee

    Aimee on Jan. 25, 2013, 4:08 p.m.

    Excellent post, Renee. It totally resonates. I feel like when I get off my (loose) schedule then I am failing to give my six children enough...that without the schedule, none get the attention and guidance that they need. In the long run, I do believe that's true, but I need to realize that when the schedule doesn't happen, there is still the environment of my values that can sustain and guide


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 25, 2013, 7:32 p.m.

      Ah... that's exactly what I meant to say - it's the environment we create each day, week after week, that sustains and guides us. Why didn't I think of saying that?!


  • Kyndale

    Kyndale on Jan. 25, 2013, 5:21 p.m.

    That last sentence. I envisioned a plate. Another way to think about it is that our values are the food on the plate. And it helps, really helps to have a plate but it's not totally necessary. It helps out a lot though. But if you were lost in the wilderness and only had food, it would be enough. I'm sorry you're having a hard time but it will pass and you'll be stronger for it. I have these types of weeks more than I'd like to admit! :) Sending love.


  • Tonya

    Tonya on Jan. 25, 2013, 6:59 p.m.

    Renee, Thank you for the tears and the butterflies:) - all good. As I have shared a little with you, our days don't always flow like I imagined they would but when I look at our life priorities - those ARE there - and that is what makes it all worthwhile. With love, Tonya (P.S. I would love to be an affiliate with your businesses but am having a hard time figuring it all out.)


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 25, 2013, 7:41 p.m.

      Tonya, you know what's been really hard and what I'm just tuning into now is that my kids are going through major changes - again! The shift in our homeschool because of this cannot be understated. And it's only going to get worse - as they each diverge into areas of skill and expertise that I will know nothing about! This is something I imagine you have intimate knowledge of, as you have more kids and older kids. And how I respond to this as a mother and homeschooler is really challenging this week, on top of everything else! Send me an e-mail about the affiliate stuff if you need help. 


  • Charity Johnson

    Charity Johnson on Jan. 26, 2013, 2:03 a.m.

    Thank you again for being vulnerable and sharing. I love transparency! I had a response, but it got too lengthy. So, in short, I am feeling this with you (for different reasons), and we can know together that it is a season...and seasons come and go, but the core of our family life...of our homes....of our love for Christ and those around us does not change or falter just because we feel like we have fallen short or because things don't pan out the way we intended. Thank you again, my friend.


  • Mel

    Mel on Jan. 26, 2013, 2:16 a.m.

    I hear you. My situation is similar- homeschooling and working at home. But, my kids are little and my husband works outside the house. There are days when I'm thrilled to get in two hours of work. Luckily, the boys (4.5 and 6) are pretty good at playing and learning with just a little encouragement from me. When people ask me my homeschooling philosophy I always say, "self-directed."

    Like you, we have homemade vegetarian meals, everything from scratch, we have lots of love, and I remind myself that the kids are my priority.

    Hang in there, a couple tough weeks will likely be followed by lightness.


  • Misti

    Misti on Jan. 26, 2013, 2:41 a.m.

    Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think of you as a mommy blogger at all. I actually really dislike the term because it puts a person into a single status and they are many things, not just one thing. If anything you are a life blogger, you write about your life and everything in it, with some weeks and months heavier on the family, others on different subjects.

    I don't work at home or have kids (yet) but I put schedules on myself for various creative things and I get crazy sometimes with my supposed self imposed 'deadlines' or 'things i'm supposed to do'....but when that happens dropping it all and just being is definitely the best.


  • Lora

    Lora on Jan. 26, 2013, 5:34 a.m.

    I have gone back and forth over the years with my relationship to organizing, listing, and scheduling work and life. I am a scholar, and as such have a lot of flexibility in my schedule to wind work around my family and work commitments. Maybe this goes back to your post on personality, but I find that my interest in lists and organization waxes and wanes. Sometimes it is more productive to just be organic about how work evolves and interacts with other aspects of my life. At other times I need more structure. Communication seems key in terms of helping family and work colleagues to fit into those differences in my personal work culture. Figuring out how to set boundaries is also important, on all fronts.

    Do take care of yourself. On occasion it seems that you set up rules for yourself that seem inflexible, but i am always relieved to see that you bend and weave through all of that to allow yourself some flexibility. Adaptive systems are usually the most resilient.


  • Heather Caliri

    Heather Caliri on Jan. 26, 2013, 1:31 p.m.

    Thanks for being vulnerable, Renee. I too usually hit a bottom of confusion right after I've told someone I've solved a particular problem. Perhaps part of it is when we take more ownership of our lives, when we dream big dreams and try to model that for our kids, the stakes are higher. Or--maybe it's just the reality of parenting :) I too have been looking at "what we do everyday" (and our current lack of a schedule b/c of major upheaval) and feeling less-than. But learning, and success, aren't really dependent on my emotions or state of mind.


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Jan. 28, 2013, 1:18 a.m.

    I can relate to this post, too.

    As my oldest child gets a bit older (she is 7) I am finding that hard because she's branching out, but I still have preschooler and baby stuff to deal with as well. But I needed the space between my kids in other ways. So...I feel caught in many different directions at once. They each need me in different ways. I found it simpler when I just had one stage and I miss that time. I don't adapt well either- moving, changing family seasons and changing kids etc...its all hard for me but I have no choice so I am trying to find the good in these things too. That is my daily goal and sometimes its easier than others.


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Jan. 30, 2013, 5:16 a.m.

    Can't wait for your posts on creating schedules. It's something I really enjoy as well and I loved your thoughts on remembering that it's the values that really matter.


  • Tiffany

    Tiffany on Feb. 1, 2013, 5:31 a.m.

    I clicked on the link to read this based on the title as 'values' has been top of mind for me, lately. This year has gotten off to a rocky start as I was all gung-ho about new schedules and goals and priorities and none of them have actually gotten off the ground yet. Then I was putting together a profile for a new contributor position and wrote, 'living simply to'. I immediately asked myself: "why DO we live simply"? I collected my thoughts and realized that it's to afford the things in life we currently value: me staying home and the simple routines that affords, recreation and travel. All that to say that I agree with you, sometimes we have to focus on the PRIMARY values and agree that if those are met, we are good. The rest is just gravy.


  • Melissa DeLorenzo

    Melissa DeLorenzo on Feb. 2, 2013, 11:26 p.m.

    I have been struggling with the idea of scheduling and "failing," too. I LOVE schedules and regular rhythms and yet quite often they fall apart. Or perhaps that is only my perception. I rely on the rhythm for grounding. My big life lesson right now is being okay with the falling-apartness of the rhythm. We'll figure it out, right? :)


  • Jodie

    Jodie on Feb. 3, 2013, 10:31 p.m.

    Hi Renee,

    It's the first time I've visited your blog and could relate to so much in that post. I especially like the idea of values as layers of an onion with the core ones at the centre.

    Thanks, Jodie


  • Suzie

    Suzie on Feb. 3, 2013, 10:41 p.m.

    Thanks for this. Love your comment about families being "always in transition" - so true. I don't cope with that either I realise. But maybe knowing that this is part of the deal will help and I'll come "to peace with it" too.


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