With fathers stepping up more and mothers in the workforce, expect to also spend time managing the family activities while mom’s away. And with sufficient planning and preparation, there’s no reason that it should be a terrible experience. It can frankly be liberating to realize that you can also manage it successfully.
Again, the key is to know the calendar, schedule and routine and then plan accordingly.
The situation is easiest when the children are young and not involved in activities. Remember that kids do best when they have a routine to follow and knowing that routine is important since the kids are liable to miss Mom, which can throw them off. If you have your own activities apart from work, then you should consider just foregoing them during the absence in order to lessen the stress. When you get home with the kids, get dinner ready and then after feeding them, start the bathing process. Understand that small children shouldn’t be left alone in a bathtub, so don’t expect to do other things while that process is ongoing. After bathing, then pull together clothing for the next day and make any other preparations requiring light in the child’s room. When you finish tucking in the kids, then you move to preparations for the next day – making lunches, cleaning up, whatever necessary. And then top it off by looking at the next day’s schedule again.
If the kids are old enough to have activities, then what happens is akin to choreography. Activities implies school, which means that one of the first things that happens on your arrival is a review of the backpack. What homework is there and when is it due? Are there forms to return or announcements that require an update of the family calendar? In the PracticalDad household, all good things flow from the schoolwork. When that doesn’t happen, other things don’t happen.
Where do they have to be and when, and how does dinner happen? Is there the opportunity to sit for a brief meal together or will it happen on the road? While I do sometimes spring for fast food in a pinch, I try to avoid it if possible and have even packed sandwiches for the car ride. The backpack is everpresent and those not involved in the activity can finish schoolwork while the other(s) do their thing. Along with the backpack should also be other activities for after the schoolwork, including books, toys and electronic devices.
If you’ve looked ahead, you have the time to arrange other transportation if possible. Can other parents split driving? Can you call in a favor from a trusted friend? These do make life easier.
When the activities are done, then the bath/shower/bedtime prep can occur. Part of this preparation is seeing what the next day’s clothing will be. Your kids might be old enough to complain that they can dress themselves without your help and why do you always insist on treating them like children? Thank you! However, they are young enough to complain the next morning if they don’t have clean underwear and how can you be such a slackard for not making sure that I have clean underwear at least? Thanks alot! If your kids pack, this would also be the opportunity to have lunches made, whether by you or them.
When they are finally almost ready for bed – or in bed – then you can move on preparing for tomorrow and again, checking the calendar and planning accordingly.
These days will wear you out and these are clearly the times when you simply have to suck it up and make it happen. But the satisfaction from making it happen is worth the wear.
Plan on it.