The calendar meeting

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.

10 thoughts on “The calendar meeting

  1. We don’t have a traditional meeting, but thanks to listening to BoBW, we do an informal weekend planning session every Friday to make sure we get the time we want. Thanks, Laura and Sarah!

    1. @Caitlyn – excellent! So glad the weekend planning is helping to create real free time for both of you on the weekends.

  2. We have calendar meetings regularly. We don’t travel much for work, but we too have a large family and complicated logistics. My job as a physician requires to be be physically present in the office at certain times and if I need to change that (for the annual kindergarten holiday sing for example) I try to make that schedule change really early. Both my patients and office staff appreciate this. My husband can work more flexibly unless he has a deal closing (corporate lawyer). Planning is essential.

    We recently started quarterly meetings with our 3 oldest kids (11, 8 and 5). We discuss school, friends (requests for playdates, problems with friends, etc), activities and finances (they have allowance and are expected to manage their money and contribute some to charity). We do these in September (after school has been in session a few weeks), December (to discuss camp options among other things), March and June. It has been helpful to set aside this time to chat with them 1:1 about these issues.

    1. @Gillian – I like the idea of the quarterly kid meetings. This would definitely help with camp planning, special day/birthday planning and figuring out which playdates are priorities.

  3. We do weekly planning meetings either on Sunday afternoons or Monday mornings. Since my husband and I work together we have to talk through personal and business. We try to also do monthly, quarterly and annual meetings— discussing things like vacations and upcoming activities on the personal side.

  4. It’s been a struggle to do the weekly planning meetings, even though we schedule them on the calendar 🙂 We have a shared Google calendar and we each get emails when the other adds or makes changes to the calendar. So even if we don’t have a weekly talk-it-out meeting, we still both know what’s going on.

    Part of why we have trouble keeping to the weekly planning meetings is it comes to a bigger issue that goes to some of your other posts. I’m a big believer to let’s plan fun things because if we don’t,
    we sit around the house and bicker. My husband does not subscribe to that philosophy and would much rather have big open spaces on the calendar that allow for more spontaneous activities or getting stuff done on the eternal house to-do list. I hate the eternal house to-do list. So as to avoid this conflict when i come up with lots of “fun” activities, I just put them on the calendar and have the calendar notifications serve as notice.

  5. We just had a calendar meeting this afternoon. We call them schedule meetings. We started about five years ago when things were getting complicated, and we were not communicating well about things we planned. Depending on how busy we are, we do them more or less often. Currently, we need to do one about twice a month. We try to discuss changes, or at least inform each other, and we use Google calendar. We still need the time to sit down and make sure we are both up to speed, and discuss any possible changes or things that need to be planned soon.

    1. @Anna – we don’t have ours at a set time (though Sun night is often good). Once every other week is probably the right frequency, though we tend to do it a bit less often and send intermediate updates.

  6. For those looking for options to support family scheduling, I’ve found the cozi app to be super-helpful. There is a free version, or I think it’s $20 a year for “gold”. It’s a shared family calendar, shopping list, contact list (think parent cell numbers for friends your kids have playdates with, passwords to the school hot lunch account system, etc.!), birthday calendar, to-do lists by person and/or topic (we use this for everything from a “camping supply list” to a “holiday gift ideas” list), and meal planner/recipe box. You can link a Google calendar, which is helpful since I know I find it helpful to “invite” a Google account to things I want on both my work calendar and personal calendar (I know, one calendar is best and I’ve done that in the past but in my current corporate environment I’m separating the two a little more). I’ve used it for a few years but find it more and more invaluable over time. Just wanted to throw it out there in case others read this post and wonder how to support these kinds of scheduling meetings and the logistics that have to get hashed out between meetings.

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