Organizing the Family Schedule

Creating a schedule for yourself is one thing. But scheduling the whole family? It can be like herding cats, particularly if several members of the family have different schedule styles or rarely check the family calendar.

In our house, Ash and I approach scheduling differently. While we have a shared calendar, how we maintain it differs. This doesn’t cause conflict, but we had a conversation a few weeks ago over how I schedule things does not work for him and vice versa. It was an interesting conversation and gave me more insight into how his internal logic works.

Communication is key to any relationship, so setting up a family schedule that everyone has access to and can update helps keep everything straight to avoid conflict and double-booking.

Analog or Digital Calendars: Why Not Both?

We have several different ways we highlight the month’s schedule in our household: analog and digital. In our closet, we have a hanging whiteboard that I update every month with the main activities going on in the household. Ash’s roleplaying games, Jai’s playdates, my appointments.

This helps me plan out my day as I am getting dressed. Do I wear nice clothes for that appointment/coffee date? Or do I spend the day in comfortable clothes because we’re staying home all day?

It allows for quick reminders and conversations that we might need to have in the morning before Ash leaves for work or I go for my morning run.

Digitally, Ash and I have a family calendar that we share together that contains the events pertaining to the family as a whole. Additionally, we keep separate calendars for our own activities, but we mutually share them so we’re aware of each other’s schedules.

Ash put down a reoccurring event in his calendar that highlights two days each week he can help me out should I need it. That way, if I am in the middle of setting up an appointment, but know that Ash will be the only one to watch Jai during that appointment, I can schedule it for a day that won’t conflict the most with his work schedule.

Likewise, Ash knows when he’s able to schedule is medical and social events around me because he can see everything on the family and my personal calendars. Once Jai is old enough, he’ll gain access to and control over his own calendar which will sync with ours so he can be responsible for his own activities.

It seems like common sense, but I’ve seen in several different parenting forums about the struggle of maintaining a common calendar between partners and children. It can be hard to set up, but if using a digital platform, easy to maintain.

Creating a Natural Routine

Anecdotally, I have found that for Jai and myself, maintaining a consistent daily routine lowers our stress. When I know what I am doing and it helps alleviate my problems with short-term memory. Jai is extremely easy-going, but if his daily routine changes too much, he becomes clingy until things return to normal.

As long as I respect his needs, I find his neediness to be no issue and easy to resolve with patience.

In July, Jai’s daily routine was disturbed for a week on a family trip. Ash and I tried to maintain the same basic routine during this week, but it wasn’t always possible to stick with it due to extenuating circumstances.

When we got back, Jai, for a week-and-a-half, dealt with night terrors and struggled to get back into his normal routine. We managed through patience and Jai transitioned to his normal schedule in no time.

While I already knew that having a routine is recommended for all parents, seeing how the disruption impacted Jai emotionally was proof enough I needed to make sure we stuck with his routine as much as possible when changing environments. I resolved that when we were in a new location again we’d work to stick with his normal routine for his comfort, even if it was inconvenient for us.

As Jai grew from a newborn to a baby and baby to a toddler, I followed his natural routine as much as possible, while encouraging the circadian rhythm (no nocturnal babies in our house). Now that he’s a toddler, his routine aligns with ours, though he still gets up earlier than us most mornings.

By following his natural routine, I made sure to fit the family schedule within those parameters.

Setting up a playdate? I try to schedule it around naptime. Want to start a new toddler class? Do I need to pack a lunch afterward because it occurs during his meal? I try to be mindful of how I know his mood and energy-level will be when it comes to incorporating new things into his schedule.

It’s not easy to adjust my routine and schedule to him, but I have found that by creating structure in his schedule, it’s created a lot of needed structure in my own.

Flexibility, Again

Like I mentioned at the end of Monday’s post, maintaining flexibility in the family routine helps lower stress. There are going to be appointments that must be made, events that need to be attended, so there is limited flexibility in those areas, but recognizing a child’s abilities and energy when making them helps.

Jai takes swimming lessons on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, while the lessons are wonderful and he seems to enjoy them, they fall right in the middle of his morning nap. This means his mood is touch-and-go based on how he tired he is that morning. In order to accommodate his need to rest, I switched him into an earlier class that allows for us to be back in time for the “end” of his morning nap. He’ll be more likely to sleep, but more importantly, more consistent in his mood during the swim lessons.

What has worked the best for us is being open to change, especially as we update the family schedule. Right now, using a shared digital calendar works best for the family, but if a better app or online schedule management system pops up, we’ll switch over to that.

I also find that for both Ash and myself, placing no expectations on non-appointment events (will we make the engagement or not) helps alleviate our overall stress. That way if Jai is in a mood, not feeling well, or my MS is acting up, we don’t feel bad for bowing out in order to take care of ourselves.

How did you create a family schedule/routine that works for you? Why do you think it works? Do you have any suggestions or tips on how to improve routines? Comment with your thoughts below.

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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography

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