School mornings are busy, but an experienced parent knows the real rush is after school when evenings are packed with their kids’ extracurricular activities. One child has Scouts, another has piano lessons, and two have soccer practice on opposite sides of town. As a mom of six, I have survived busy weeks full of extracurricular activities and a calendar that can only be described as ‘complicated.’ Whether you have two or six kids, here are some tips from a parent with a busy, large family.
Limit activities. The best way to keep your calendar from getting too full is not to fill it up. Try cutting back on the activities you allow each child in your family to sign up for. Time at practice can be reduced by allowing your kids one sport per season. However, sports aren’t the only activities that can take up a lot of time. Extracurriculars like theatre, music, and dance, for example, can also fill up a lot of your free time. If your child has interests in both sports and the arts, try allowing one sport and one other activity at a time. Limiting activities will leave more room for leisurely time and rest at home.
Tag team. When kids’ activities conflict in schedule, split up the time. Have your partner take a child to the birthday party, while you attend the other child’s hockey game. Use the help of others, particularly for practices and rehearsals. Set up a carpool with other families and take turns giving kids rides to and from practices/rehearsals to limit your time spent in the car. Don’t feel guilty if you cannot be at every single event. If you miss one, attend next time. Your children will not remember whether you were at every game, but they will remember that you made the effort to be at every game.
Command centre. A carefully maintained family calendar is key to keeping everyone organized and where they need to be on time. Some families like to have a large calendar in a central location in their home, like a command centre. Others may like to use apps to track everyone’s comings and goings. Through trial and error, you will find out what method works best for your family. The important part is your family calendar is accurate and up to date.
Protect your downtime. If your family is constantly on the go, you need to protect your downtime. Time for rest and relaxation is necessary to recharge and reconnect. You may find it helpful to schedule family time on the master calendar, so the downtime you have scheduled doesn’t get filled up with other activities.
Plan. Once you have your activities limited and your family calendar set, the best way to survive the busiest days is to plan as much as possible. For busy nights, plan easy, on-the-go meals and snacks. Freezer meals, crock-pot recipes, and simple weeknight dinners that are prepped and prepared ahead of time will save you a lot of worry about getting your family properly fed and to practice on time. Pack as many items as possible the night before so you are not rushing around at the last minute trying to locate shoes, uniforms, and sports gear.
There are many benefits to your children participating in extracurricular activities but overdoing it can cancel out many of those benefits. Choose activities your children enjoy participating in and make sure there is still time to enjoy doing things together outside of those activities.
Sarah is a full-time mom to six and a part-time freelance writer who has learned to balance her time wisely.
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