If you’re striving to live a little calmer, take care of your health, and leave some space in your life for sex and intimacy, you may find yourself in frequent conflict with your family’s schedule – the jobs, responsibilities, chores, relationships and activities that make up your family’s day-to-day life. For many families, the number of tasks on that schedule has become overwhelming. What about your family? You and your husband work hard (at work and at home), maybe he serves on a church committee and volunteers in the community, and you chair the PTO and coach a soccer team. Then perhaps your son plays baseball and football, your daughter plays soccer and takes dance and piano, and your toddler just started gymnastics.
Whew! Add in cooking, shopping, cleaning, maintaining the yard, helping with homework, and spending time with friends and family, and it becomes almost impossible for anyone in the family (especially you as the wife and mom!) to live simply and feel relaxed. Everyone runs from one task or activity to another, and no one manages your family’s schedule.
In the 21st century, families like yours and mine can choose from thousands of activities, opportunities, and entertainment options, more than any previous generation of families. But is this smorgasbord of choices a blessing or a curse? Certainly the opportunity to play an instrument, compete in a sport, volunteer, travel, and enjoy entertainment can be a blessing. But if it comes at the expense of family time, relaxation, relationships, good health, and marital intimacy, it can easily turn into a curse.
This School Year, Manage Your Family’s Schedule
The ideal schedule will differ from family to family, year to year, maybe even season to season. The real issue isn’t the specific schedule you adopt, it’s that you and your husband choose your family’s activities and manage your family’s schedule – rather than allowing it to manage you. It can be done, although it isn’t easy. So if you’re feeling tired, stressed, and over-committed and are longing for a bit more sanity, put these five strategies in place before the new school year begins – in order to better manage your family’s schedule this year:
- Analyze the situation. What is causing you the most stress? Which activities are required and which are optional? (Really think hard about this – some activities that you are treating as required may in fact be optional.) Which activities provide little “bang for the buck” (not much value, but a lot of hassle)? In the ideal scheduling situation, which activities would you drop and which ones would you keep? Make lists if that helps you sort it out – activities that are important, meaningful and valuable on one list and everything else on another.
- Ask yourself why the situation is occurring. Why are you running from one activity to another, with no time to think, slow down, or take a deep breath? Is it just that you’ve allowed the schedule to get out of control, without really thinking about it? Are you afraid that your children will miss out on something if they don’t participate in every activity? Is it because you don’t know how to say no? Do you feel pressure to do what everyone else is doing? Do you feel a need to be busy all the time? Some of these are hard questions, but you may need to answer them before you can figure out a way to control your family’s schedule. Again, consider writing down some of your answers if that helps you analyzing them, or talking through them with your husband or a friend.
- Identify the things you would like to do, but can’t. What is your family’s schedule preventing you from doing or enjoying? Do you want to exercise and get in shape, but never have enough time? Do you want to cook healthy meals and eat dinner together as a family, but find yourself picking up fast food almost every night? Would you like to take a weekend to play together as a family, maybe hiking or biking, building a campfire, or playing games? Would you like to relax and enjoy some intimacy with your spouse? Make a list of the things you’d like to do, if only your schedule weren’t so hectic.
- Talk with your husband and enlist his help. Controlling the family’s schedule is a big job, and both parents need to be on board in order for it to work. Does your husband feel stressed too? Would he like to do something different, if only there was enough time? Is he feeling the need for some down time? Talk it through and agree on a goal. My husband really took the lead in managing our family’s schedule when our children were younger. He just wasn’t into that whole “running somewhere every minute of every day” thing! He wanted to have a sane family life and a sane marriage, and he wasn’t worried that our kids might miss out on that one great activity that would change their lives forever! So, even though our schedule was busy when our boys were in elementary and middle school, it wasn’t completely insane. Maybe you need to take the lead on this initially, but you may find that your husband is more than happy to get involved.
- Eliminate some activities. This is the hard part. If you want to take control of your family’s schedule, open up some time for relaxation, and live at a slightly slower pace, you can’t continue to do everything you’re currently doing. Unless you have the resources to hire a maid, a gardener, and a driver, you’re going to have to let some things go. What is most important thing at this stage in your life? If the children’s sports activities are most important, then let other children’s activities go. If scouting is most important, then focus on that – but music or sports may have to go. If having a parent serve on PTO is important, then that parent probably can’t serve as a community volunteer or president of his or her civic group.
Have you been able to keep your family’s schedule under control, or is it running you ragged? Did you have to make hard choices – or are you avoiding making them? If you’ve been able to tame it (at least in part), what strategies have worked for you? Or how are you struggling? Please share your thoughts in the Comments – I would love to hear from you.