Winter has got to be the most challenging season for stay at home parents. I am going to generalize and throw this out there, kids or not, it’s probably the most difficult season for everyone, no? These colder months all but gently force us into slowing down to a syrupy drip just about everywhere we go, which is rather nice when needing a break from the rush of the holidays…that is until the weather literally traps us indoors and our options narrow greatly. And then there’s the freezing cold, that unpredictable Midwest chill that we’ve come to know so well. Mother Nature can take a sunny week and turn it snowy on a dime! We’ve come to expect that and oddly enjoy this bizarre and unpredictable weather. I know about five people that prefer the colder months to the warmer ones, and although I love these souls dearly, I do not understand them. I am more of a fair weather girl myself…give me a seventy degree day with overcast skies, throw in a trip to the park, and I’m one happy camper. How about you? What’s your favorite kind of weather? I also love a good summer thunderstorm, I think that’s what I tend to miss most these shorter winter days. The smell of the wet earth after rain. Mmm. That’s the good stuff.
As a stay at home mom, I’ve come to look at the seasons in a different way because they affect our days so much. When I taught middle school a few years back, I was out the door rain or shine, but now that I’m home with the kids we tend to to plan our day around what’s going on outside these old, drafty windowpanes. And although this winter in particular started out as a challenge for me, it really has gotten so much better over time. In fact, this one has come to be one of my very favorites winters ever. My body and mind deeply needed this seasonal pause. Although I didn’t fully understand how weary I was at the time, I was badly craving it. These months have been able to give me such a welcomed reprieve. This was the season of figuring out delicate and raw matters of my heart, and with thankfulness, I have come out on the other end with a new appreciation for the slow that is winter, ready to see what spring beholds. But in the mean time, we have our days at home.
As wonderful as it is that I have been able to appreciate this winter more than ever before, it can be pretty difficult when at home all day with little ones. On stir crazy days where I’d normally scoot the kids outside to play on the porch or to run around the front yard, that’s not really an option. Or I suppose I is, but then I’d have to gear all three up and layer them like crazy, going through the whole scarfs and hats and boots rigamarole. With three babes that takes like a half and hour for maybe five to ten minutes of solid play? Sometimes it’s worth it. Most times it’s not. I’ll be honest, we are not much for frozen finger tips, so we stay indoors and fill our days with far too many carbs and endless games. We skip out on playdates and trips to the library when feeling cozy, and replace them with warm living room fires and movies and long naps in mama’s big bed. We generally spend a lot of time in the same room, trying not to drive each other nuts.
Now that this is my fourth year as a mama I’ve really come to understand the importance of routine and rhythm when caring for little ones at home. It helps me out in so many ways, and also serves as a constant comfort the kids continue to appreciate. They know what to expect and it eliminates the guessing game for everyone. As you can presume, winter rhythms are much different than our summer ones because we’ve pretty much taken out the ample time spent outside going for long walks and digging in the garden. That’s not to say we never go outdoors, it’s just far less than in the other seasons.
Once the new year rolls around and the excitement of Christmas has faded, it’s really important for us to stay grounded in a simple and consistent routine. The kids respond really well to this, for they seem to eat better, sleep better, and play harder when working within a foundation they are familiar with. What we have settled into seems to be working well for everyone, which is just dandy because it’s just about time to switch it up again for spring! Ha. That’s parenting though, right? Just as soon as you’ve figured something out it’s time to change it up again. Thank God for little ones to always keep us on our toes. Here’s our family’s typical winter rhythm, probably in far too much detail. But you know, just as I love taking a peek into the homes of others, I too love a candid look at how families with little ones spend their days. Here is ours in the winter time:
3:00 AM – Alfie usually stirs around this time, crying out in Stella’s room for mama, ready root around and nurse. I am usually a really deep sleeper, that is until one of our little ones cries. During these middle of the night feedings I’ll scoop him up and take him into our bed. I’ll wrap the warm covers over our tired bodies as he fills his little belly and I am able to find comfort and relief in letting down. We could let him cry it out but I’d rather just snuggle and feed him. If he’s not awake at this time, I wake him gently to nurse as I am always really full at that point. It works for us both. When he’s done and usually back asleep, I will rub one drop of calming lavender oil on his fuzzy head, place him back in his tiny wood crib, and he’ll sleep until seven, sometimes eight.
5:00ish AM – Theodore is the first of our family to wake up ready to start his day. His first request is cuddles and then a baba. We are trying to break the warm milk bottle habit, but he loves it dearly. And again, we could let him cry it out in his crib, but we’d rather cozy up with him in our bed. It’s clear he is comforted by this precious morning time with his mom and dad, and so are we. They are only so little for so long.
6:00 AM – Generally by this hour, we are all downstairs in the kitchen with me brewing coffee, an absolute necessity to starting my day. Andrew and I have been hooked on chicory coffee ever since we lived downtown and we brew it in our Chemex or espresso machine depending on what we’re craving. Either way, it’s delicious. The kids usually mosey on in once the coffee is made and settle into the kitchen nook to have breakfast. Lately we’ve been having sweet maple oatmeal, homemade bread and raspberry preserves with some sort of citrus, like grapefruit sprinkled with sugar. We’re also big egg lovers, too. I’ll crack half a dozen in our skillet and cook them sunny side up with a little bit of smashed avocado on top. That’s a house favorite for sure. We are routine breakfast eaters in this house and I like that it keeps the morning snacking to a minimum.
7:00 – 9:00 AM – The kids usually take this time to hang out in the living room playing with their toys while watching a few shows. Andrew is usually able to be home most mornings to help out since he’s able to make his own hours, so I’ll throw in a load of laundry and unload the dishes right away before heading into the dining room to write, edit photos, respond to emails and figure out what needs to be done that day. My mind is freshest in the morning with hot coffee nearby, so this time is always the best for me to be creative and most productive when it comes to organizing priorities. Some of our current favorite TV shows for little ones are: Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger, Little Einstein’s & The Magic Schoolbus. Games the kids are loving right now are building castles and towers with blocks, matching, racing cars and trains, sorting shapes, barbies, and playing with their baby dolls. I’d love to hear house favorites of yours!
9:00 – 10:00 AM – This winter we’ve been dedicating time each morning to music and art before the boys goes down for their naps. I have been so uplifted by classical music this season. We have a few presets on our music system and I’ll turn that on while the kids make creations together. I find instrumental music to be so soothing and inspiring. It’s a much better alternative to hearing the TV in the background which to be honest, tends to stress me out and make my mind race. We created a little art station for them and they’ll have at it with their paper and supplies. I try to be in the same room as them so they don’t paint the walls, but most days I will pop upstairs to do a few chores here and there. We have so much dirty laundry in this house that if I don’t do one load per day it gets out of hand fast.
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Nap time for the boys. We’ll start by reading a few books in the nursery, lately about trucks and farms and anything with an engine, and then I’ll spray their linens with my lavender oil & chamomile oil spray. After I tuck them in and lay them down, I always rub a little essential oil on their toes or on the crown of their head. They love this ritual and Theodore now requests it. This has been our routine since Stella was little and it works so well for us. Laying them both down at the same time is wonderful for me. Not only does it give me a little break to shower or make phone calls, but it gives me one on one time with Stella. I like using this time to prep for supper and spend time in the kitchen. On days these more time consuming chores are a priority, I will set Stella up with an activity to keep her engaged in something like a puzzle or game. She also enjoys helping me peel carrots, sweeping, and helping me sort clothes. Never too early to let them join in!
12:00 PM – Lunch time. Again, we head to our kitchen nook to eat.
1:00 – 4:00 PM – This time really varies depending on what day it is. On days that Stella has preschool, the boys and I will spend time at home playing together. Alfie goes down for his second nap sometime during this stretch and just like I had one on one time with Stella in the morning, I get to be with Theodore one on one. Lately we’ve been making car villages with his blocks. He also is a big helper in the kitchen and likes talking about all the ingredients I am using to make supper. I’ll ask him to point out various veggies and tell me the colors which we are working on. These times I get to spend with my babies by themselves without anything distracting us is such a gift.
5:00 PM – Andrew is likely home by this time and I am usually in the kitchen finishing up supper. Stella will help me set the table, placing cloth napkins and forks at each setting. That was always my favorite job as a little girl and I adore seeing her helpful spirit precisely set the utensils down just so. During the week we have early meals because it gives us more time hang out as a family before bedtime or do baths, so five o’clock means supper’s on!
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM After eating, Andrew and I will clean up the kitchen together while the kids run around, Alfie usually trying to crawl up our legs. We both love waking to a clean kitchen in the morning, so getting this space back into shape after supper is a priority. Plus, it never takes too long with the both of us working away. After that, we all head into the living room to be with one another before going upstairs to do bedtime rituals. The couch becomes a wrestling mat and every bin gets dumped. If a fire is not already rolling, Andrew will start one. This time is our favorite to just be with one another in the same room before the little ones go to bed. With these shorter days, we tend to get the kids down well before eight. Some nights they are ready by seven! It just depends on what we have done that day and how tired they are, nevertheless our ritual stays the same.
7:30 PM – Bedtime for the munchkins. For us, consistency for naps and bedtime is so important. Either Andrew or I will read Stella and Theo a story or two after change the boy’s diapers. All three get into jammies and the oldest two get their teeth brushed. We’ll give their dry skin some moisturizing with a gentle baby body butter which also calms the and helps them sleep. At some point, I will nurse Alfie in my room where it’s quiet and dark, getting him ready for a good night’s rest, and to keep warm, I will get him cozied up in a sleep sack. Each bed gets sprayed with a lavender linen spray and we will diffuse calming oils in their rooms while they sleep. This season I do two drops of thieves to keep them healthy and then four drops of lavender or chamomile. We turn on the night lights and say prayers and it’s big lights out. Right now Alfie is in Stella’s room because Theodore is still in his crib. He has no motivation to sleep in his big boy bed and we are not pushing it. We’ve found that forcing them into stages they are not ready for doesn’t do much good. He always gets a good ten plus hours of sleep and that’s all we want for his growing body right now.
8:00 PM – After the kids have been put to bed Andrew and I love opening a bottle of wine and relaxing by the fire. We’ll watch a movie or a show we have saved on DVR. Lately we have been all about Fixer Upper because Chip and Jojo are the bees knees. We also love getting into series on Netlix like How to Make a Murderer, Broadchurch and Chef’s Table. No matter what we’re doing really, we cherish this time we have together where we get to catch up as a couple without the sound of little ones running around to distract us. As much as we love our babies and all the silly noises they make, it’s so important for us to keep these hours for one another. It keeps our foundation strong and gives us an opportunity to reconnect as husband and wife at the end of the day. One night a week we get a sitter and date each other, giving us both something special to look forward to. We both switch off deciding what to do and where to go, which always makes it a surprise for the other person. This winter we have both bed retiring to bed rather early. With is getting so dark so early, it’s easy to do, and there’s no better comfort than snuggles in a warm bed.
I wasn’t kidding, that was a lot. Hopefully you found a peek into our typical winter days interesting! What are some of your winter family rituals, things that serve as a constant for your family? I’d love to hear more about the things you all find comforting during this slow season.
melissa - I love these kinds of glimpses into other families’ lives, too. Thanks for sharing. It sounds about 99% like my life in this season, too, which actually surprised me a little! The blanket fort picture, the bedtimes, the 5:00 dinner, the shows and games the kids are into, the hanging out with a drink (we are into dandy blend which tastes just like chicory coffee) and a show with my best friend/husband after the day–all very similar. We also do lots of excess bathing and go for “snowy walks” when the sun comes out (which isn’t often since we live in a valley with bad inversion).
Polly - I love the chair den – my son is always asking me to build dens for him. Our days are much the same, lots of cosying up, reading books on my bed or preparing nourishing food with the little ones. We try to get out for some fresh air every day too and on the days my older boy is in preschool I love to take advantage and take the little one out for a winter walk or coffee with friends for a few hours to get a change of scene. I find this season the hardest as a stay at home mother which makes spring all the more wonderful an awakening x
Hannah - This sounds lovely! As a new mom in the Midwest, this season was overwhelming to accept after the birth of my daughter. I adore the spin you put on it by seeing it as a time to ‘pause.’ Accepting the new rhythms & challenges of motherhood. What better way than in the comfort of our own homes. Having to be neither here nor there & remaining in a cozy bath robe all day is surely good for the soul! Thank you for sharing little details of your home, family, & life. I have enjoyed following along & find great inspiration!
Marielle Lindner - Loved this article. We are living in Canada right now where winters can get really long;) and to keep those little guys happy can be quite a challenge. Did you find that play time gets easier once they have siblings? Since they can play with each other?
admin - Marielle – Yes! Oh gosh yes. Theo and Stella play together all day long and now Alfie is just staring to interact with them. I honestly think that it was harder with one sometimes because Stella needed constant interaction with me, whereas now she has her brother and they play make believe together. It’s really sweet. Stay warm! x Amanda
Lucy - Are you comfortable using lavender oil with the risk of it being a hormone disruptor? I stopped using it routinely on my son, just occasionally. I can’t find any definitive answer!
admin - We are! I have read both sides of the issue and it works so well for us that we are happy using it on our boys, but it’s a personal choice for sure. 🙂 x Amanda
Trisha - Thanks so much for this post. My husband and I live in NYC with our 4 month old baby girl. I grew up on a farm in the midwest and have an appreciation for all things cozy and homemade. Your blog has given me some lovely tips to try and make the most out of this special time with our little one.
admin - Where was your farm in the Midwest!? I grew up in Iowa 🙂 x Amanda
Chan - I am also a stay at home mom, only one baby, and I feel stressed all the time! My husband works long hours(8am to 10/11pm) which makes it a lot harder! How do you manage three kids by yourself?! You are truly amazing!
admin - Lots of coffee 🙂 But really, the kids play so well together now! That’s not to say we don’t have out crazy moments. x Amanda
Leah Faye - I am about to be a new mom, living in the midwest, and getting ready to stop being a middle school teacher so that I can be home more! Your blog has been so helpful to read and feel hopeful that all of my decisions will work out for the best! Your days sound dreamy and make me so ready and excited to be a mama at home with my little guy!
admin - You will love being a mommy! xx Amanda
nora - thank you so much for this post! since i was pregnant i follow you on instagram and always asked myself how you get along with three kids. i love your photos and your beautiful home! i always show my boyfriend what you have posted and we both are always thrilled! my son is now three months old and we haven’t found a good rythm yet. here in germany every mother/father goes out at the fresh air everyday for at least one hour, no matter if it’s sunny, rainy, snowy, warm or cold outside. i go every afternoon three hours with the pram to get johann to sleep. at home he only sleeps at my arm for a few minutes. when we come home again, i nurse him and its 6 pm and my boyfriend gets home home. then its bedtime for johann with playing, singing, washing and getting in him in his pj. then i nurse him again and when he sleeps around 7:30/8:00 pm we eat supper and watch tv. so i have not much time to make laundry or clean the appartment. your daily routine is very inspiring! i only wonder some things: what do you do with alfie between 7 and 10 am? i’m curious that everyone is always bare feet and legged. isn’t it too cold, especially for alfie? i would like to let johann more nude, but in germany its usual to put on babys many layers during the winter months, even inside. and can i do the lavender oil treatment also with a three months old baby?
so i hope you have some time to answer my loooong comment 😊 sorry for that and for my bad english, i guess…
admin - Nora – I loved reading this! So this is a little gross but Alfie usually has a few blowouts each day! Which means a lot of clothing changes. Sometimes I just let him roll around in his diaper because we tend to keep it pretty warm in here. We have been using lavender with Alfie since he was born. I even diffused it in the delivery room! It’s up to your judgement, but we love it. xx Amanda
Kizzy - I love getting glimpses of peoples routines and it has made me miss the time I had at home when my children were smaller. Cherish these precious years as they go by far too fast.
Katrina - Adore the photo of Alfie looking at himself in the mirror; how beautiful!
Sue - Awesome! Thank you for this. How about grocery shopping and running errands? Is that something you do on the weekends or with the whole family? Do you ever go out to the store and such with kiddos? I have two under two now and I can’t even imagine getting out to go anywhere with two! Especially in the winter..
admin - Sue – I usually do grocery shopping on the weekends when Andrew is home. I used to cart all three with me but it’s just proven to be too difficult! I like to go early on Saturday morning or on Sundays when they take their naps. Sometimes I even go Saturday night right after they go down, the store is empty and it’s just nice to get out by myself! Hope this helps dear! xx Amanda
Winter rhythms – Motherhood Alive - […] inspired by Amanda’s thoughtful post at Homesong, I’m remembering how to embrace winter and many hours indoors. And like her, I love a glimpse […]
Heidi - Though I know better because I have my own two littles, this sounds just surreal and wonderful. Thanks for posting; it’s always encouraging to read other people’s rhythms and realize that I do, in fact, have some good ones that I like to comfort me on the crazy days. 🙂
The winter rhythm of our house. | notes "just so" - […] good friend Michal (and other bloggers!) have posted recently about winter rhythms at home and invited others to do the same. We had a […]
zoe - would you be able to tell me where your white flowy curtains in all of your rooms are from? i am on the hunt for some soft white curtains for our home, and having a really hard time finding any that i like. yours are beautiful!!!! and i love your blog a lot, thanks for taking the time to share!
emma - beautiful post. thank you for giving us a glimpse of your everyday. couldn’t help but notice your chemex filter, it looks different to mine. what type do you use? x
Sara - hi there,
I am currently trying desperately to build a decent following for my blog and instagram. I know everyone must start somewhere so I’m trying to not get discouraged. I have tried to reach out to a few other bloggers that i feel have a similar style to mine however I haven’t had much luck so far. I am reading every ‘blog advice for bloggers’ style article I can get my hands on which is what lead me to this post. So I figured I’d take some advice and ask if you would be willing to do a ‘sponsor swap’ or maybe even something as small as a mention for mention on one of our mutual platforms to help an up and coming blogger such as yourself. (:
let me know what you think & thanks so much for your time!