Long gone are the days when kids got off the school bus and played outside until Mom called, Dinner! Whether you work from home, outside the home or are your household’s CEO—moms are very busy these days—and so are our kids.
Today’s children have numerous after-school activities, and parents must coordinate these in what I call a Master Plan.
A Master Plan fits in all the activities and coordinates pick-ups and drop-offs, work schedules and commitments. And most importantly, everyone has access to see it.
If you only have one child, this might not be such a big deal to you. You can probably write down what is scheduled for the week and call it a day. Have two plus kids? Planning gets more complicated. All of the sudden you want to plan a family vacation but realize that Little League has camp that week. There goes your free week!
As a full-time working mom with an infant and two school-aged kids, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to help my family stay organized and sane.
1.Create a master schedule. We have a dry-erase monthly calendar board that I update at the end of each month. This gives the family a visual of the activities planned short-term. It is in a centrally located area and each person is assigned a color. This way, if I’m on the phone and someone asks: “What are you doing Saturday?” I can walk over to the board and answer right away.
2. Digital planning sites. These are online sites with smartphone apps that allow the entire family to access a digital master calendar remotely. I use Cozi because it serves as a central command center for our family where we can coordinate schedules across multiple devices and platforms. Bonus: Grandma can log in and see the activities and schedules of all of the grandkids, or I can email details to her on a read-only URL.
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3. Limit activities. There, I said it. I limit our activities to one (some months two) weekly commitments per child. I want my children to go outside and play, enjoy their childhood at the park or with friends and not spend hours per day being chauffeured from one place to another. I have friends who pick up their children from car line at 2:15pm and do not return home until past 7pm every night. This means there is no family dinner; the kids are doing homework in the car or while waiting for another sibling’s activity to end and they eat fast food 3-4 times per week. The mother is a nervous wreck and well…it’s not working out very well. So spare yourself the stress and limit the activities early on.
4. Bundle activities. This is what I refer to as our Bundled Monday. All after-school activities happen on this crazy day and we enjoy the rest of the week as a family. While I understand that this isn’t always an option, perhaps you could look into having two crazy chauffeuring days each week instead of spreading them out? Plan early and make a plan.
5. Be consistent and have a routine. We might not be the most organized family, but we are consistent in nearly everything that we do. My kids know where and when they will be doing their homework, what is happening for dinner and when we might need to play it by ear.
Each morning on the way to school I verbalize what we will be doing that day. It goes something like this:
“Ok guys! When I pick you up from school today we are going to gymnastics first. Sofia, I’ll need you to change into your ballet clothes there while I am checking your brother into his class. After that, we’ll go to ballet. Alex, when mom picks you up we will go to Starbucks to do homework while we wait for Sofia’s ballet to be finished and then we’ll pick her up. After that, it’s music and home. Kapish?”
It’s pretty much like that every single Monday. This way, as I am trying to rush from one place to another my kids are not stressed—they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
Does our activity-athon happen flawlessly every Monday? No. There is always someone who is sick, needs to go get art supplies or forgot ballet clothes at home. But, since I adopted a “schedule-it-or-else” mentality, I feel a lot more organized and less stressed about our after-school activities.