When I went back to work after I gave birth to my daughter, my husband and I were each working about 60 hours a week. We’d often eat dinner at 9:00 pm while hovered over our computers finishing off the day’s work. It was a schedule that worked for us with an infant that had no interests beyond milk and sleep.
As she got older, we wanted to put her in extracurriculars, but there were very limited options that worked with our schedules. We settled on two classes in a row on Saturday mornings, but ultimately cancelled them because too many conflicts arose with birthday parties and other obligations, and it was impossible to get make up classes on the weekend. After my daughter begged to get back into her classes, we decided to give it another shot. Here are a few tips that we’ve found helpful as we learn to juggle extracurriculars and two full-time work schedules.
Time is On Your Side
Statistically, our kids aren’t going to be professional athletes or famous artists, so there’s no need to land on their chosen activity by the time they’re three. Sure, if the show a propensity for, and more importantly, an interest in, something specific, we will encourage it, but there is plenty of time to try out all kinds of activities and see what sticks.
Less is More
Before we had kids, I talked a lot about wanting to give my hypothetical children exposure to every activity out there so they can “find their passion.” Then we actually had kids, and I could barely find time to bathe them on a regular schedule, let alone put them in sports and dance and Latin and art and violin.
We can still let our kids explore their interests even with limited time. It just might take some time (see first point above). Look for an “intro to sports” class for toddlers where they are introduced to a different sport each week. You can also try different activities by season–indoor activities like art and dance can be done in winter (as if that really affects us here in California).
Most importantly, we have vowed not to overcommit our children or ourselves. Studies show that overcommitted kids and harried parents are way too stressed. For now at least, we are sticking to no more than two commitments each week, and that includes both kids. Overlapping classes at the same center can allow both kids to explore two different activities.
Despite your best intentions, you don’t have full control over this, including what activities your kids enjoy and what kinds of scheduling options are available. Wherever possible, find creative ways to make it happen. Can you carpool with a neighbor or school friend? Are grandparents available to shuttle and support them as part of a special bonding experience? Can you coordinate an alternative work schedule once or twice a week? If finances allow and it works for your family, would a nanny or mommy’s helper make the schedules more bearable?
Like many aspects of parenting, managing extracurriculars is an art form (is there an after-school class on this?) and schedules will change all the time. I know that we, personally, haven’t even scraped the tip of the iceberg on this subject since our kids are so young, so share your sanity-saving tips in the comments!