Theresa Giarrusso is taking a few days off of blogging to tackle a couple of family and school projects. Keith Still, a mother of three, will be filling in this week.
Years ago, when we were thinking of having our second – and later, third – child, I remember asking myself whether I would be able to juggle toddler play dates with newborn naptimes; potty-training with infant feedings; or diaper changes with days out at the park. I also looked way ahead and pondered the idea of at least 12 years of college tuition, and in our case, weddings for three daughters.
Looking back, I realize my thinking was incredibly short-sighted. Managing the daily activities and needs of three young children is definitely a lot of work, but the real juggling act came when those kids got lives of their own.
All three of my daughters are in school now, and I’m proud of each one for finding and following her interests. My 6-year-old loves gymnastics. My 9-year-old is a big team-sport player (softball, basketball); and my 12-year-old is my dancing queen. Two days a week, we’re at the gym. Two days a week (occasionally three), we’re at the ball field. Or we’re at the dance studio.
Despite my best efforts to spread out their activities, we have overlaps on occasion. I intentionally scheduled dance and gymnastics on separate days, but the softball games rotate throughout the season. Add a last-minute appointment or end-of-the-school-year choral or band concert to the mix, and it can be a recipe for high-level stress.
Even though we live in the burbs, my husband does a great job at getting home from his office in Atlanta to help out when everyone’s schedules explode. However, it’s not always possible, so I have gotten really good at rescheduling and trading off carpool duties with other moms.
A couple of Mondays ago, my eldest had an orthodontist appointment scheduled at the same time that my youngest was finishing gymnastics and my 9-year-old was starting a softball game. I delivered my softball girl to the park for team warm-ups, ran to the gym to pick up my gymnast, zoomed back to the ball park and rescheduled the orthodontist appointment for the next week. When I told her of the rescheduled appointment, my 12-year-old reminded me that the new time conflicted with something at her school. Fingers crossed that our third attempt (tomorrow) is a charm.
Other times, I have traded mom duties for help in a crunch. I’ll bring another mom’s child home from the ball park when she has a conflict one day, while she keeps an eye on mine during warm ups so I can pick up the other sisters.
Ninety percent of the time, rescheduling or working with other moms fills in the gaps when neither my husband nor I can be in three places at once. It’s really stressful when we simply can’t make everything work, however; and the whole act of rescheduling and calling around for outside help creates its own stress.
I sometimes ask myself if there is an easier way to do this. We have made it a point to limit the kids to one activity each, and have worked out their schedules as best we can. The random activities (like band/choral concerts) are school-related and usually part of the kids’ grades – not a typical extracurricular activity.
I do have an incredibly-organized friend, whose three children are the same ages as mine. Her kids are very involved, but she wisely guided them early on into the same sport – karate. All three are competitive in karate tournaments throughout the state and country. While they spend a lot of time outside of school at lessons and practice, they all go to the same place on the same days and travel together to the same tournaments and competitions.
Knowing my girls’ vastly-different personality types, I’m not sure that would have worked, even if I had the foresight to attempt something like that years ago (which I clearly didn’t)– but I think it’s a brilliant idea.
Despite the madness of our daily lives, I am grateful for it all. I also know that these things don’t last forever – and I’ll one day look at my empty back seat and wish I was still running around from gym to park to dance studio.
How do you handle the stress when your family’s schedules get out of whack? How do you stay organized with multiple schedules to juggle? If you have one child, do you still limit the number of activities?
What’s your activity limit per child? Or do you have a “family limit” where only so many hours per week (no matter how it is divvyed up) can be devoted to outside activities?
Have you ever tried to steer all of your children into the same extracurricular activity to make things easier?