Tips For Finding Balance in the Busy Season of Parenting

“Seasons”. I used to mark them in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.

Now it’s more like the season of breastfeeding which makes way for the season of potty training. After that, the season of school and summer break. Right now, I’m entering the “busy season” of parenting. The one where my kids are involved in a number of activities and can’t drive themselves (this is a long season!).

With 3 kids ranging from 5-8 years old, I can only imagine this season of my life will get harder before it gets easier.

It’s a blessing to be busy in some ways. But it also feels impossible at times. With two parents and three kids, there are going to be times where we are stretched too thin.

I asked some other mom friends for their advice in this busy season and have compiled a list of tips that will hopefully be of value to other parents in this same season.

1. The Family Calendar is an Absolute MUST

This was the number one common theme/answer when asking moms how they achieve balance. And I couldn’t agree more! We have a very large dry erase calendar in a high traffic area of the house that I make sure always has the current week and the following week updated. Most of the time, activities and plans are listed a month out on our calendar.

I’m old fashioned in that I enjoy this method more than a digital calendar, and I think part of that is my Type A personality wanting to check it off when we are done! It’s also kind of nice to not always have to commit to plans on the spot — I’m being truthful when I say, “I’ll have to go home and check the calendar!”

Many moms I talked to opt for a digital calendar. They mentioned Cozi, Skylight, shared Google Calendar, and shared Google Docs as some of the ways they stay in sync with their family members.

“We use the Cozi app on our phones and then the Skylight calendar at home. It’s nice for the kids to see the activities they have that week so the Skylight calendar has been great for that. Color coding each kid has also been essential! I look at the Cozi app 5+ times a day. It’s nice that once the activity has been done/past the time, it grays it out. Almost like crossing off the item when complete.” -Caroline H

2. Set Boundaries On Number of Activities Per Kid

When I was younger, sports were always seasonal. It was rare that I would ever be in more than one thing at once because there wasn’t as much going on (or at least that’s how I remember it). Now, with traveling sports and sports clubs, many of these sports can go year round if you want them to.

I think it’s wise to set a boundary on number of activities per child to maximum of 2 at a time. Maybe this is softball and piano lessons, or karate and swimming lessons, or basketball and gymnastics.

With more involved activities (meeting 3+ times per week), a boundary of one activity at a time may be best. It’s not just adults that get burned out. Unstructured time is crucial for kids, so as much as we want to maximize what they’re getting out of life, we can do more harm than good if we don’t leave time for rest and free play.

3. Just Because One Kid is Doing It Doesn’t Mean They All Have To

“One of the traps I think parents fall into when kids are young is the idea that if they get one kid involved in an activity, they have to do it for the other kid too. I think that’s not necessarily true and can make it super overwhelming and unsustainable. Our youngest was just a tag along for awhile, he was okay with it and so were we!” -Shannon W

4. Don’t Force It

It’s good for kids to try new things. Sometimes they are excited and other times it might be something the parent has more interest in than the child. I think it’s perfectly okay for parents to encourage kids to pursue activities the parent has a passion for (mine is basketball), but it’s important to recognize if a child has tried it and it is clearly not their thing.

“To me, it’s not worth the financial commitment, driving time, and mental load of doing it if it’s something that they aren’t enjoying, so that’s a strong boundary for me.” -Shannon W

5. Use This Season As An Opportunity to Teach Kids Independence

One mom I talked to said she tells the kids each morning what the schedule is so they know what to expect. This is good for preparing kids mentally so for instance, they don’t make plans with friends on the bus to hang out after school because they know they have baseball practice.

Depending on age and maturity level, it’s wise to try and delegate as much responsibility to the kids for their own activities as possible. What that looks like for me with my 8 and 7 year old is setting their gear out for them and expecting them to know they need to change into it when they get home for school. Before we leave, I ask them about the checklist of things they need and expect them to remember (water bottle, change of shoes, knee pads, headband, basketball, etc).

Obviously, we as parents are here to help. But doing everything for them is exhausting and can feed resentment. Giving them the gift of independence and confidence in their own decision making is a noble parenting goal.

6. Divide and Conquer

“Find neighbors and teammates that can help with carpool. You will not be able to transport and attend every activity. I like to say we play zone defense with three kids!” -Megan Y

“Get a minivan!” -Alicia T

7. Meal and Snack Prep

“Decide dinner ahead of time when possible. This is more for my own anxiety and stress. If I know we’re going to have to eat concessions, my mind won’t wonder off to what I need to grab at the store! Some days it just isn’t going to happen because we aren’t home from 4-9pm, so we’re going to have to eat at concessions or pack a cooler! Also, Sam’s Club/Costco is your friend! Bulk, prepackaged snacks are perfect to have in the pantry for kids to grab on their way out the door or to toss in the cooler with Gatorades and waters!” -Tasha A

8. Activity/Gear Closet

This is something we started doing recently. We use a small closet in the house that holds blankets/linens and just utilize a small portion of it. I have fabric storage bins for the kids and this is where all the “stuff” ends up, usually during an off season. I’m talking basketball jerseys, shoes, wrestling headgear and singlet, baseball gloves, volleyball kneepads, etc. I also use this closet for swimsuit storage and towels.

It’s been a really great organizational thing for me because I know that’s the first place to look for sports gear and equipment. It also helps me as I prepare for upcoming sports seasons to check and see if they have outgrown their gear and need bigger sizes.

“We have a backpack/bag for each sport so that we can keep everything organized and ready to go. This was after showing up to basketball practice with a bag full of dance shoes.” -Kim B

9. It’s OKAY to Say No

This one is probably self-explanatory but it’s good to have a reminder. There’s enough “mom guilt” to go around about every small thing, so don’t feel pressure to join an activity or stay in one just because everyone else is doing it. You will know what’s right for your child, and it will likely differ between each child!

This idea can extend beyond activities to other get togethers as well. As much as I want to attend every single social gathering and fun community event, there is only so much time in a day. Prioritize what will feed your soul. A wise man once told me, “Typically, things that are life-giving will bring you joy.” If there’s no joy, maybe that’s a sign.

10. Plan Rest Days

“We plan rest days. Days we will not leave home, we will not have company, we will not plan anything except to just chill. Those days are so important!” -Bri H

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