Valerie and I have both written about activities, about cutting them out and adding them in. Prioritizing them and evaluating them. We have written about the guilt and pressure involved in being there. Like most of you, we tend to stay fairly busy and have a lot going on in our lives than just outside activities. Nonetheless, we always want to give the best to our kids and fit in the activities that matter so you will also find lots of ideas for activities on our blogs (like here and here).
One of the things that I struggle with is fitting in activities in a very narrow window of time. A lot of mom groups are out, many museums/zoos have limited day time hours very similar to my work schedule, weekends are often filled with necessary errands like grocery shopping. It gives me a headache trying to figure out how much family time and when to give up for outside activities sometimes. Yet I don't want my kids to miss out on doing fun and/or important activities like swim lessons or sports because I am out of energy with limited time.
I do think it takes a little bit more creativity to fit in activities, but I am also able to streamline some of my household tasks while I am at work...with no fussy siblings in the background or emergent diaper changes. I will make an insurance phone call during lunch or run by the post office on my way home. I try as much as possible to reserve my time in the evenings as dedicated family time. If necessary, we will reserve one night a week to do grocery shopping so that the weekend is not needed as much for errands. I have also shifted my schedule at my new job 1 hour earlier. While I didn't love going in 1 hour earlier at first, I must say that I love getting home 1 hour earlier. I feel like it actually gives me more than 60 minutes of quality time in the afternoons!
Another thing that I do is discuss every single outside activity with my husband. Together, we evaluate the time commitment, the need, the cost, the impact. We decided that private swim lessons were not in our immediate budget but we ended up doing a fun set of group lessons through a Living Social deal in our area. After much discussion, we let our son go on vacation with his grandparents two days early and are using that time to spend some one on one time with our daughter doing specific activities geared to her age level since she ends up getting grouped in with older brother sometimes. We discuss "me time" activities, church activities, lessons...together.
We are also very protective of our weekends. Our extended family would love for us to come visit more, but we reserve most weekends to stay at home. Sometimes we even block out a "no plans" weekend. We have no events or specific plans, but we purposely keep that weekend open for those fun activities we cannot squeeze in during the weekend or impromptu activities that we may discover. We have done Lowes Build and Grow clinics, homeschool style learning activities (busy bags, preschool packs, arts/crafts), baking, swimming. Occasionally, we do reserve a weekend here or there to go on a more involved activity like camping, but most of the time we stay close to home. While many working moms love to use their weekends to travel or fill with activities, this is the way our family has decided gives us the most balance. It helps me feel more involved in activities I wish I could do like homeschool or baking with my kids.
Balancing activities can be hard for everyone, but I don't think that being a working mom makes it impossible at all. If anything we have learned how to better prioritize, evaluate, and make time for the important activities. I have even taken a day off just to be at home with my family for activity time! We make our activities count, even when they're a bust...kale smoothies or book readings that were cancelled after we arrived. It is a matter of blocking out the time, reserving the time just for the activity, and not over committing yourself even if it means cutting something else out.
Bethany is a working mom of two and blogs at thegracefulmom.com.