By mid-spring, weekends definitely start to get full. People have various athletic and other competitive endeavors. This year we are light on team sports (I am not terribly sad about this) but my husband is training for the Broad Street 10-miler and my 15-year-old and I will be running a 5k in early May. Both the 15-year-old an 13-year-old have state competitions for academic teams that involve travel. There are various school fundraising events, I have a concert (well, one I’m singing in, two I plan to attend…) and so forth.
There are also things I want to do, like visiting gardens, maybe a family bike ride, get-togethers with people, and church most Sundays. There are things various other family members want to do, like playdates, birthday parties, movies, meeting friends to play D&D or meeting friends at Starbucks (different kids), etc.
Eventually this comes to resemble a giant game of Tetris. Can I make this all fit without stuff stacking up and causing me to lose the game?
The answer is often yes! And that is the spirit in which I approach weekend planning.
I always put the caveat in these sorts of posts that when I say “weekend planning,” I know some people click on away. Probably not people who read this blog regularly, but maybe some new visitors. If that is you, then perhaps you can stay for another paragraph or two just to hear me out. As time goes on, I increasingly come to this truth: We do the things we have to do. Planning allows us to do the things we want to do.
This is especially true of weekend planning. Without a plan, weekends would be all kid shuttling and errands. With planning, there’s usually an opportunity for something I am looking forward to.
I aim to do my detailed weekend planning by mid-week. Usually it’s on Thursday. Friday can totally work too, though I’m usually loosely planning the next weekend on Fridays as I plan my upcoming week (see TBT Rule #2: Plan on Fridays). Friday tends to be a light day for me work-wise (it is my “back up slot” per TBT Rule #5: Create a back-up slot), which means that if it stays open I can consider it part of the weekend and put in some cool stuff. This week I’ll be meeting friends for a walk and getting a massage. Fun!
In a notebook, I write out the three weekend days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the schedule for each. I think of this as my rough draft. As I’m creating it, I study it to see where there might be open space, or opportunities.
So, for instance, this Saturday I see that I need to drive the 8-year-old to something in the middle of the day. The activity is 90 minutes long, and just shy of 20 minutes away, so I can go home, though this can feel like a lot of driving. But I can also see that all other children except my 11-year-old daughter are occupied with something at this time. I just checked, and there is an outpost of her favorite restaurant about ten minutes from the activity. We get to have a lunch date!
I happen to know that the 11-year-old and 8-year-old have been planning a family party of some variety. I don’t know all the details, but I think a cake has been planned, plus tickets for activities. So I made sure to leave some open time on Saturday afternoon for whatever creative thing they come up with.
My husband normally takes the two little boys to swim lessons on Sunday afternoon, but since the 3-year-old has something else he’ll be going to (with me), that means I can flag this time and remind my husband that he can work out at the attached gym (the 8-year-old doesn’t need parental supervision in his class). This is efficient from a Tetris perspective, as then I don’t feel like I need to find a time for it elsewhere!
I also see that all family members are free on Sunday afternoon from about mid-afternoon to evening. As the older children won’t actually have done much on Sunday, I feel like we could make a reasonable case for a family walk or bike ride during this time. The weather should be good. If everyone gets their heads around this beforehand, it will probably happen. If we wait until Sunday afternoon to try to decide to do something, inertia will take over and there will be a lot of screen time instead.
Anyway, I make this rough draft, then fill in various things that I think will work. Then I email the schedule to my husband (just in text form). He is usually game to do whatever I come up with (and I build in time for his runs/workouts along with mine; if we’ve talked about something he might want to do I’ll often look ahead and suggest dates where it might work so he can take one of those). If there is something he wants to do, he knows to send it to me fairly far ahead of time. This is a foundational rule for this split of labor. Why do we have this split of labor? In our case, it’s because one of us gives time management advice professionally and one of us does not. Planning is more in my wheelhouse.
Anyway, my husband then sends me feedback or something to confirm that he has read the email. Sometimes I ask questions like “where should we bike as a family?” which he can then figure out. He will also set alarms or create calendar invites for himself for anything he needs to be aware of (so last weekend, there was a simultaneous alarm for a trumpet lesson and Boy Scouts on Sunday).
(I don’t create calendar invites because I use a paper calendar.)
I have recently figured out that I should start sending the schedule to the older kids as well. They, too, can tell me by Thursday if they have stuff they want to do, and I can build it in. (I’m also pretty good about making it work if something comes up later that kids want to do, and the older kids can often figure out sharing rides with friends and such.)
I know this system might not work for everyone, but in our family with two adults who have their own interests plus five kids with theirs, everyone generally has something they like happening over the weekend. Including me! Coming out of the little kid years, weekends are starting to feel way more relaxing.
A plan doesn’t guarantee things will happen. With five kids stuff can definitely go wrong. But things don’t always go wrong, and many plans do in fact happen. So I think they’re worth making.