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7 Semi-Radical Tips For Working Parents to Simplify the Family Schedule

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In a perfect world with limitless amounts of free time and access to an overflowing budget, our kids would be on multiple sports teams, we’d attend every PTA meeting, and laundry hampers would always be empty. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough time in the day. Some will say that the following tips are too limiting, but until scientists figure out a way to get through the week without sleep, drastic budgetary decisions need to be made to our schedules.

1.  One Kid, One Major Extracurricular Activity
Each kid gets to choose ONE time- and money-consuming activity. Let your children pick their favorite, most beloved sport/hobby/artistic endeavor, and give yourself (and your bank balance) a break. This especially applies when you have multiple children. I have two girls and each got to pick one activity–difficult decisions were made, but there just wasn’t enough time in the week for them to make all of their practices and still carve out time for after school staples like homework, meals, and baths.
Why will some people frown on this…
Some of the world’s greatest pro athletes say the best thing they ever did was play multiple sports which allowed them to choose what they accelerated at most. Good point, but the sooner you can identify your child’s sport of choice, the sooner you can streamline the weekly family schedule.

2.  Give all Your Charitable Time to One Cause
It’s easy to want to become involved in a group for church, one for work, one for the kids’ school, etc. It feels great to help out, and it’s a noble goal, but almost impossible to pull off. Find an organization and give all your budgeted time to it. Your efforts are much more valuable if you give a cause 100 percent of your focused attention (as opposed to spreading yourself thin over multiple efforts).
Why will some people frown on this…
We’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that the more PTA meetings we run, the more food banks we organize, the more square miles of beach we clean, make us better people. (Some competitive parents like to tally up their volunteer hours and ask you how many you’ve clocked in.) Remember this: it’s not a competition between you and other parents to volunteer the most hours at your kids’ school; church; or the local homeless shelter. Don’t feel guilty because you missed a random fund raising event, feel great that you’re a reliable volunteer with the cause you work for.

3.  Accept One Invite a Month to a Party/Social Event per Child
Here’s a real-life scenario that happens at least two times every school year: One of my kids has been invited to three birthday parties in one month–in some cases, two or more of these parties land on the same Saturday. Again, you don’t want to deny your kids the sheet cake and goodie bags they so richly deserve, but it’s impossible to accept every invitation to Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Why will some people frown on this…
“You’re going to deny your kid from going to a birthday party? How could you?” is what you might hear if you follow this tip, but it’s a loose suggestion–maybe you can accept every invitation your kid brings home in their backpack. Just don’t feel like a failed parent if you can’t make every party. A heartfelt explanation to your child is all it’ll take. Plus, they can always take the present they’d have given the birthday boy/girl to school or better yet, schedule a home delivery.

4.  Buy Random Presents (on Sale) When You Can
In a tip that nicely dovetails with tip #3, buy a nice $20 birthday present when you can and simply put it in a designated closet somewhere. Why? Because instead of rushing off to Target to haphazardly find a gift the day of a birthday party your child was invited to, you’ll have a nice stock of presents at home. This works! I always have several presents for birthdays that come up.
Why will some people frown on this…
Lots of people will say that kids deserve a personalized gift–sure, that’s a nice touch. If the birthday girl loves science, a starter microscope would make for an excellent gift. But there are lots of other thoughtful possibilities for gifts–books, puzzles, art supplies–all timeless.

5.  Eat a Simple Dinner, Once a Week
Carve free time out of one of your nights by prepping a simple dinner that doesn’t require you to use every pot, pan and measuring cup in your kitchen. Maybe sandwiches with soup and veggies or a simple Crock-pot meal, both which are great choices. Then use the extra time to plan meals for the entire week, and hit the grocery store for what you need to make the rest of the week happen. Planning meals saves hours and eliminating the stress of trying to figure out what the family’s going to eat on any given night will be invaluable.
Why will some people frown on this…
Some people might frown on an unelaborate meal and insist on complicated three-course dinners, Monday through Sunday. It’s an aspiration I wish to achieve one day. Until then, it’s turkey sandwiches, mixed veggies and simple garden salads every Monday night.

6.  One Load of Laundry Every Other Day
Don’t let your hampers overflow until the weekend. Not only is a mountain of dirty laundry intimidating–it’s dangerous. I’m not going to gross you out with details, but mold, bacteria, microorganisms–they just love damp, dirty laundry. One load a night (or every other night) sounds doable, and it’ll severely lessen the laundry time over the weekend.
Why will some people frown on this…
There are some people who stress that getting one big task done all at once is better for personal time management. These people probably don’t have to wash, iron, fold and put away clean clothes for a family of four for the entire week.

7.  Establish a Time When Your Household Starts Winding Down
I start prepping for bedtime at 7:30 p.m. each night. I go over any homework issues (there are always issues), read a story, brush teeth, and get kids in the bed by 8:30 p.m.. Having a firm bedtime will increase your alone time with your spouse, as well as establish a routine that the kids are accustomed to, and more willing to follow.
Why will some people frown on this…
Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with this tip. Anyone with kids knows that they’ll drag anything that has to do with personal hygiene out until 10:30 p.m. if you let them. Embrace #7!

Photo: Getty Images

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