Recently, during a particularly crazy week of racing around to get my children off to their various activities, I had the sudden thought, “Oh no. We’re that over-scheduled family people keep talking about.” The thought came to me as I left work, stopped to watch some of my son’s football tournament, took him home, said “Hi, how was your day?” to my daughter, had a very quick dinner, dropped my son off at the arena for hockey practice, and headed to my own volleyball game. Once the kids were in bed, I got my daughter’s hockey bag packed and ready to go for 6 a.m. practice the next morning…yes, on a school day. Lunches ready, field trip form signed, library book in the backpack, did my son study for his geography test? Check, check, check, check, phew.
As the week went on, I reflected on what I was willing to change to slow our pace down. You may be surprised to learn that my decision was: Nothing. Both our kids absolutely love playing hockey. Even when it means getting up at 5:15 in the morning to head to the arena, they don’t complain. I could never tell them that they aren’t allowed to play anymore. My son has reached an age where there are more opportunities to play school sports. This year is his first time playing football and I know he’s excited to try out for other teams as well. With most of the practices occurring during the school day, we’re willing to make the after school games and tournaments work for us. And then there’s my weekly volleyball game with other moms. I’m not willing to give that up. It’s one night of the week when I do something fun that’s just for me. I did draw the line when my daughter asked if she could add swimming and gymnastics to her line-up. Um, no. We schedule those activities in the late spring and summer, when hockey season has ended.
When I stopped to think about it, we do have many strategies in place to help make our very busy weeks run smoothly:
- Lunch prep on the weekends: We prepare food for the week for the four of us to take in our lunches. We clean and chop fruits and veggies, cook chicken, slice cheese, and fill containers with yogurt, apple sauce, crackers, and meat sticks. If it can be done ahead of time, we do it. This way, when the day is done and the last thing we want to do is make lunches, we don’t have to.
- Dinner prep: My hubby does the grocery shopping and he does it with a meal plan for the week in mind. He knows which days will be particularly crazy and the slow cooker will be our best friend. He knows when the four of us will all be home to eat together and when we’ll be eating in shifts. Preparing in advance for what our dinners will look like is a key part of our success.
- Everything goes in the calendar: With multiple places to be on any given day, our calendars are our best friend. My children’s hockey teams have calendars I can subscribe to so every game, practice, and team event is automatically added to the calendar on my phone. For everything else – the birthday parties, school sports, playdates, etc. – my husband and I add it to our calendars so we don’t miss anything. I know many families who prefer to have a large calendar posted in their house, often in the kitchen. You do whatever works best for you. For me, I like to have my calendar with me so I can easily check what’s happening next.
- Adequate sleep: Our children know that bedtimes are not based on age; they’re based on how much sleep they each require. When my daughter turned 8, we didn’t make her bedtime later because she still requires the same amount of sleep now that she did when she was 7. When she has early morning practices, she goes to bed a half hour earlier. As our son is getting older, he occasionally has sports that go beyond his usual bedtime. If he’s feeling tired the next day, he needs to go to bed a bit earlier that night. Adequate sleep keeps the grouchiness at bay – for all of us.
- Schedule down time: When there are gaps in our schedule, we preserve them. It may be a weeknight with no activities or a Saturday afternoon at home. Sometimes we have to say “no” to invitations in order to maintain our down time. It’s not a bad thing and I don’t feel guilty if I think we will all benefit from some quiet time at home.
- Divide and conquer: My husband and I share the responsibility of getting our kids off to their activities. If it’s not possible, like when one of us is working later, we have a network of moms and dads that help each other out. And we’re happy to return the favor. It might mean one family takes care of drop-off and another does pick-up. It’s an easy way to help each other and it makes the day less hectic.
Written by: Erin Agnello, BA/BEd/OCT
Edited & Designed by: Christina Denham
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.