Parenting: How to balance weekends

October 14, 2010

After a busy week balancing work, errands and child care, it would be nice to put up your feet for a few hours and take a breather. That doesn't happen when you have a toddler and from what relatives and friends have told me, it gets even worse as kids grow up and become involved in sports or other extracurricular activities.

But during the baby and toddler years, weekends are a unique balance of playtime to get all that energy out, family time, couple time and household chores. A lot of parents I talk to say they often find themselves putting off errands and chores they need to finish in exchange for playtime or visiting extended family. Especially in a household where both parents work and the only playtime or quality time they get during the week with their children is an hour in the morning and an hour before they go to bed. That leaves weekends to really enjoy each other as a family and enjoy some of the activities toddlers are just starting to enjoy.

The problem with putting all these things off is errands and responsibilities really start to really pile up and before you know it you have five days worth of projects you need to complete and no time for play. So how do you balance it all without feeling guilty about dragging your toddler to the Home Depot for the afternoon or encourage her to play with blocks while you're obviously distracted with trying to pay the bills?

First step is get really good at time management. The great thing about toddlers is they nap! I try to plan as much as I can within the two and a half hour window we get in the afternoon while Sienna is sleeping.

The second thing I've learned is that errands and "alone time" for the baby can actually be good for his or her development. What I've had to get used to as a mom is realize that life goes on even when you have a little one who demands a lot of attention. Life might be altered but it does go on. You can't always take shortcuts. I'm sure this is not news for moms and dads of two or three kids, but when you're still getting used to life as a new parent can be a challenge. I truly believe that when children get used to being in the car or going along for a trip to the grocery store, they learn patience. I've also noticed that Sienna learns to entertain herself even when she's in a stroller. Toddlers are so busy absorbing and marveling at the world around them, I hardly think they notice the monotony of shopping for a winter coat.

Here's the most important tip. Resign yourself to the fact you just can't get as many things done in one day as you used to. You have to schedule everything around and in between naps, meals and temper tantrums. It's not easy and you don't have big windows of time. Try to take some time Friday night to plan out how and what you are going to get accomplished over the weekend. But remember to be flexible. Toddlers are unpredictable and too young to rationalize or compromise with.

To extend the time you do have to get things done... try devoting part of the day to your toddler. For instance if you need an hour to go to the grocery store or get a birthday present... make sure you spend at least 45 minutes BEFORE hand, going to the park, or the zoo or giving your baby full attention. It will allow the baby to expend much needed energy and it will allow you to feel good about time you've put aside just for baby.

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