Making Sure You Don't Get Lost in the Kids

The schedules for the adults in your family include

  • Enrichment activities— Structured classes or activities on topics of interest

  • Hobbies— Enjoyable pursuits in which you get absorbed for hours at a time

  • Socializing— Getting together with people outside of your family

  • Free time— Moments of peace that spark energy and creativity

  • Sleep— Adequate rest so you can function optimally when you're awake


Don't wait up! Instead of waiting up and losing sleep to see whether your teenager gets home safely and on time, try this technique:

  1. Agree on the time by which your teenager is to be home.

  2. Set an alarm clock just outside your bedroom for the agreed curfew time.

  3. Instruct your teenager to turn off the alarm setting as soon as he returns home.

If your teen fails to meet his responsibilities, the alarm clock will wake you up, and you can deal with the situation. On the other hand, if your teen gets home on time and disarms the clock, you won't have to interrupt your good night's sleep.

Still, we know that there's a tendency to make these facets of the family's schedule the first to go when time gets tight either because of outside pressures from work or another family member who wants to add an activity. But no one looks out for the well-being of the adults if they don't look out for it themselves.

One way to ensure that you'll take time out from your family duties is for you to volunteer your time doing something you enjoy. By making a commitment to someone outside of your family, you'll create a sense of obligation that will cause you to be more diligent in following through. Whereas dropping an activity you enjoy is easy when you're the only one affected, you'll be hesitant to drop the activity when others are depending on you.


After you establish a reputation for being a dependable volunteer, you'll be asked to donate even more time. You must be realistic in how much volunteer time your family's schedule can allow. Practice saying “no”—politely but firmly—so you don't get caught off guard.

Another practice the adults in the family can establish to make sure that all of their time isn't consumed by work and kids is a weekly adults' night out. Make ongoing arrangements for the children on the same night of every week. Preferably, the children will go somewhere away from the home so that even if the parents don't have anyplace in particular to go, they can have the evening free. The key to making an adults' night out work is getting it into your family's planner and not changing it for any other optional event that may come along.


If you're looking for alternatives to traditional paid babysitters, consider the following suggestions:

  • Grandparents— If your children have grandparents in town, chances are both the children and the grandparents would like to be able to spend some time together without you. If the children are young and/or don't need to be at school the next day, perhaps they can spend the night and be picked up the next morning. That way, you can stay out late without having to be concerned about the children's or the grandparents' bedtimes.

  • Family and friends— If you have relatives or friends who also have children, you can arrange to have them watch your children one evening in exchange for you watching theirs another one. Again, if the children can spend the night, too, then you can extend your evening out a little later. If all of the children attend the same school(s), you may even be able to continue this arrangement during the school year.

  • Community programs— Sometimes finding an alternative to paid babysitters is just a matter of finding an evening program in which your children can participate while the adults do something elsewhere.

Achieving Balance

A family's schedule will stay organized when everyone in the family is committed to it. And that commitment will develop if everyone in the family has a sense that the schedule is fair. This sense of fairness will exist when

  • You've assigned everyone in the family an appropriate share of the work.

  • You've given everyone's interests an equal amount of attention.

  • Your expectations of how much the family will accomplish are not impossible or unreasonable.


    Here are four quick ways to free up time:

    • Stop watching daytime television.

    • Take advantage of free services such as in-store gift wrapping and automatic payroll depositing.

    • Establish a separate email address to use for non-personal contacts.

    • Concentrate on what you're doing instead of talking on your cell phone at the same time.

  • Everyone knows that you've planned the schedule carefully, you update the schedule regularly, and you'll adjust the schedule if there's a good reason to do it.

You therefore should work to balance two different aspects of your family's schedule: the mix of each individual's activities and the distribution of activities among the family's members.
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