4 Essential Methods to Survive the Back to School Calendar as a Work-at-Home Parent
Back-to-school is an exciting time for parents and kids, especially if you've been looking forward to a few more hours each day to yourself. And while I personally homeschool (which means more time with the kids), there are some especially important things you can do right now to ensure a smooth school year that doesn't interrupt your home business -- too much, anyway.
1. Get your calendars in order. If you're like me, you have a Google Calendar, a blog planner, and a big "family" calendar hanging in a common place. Now is the time to be sure that all the info is posted on all calendars for as far out as you have commitments. Doctor's appointments should be in your blog planner, in your phone calendar, and where you spouse can see it. No exceptions.
Hot tip: Do you have some "secret" items that you keep on your secret calendar? I still put these on the family calendar, using abbreviations, stars or other icons to indicate what's going on. Things like weight loss goals, girly doctor visits, etc, should be available on any calendar you check for best possibility of follow through.
2. Teach your family to communicate -- early and often. Notes home from school shouldn't sit in bookbags over the weekend. Husband's shouldn't spring work-related parties on their wives the day of. Wives can't expect kids to read her mind regarding that pesky chore list. Sit together once a day, if even just for 5 minutes, and get out all the new developments that will affect the calendar.
Hot tip: Bring a notebook to your family evening meal (or your phone). Jot down all the new commitments from each family member and go over concerns about conflicts, rides, etc. Make sure you transfer agreed upon commitments directly to all those family calendars!
3. Prepare for changes. I don't need to tell you that your best-laid plans won't happen. Time and time again, we have experience sickness, broken down cars, and weather delays that have all created chaos for our calendars. Be honest about these possibilities and don't cram your calendars full 24/7. Leave a day each week as a buffer to catch up on stuff that didn't get done or to reschedule for the most important stuff. Believe me, you'll need it.
Hot tip: Prioritize calendar items by how important they are, whether they are flexible, and if they affect more than one person. For example, I may want to go to the zoo on Friday as a treat for my kids, but it's not essential. I'll mark that in a different color or assign it an icon that means it can be moved if the worst happens. An interview with a child's teacher, however, should get markings of top priority so that everyone knows it can't be missed.
4. Leave the details to those in charge when you can. My kids are uber-responsible and obsess over the calendar. They want to know what's going on every minute of every day. Since kids can sense and take ownership of your stress, it's best to leave grown up appointments and items that don't affect them in a more cryptic state on your calendar. They don't need to know that dad is going in for a colonoscopy, for example, just put "Dad's checkup" or something similar to keep all those grownup issues out of the kids' circle of concern.
Hot tip: Are you continually disappointing your kids with broken dates and plans? Since we strive to be parents of our word, we never let our kids know when we are going to do something optional and fun. A trip to the pizza place or an evening at the movies will mean more when you just show up, and if your plans are delayed, no one but you will know they were ever made in the first place. (Kids love surprises!)