The Paradox of Weekends

I’m writing this on Sunday night after a fairly full weekend. While Friday evening was relatively low-key, Saturday and Sunday were not. We drove to Jim Thorpe, PA and rented bikes, then took a shuttle up to the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and biked back to town. It’s about 15 miles, which isn’t far as an adult on a bike by yourself, but it was fairly lengthy with two small kids behind me in a buggy (my husband had our 5-year-old on a tag-along bike behind his). We then drove up to a campground where I’d made a reservation for a cabin. The kids played mini-golf, and in the morning, we found a diner in Honesdale, PA that had model trains circling around on the ceiling. We went for a hike along the D&H Canal, saw a beautiful gorge along the NY State/PA border, and then drove home.

There were highlights, like tucking into our diner pancakes as the kids shrieked with joy over the model trains, and walking around Jim Thorpe, which is such a cute town (I’m thinking I’ll set my novel in a fictional version of the place). There were also low moments, as there always are with little kids. It was hard to get everyone to sleep in the “cabin,” which was really more of a trailer, and our sleep was interrupted enough that we’re tired today. We got caught in traffic right at the end of the long drive home, and everyone was pretty crabby for big chunks of the evening, even though we did manage to enjoy grilling burgers and corn. That corn on the cob was probably the best ear I’ve had in years. And our first tomatoes are ripe!

It was not exactly a relaxing weekend. But here’s the paradox of weekends: because we work so hard all week, and spend a lot of time running around, we think we want to “do nothing” on weekends. So we don’t make plans. But what that winds up looking like is a lot of chores and errands and puttering around the house, dealing with whiny children who just want to watch TV, deciding to do something, but because it’s last minute you’re throwing it together, and doing whatever’s easiest, instead of what you really want to do. When are you going to do all those fun things you intend to do someday? Just on your vacations? We get 60 hours between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday. There’s time in there to pluck plenty of items off your List of 100 (or 1000) Dreams. Doing things that you’ve long wanted to do is energizing in its own right. Just because a weekend isn’t relaxing doesn’t mean it isn’t rejuvenating. I feel like I’ve “recreated” more having spent my time in the hills than I would have sitting at home.

There are plenty of things we didn’t get done this weekend. There’s laundry to do. The kids’ stuff isn’t pulled together for day camp tomorrow. We’re short on baby food. But I know that have-to-dos have a way of filling the time that’s available for them. Allot less time and they take less time. Or they prove not to be as urgent as we think. We can make it a few more days.

Did you do anything rejuvenating this weekend? 

In other news: Thanks so much to everyone who purchased the audio book of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. The book hit #1 in business audio books at iTunes, and hit #2 overall. Just behind 50 Shades of Grey!

Photo of downtown Jim Thorpe courtesy flickr user berriehol

15 thoughts on “The Paradox of Weekends

  1. I’ve been wanting to ride the Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail. We have virtually no plans for the rest of the summer. I will put this on my calendar to make sure I get there.

    1. @Judy- it’s quite lovely – and good for a bike ride or a long run, depending on what you like. Others kayak down the river! We’ve actually gone in January, too — there’s still a lot of greenery due to the evergreen vegetation that grows alongside the gorge. While it’s a popular trail, it’s also long enough that even on a summer Saturday afternoon it didn’t seem that crowded.

  2. I only partly agree with this. I do agree that it’s better to plan your weekend–no matter what those plans are–because you don’t want to get stuck with whiny children who just want to watch TV.

    But where I disagree is with making home maintenance, chores, and errands into a low priority that will just magically “get done” somehow without being planned. I think that’s how so many families get to the point described in that study that’s been making the rounds: overwhelmed by clutter, with outgrown toy collections and decks and backyards they never use.

    They never plan to clean out the basement. They never schedule their yard sale. They never sort the old toys and call the Salvation Army for pickup. They never include, in their weekend plans, “eat dinner outside on the new deck,” or “play softball with the kids in the backyard.” Instead they have to “go somewhere” or “do something fun,” plan some elaborate excursion or trip, something they can talk about on Monday to prove they made their weekend count, I guess. I’m not really sure.

    I think it’s okay to occasionally face a new week with the laundry undone and with no groceries in the house. But if this lifestyle becomes a habit, and makes every Monday morning a chaotic scramble, that’s really not very rejuvenating either.

    1. I concur. We have weekends for camping and backpacking and also weekends for refinishing the deck, recaulking/repainting the south end of the house and installing a new skylight scheduled. I think balance in the overall schedule is key, including margin for projects that take longer than you expect.

    2. I think we’re happiest doing something that involves a road trip about once a month. Some of the best weekends are laid-back at home. And it’s nice to get things done around the house. (And often easier and more relaxing than outsourcing, even if one can afford to outsource.)

      1. @Nicole and Maggie – even a laid back weekend, though, can benefit from a few planned things. And some of the planned things need not be elaborate. For instance, planning to do a run, go to church, and visit a friend would be plenty to attempt for a weekend. That sounds fairly laid back, but would still give you things to do that are enjoyable.

        1. I can’t emphasize enough how NOT having anything planned can be majorly relaxing. Not having to have anything to do, when every day during the workweek is scheduled. Not having to look at the clock. Not having to think about a to-do list.

          (Definitely not having to get up for church. And running? That’s crazy talk.)

          Moderation in all things. There are plenty of weekends with planning. Sometimes it’s nice to have anything on the mental load at all. Even for us Type As.

    3. @Karen – I certainly think one could plan to make use of the backyard. Planning a cookout meal is a great way to do that, or anything that gets you outside — a family walk, for instance, or bike ride. You don’t have to go anywhere big. But yes, making a plan is key – because you get to anticipate the fun!

  3. I have 3 kinds of weekends. Usually we have a mix of fun and chores. Once a month though we need a chore weekend, which is tiring but the only way to get major and minor chores out of the way! I do try to get in fun weekends too, like the one you describe, and it usually follows right after a chore weekend.

  4. I agree with those that prefer a mix of the two—after several heavily scheduled (albeit fun) weekends, we & the little kids, start to crave some down time. I realize that with daycare during the weekdays & weekends out & about, they rarely get to just play with their toys & explore the house and even GET BORED (maybe it helps that they are too little to ask for TV?). They can play while we do chores, or better yet, just sit & watch them, discuss how they’ve grown, etc…. Sometimes we have Saturday as our “day of fun” and Sunday as a lazy day, or vice versa, just to prevent over-tiredness for anyone.

  5. I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately and found your post to affirm my thought. I think with kids I sometimes get overwhelmed with the idea of packing up to go, but really when i do it it’s less work and more fun. Plus my 2 yr old seems better behaved in public than at home so it’s more fun to go out! We usually do 2 activities on saturday and rest on Sunday, it’s the perfect mix for us right now, esp since during the week I often feel stuck in the daily grind.

  6. Dear Laura! It was a pleasure to listen to your audio book “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” To find joy and time for yourself in this hectic life is not an easy task. I sent one of those to my friend in CA, who is competing athlete and mother of two with demanding and successful career as Project Manager at Intel. I hope she will enjoy as much as I did!
    Thank you for you dedicated effort and wonderful advice to pursue well-balanced life!


  7. I think about this subject often as well, but my delima has a twist. I don’t have children, and I work most Saturdays and sometimes only get Sunday off. By the time it’s here, I’ve got 4 days worth of activities that I want to cram in, plus “do nothing”. I start off excited and with enthusiasm, but by 4:00 on Sunday, I’m usually disappointed, that it’s not been a fullfilling day. Clearly I’m doing several things wrong. Any suggestions?

    1. @Jennifer: That is a problem when you work in an industry (like photography) that features a lot of weekend work. Would it be possible to take a half day off one of the other days? I don’t know if perhaps there isn’t a lot of photo work on Monday morning… that might be one way to get more time. The more I’m thinking about it, I like someone’s suggestion to choose not to do chores on weekends because doing it on weekdays means you’ll do them faster! Also, I think if you have one day off you can choose just one activity each week to focus on. That way, you know you’ll do it. Then you can look forward to something else the next week.

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