By most standards, my household is “busy.” We have four kids in three schools. The current list of activities includes a competitive swim team (3 children — but in 3 different divisions, so they don’t practice at the same time), flag football, karate, piano, code club, Cub Scouts, and now a Reading Olympics team. Wrestling will start soon. I sing in a choir.
My husband and I both work, and while we have a high degree of control over our schedules, we both travel.
All this means that there are various moving parts and logistics. I don’t mind thinking about moving parts and logistics, but I get resentful if I am the only one thinking about moving parts and logistics, and if dealing with them seems to be entirely shoveled into my mental load.
So, in the past few years, my husband and I have started having semi-regular calendar meetings. We sit down with our calendars and look at the next few weeks.
We note travel and potential travel. Mine tends to be set at least a few weeks ahead of time. His shifts more, but one upside of the calendar meeting is that I can help him direct those shifts by making sure he has complete information: Wednesday would be OK to be gone, but Thursday would make for a logistical nightmare, so he can express a preference that a meeting happen on Wednesday. If it looks like we will both be gone for a night, or one of us will be home, but late, or leaving very early in the morning, we make sure G (nanny) has these dates for her calendar as potential overnights. My goal is to have all overnights flagged well in advance.
We note special kid events. If one party absolutely cannot be at, say, a kid performance, the other party knows to protect this date as much as humanly possible. We have an upcoming specialist visit for our daughter that involves traveling 2 hours away. My husband is planning to do this, but I’ve also marked my calendar to try not to schedule anything that can’t be moved that morning.
We look at kid events we might need to schedule. The elementary school has parent-teacher conferences on 4 days in November. Only one of them really worked for both of us but because I got on the system shortly after it opened I was able to get conference times back-to-back for that window.
(I could do this because the time the conference schedule would open was on my calendar. Our preschool, on the other hand, sent a Sign-Up Genius for conferences while I was on a 6-hour flight and my husband was in meetings and by the time I landed a lot of the times were gone…sigh.)
We look at weekends that look logistically…complex. Sometimes these turn out, pleasantly, not to be as complex as imagined. We are staring down one Saturday in November that involves a choir rehearsal for me, a flag football game, a swim meet, and our rescheduled family photos (which were rained out). It seemed possible that the football practice, the swim meet, and my rehearsal would be simultaneous, thus requiring another driver, but in fact the swim meet is in the afternoon, and I can drop the 9-year-old off at flag football on the way to rehearsal so everyone else can just linger in their jammies much of the morning if they wish.
We also note weekends that are less logistically complex. If there is an open day, or at least semi-open day, we might decide to keep it open for a family trip or activity (like a bike ride). Without this discussion, I wouldn’t know to suggest a proposed playdate happen on a different date.
We discuss current thinking about upcoming family events and vacations. During our last calendar meeting (Sunday night) we discussed Thanksgiving and Christmas and our options on those.
And then — the key — we discuss fun stuff too. We ended the most recent calendar meeting with a date night on our calendars and a text out to a sitter to get coverage. Planning can be tedious, but planning enjoyable things we can anticipate is a lot less tedious. Making sure we plan things we are thrilled about alongside things we aren’t thrilled about means that the planning meeting itself is a lot more pleasant than it could be. I highly recommend making this a regular part of all calendar discussions.
One side note for Myers-Briggs fans. As you might imagine, I am a “J” (which, colloquially, means a planner). At the recent celebration dinner for my husband, his colleagues were joking about how hard it was to find anyone more “P” than he is. This is not 100% true, but it is true that he is often looking at three different flights right until the last minute. In any case, he is not a natural planner in the way that I am. But if we didn’t plan and schedule, life would be a lot more stressful. Just because someone is not naturally a planner doesn’t mean that they get out of planning when groups of people are involved. We all give a little here and there.
Do you have calendar meetings in your family? At some point, do you start having calendar meetings with the kids? Ours still rely on us driving and signing them up for things, so I mostly ask for input and we talk about things we’d like to do over dinner and in the car and then my husband and I sort these out during our meetings.