Is it just me, or do the weekends sometimes seem harder with the kids than the average weekday? For me, the trouble starts on Friday afternoon. Typically, my husband calls me and asks me what we should do tonight. That’s kind of like asking an inmate at Sing Sing whether they are summering in the Hamptons or on the Vineyard. And so it begins, the persistent lowering of the bar of what we can and can’t do on Saturday and Sunday.
First off, as a parent to small children, Friday night no longer exists. It should be called Sameaseveryothernightday night. You finish your day, relieved. But why do you feel relieved you stupid idiot? There’s no break coming! There’s no babysitter booked! There’s no time machine waiting! There’s just the regular number of hours between when your children fall asleep and when they wake up. For our house, it’s seven measly hours. How on earth are you going to spend the time? Eating what’s left of your kids’ macaroni and cheese, not doing the dishes and falling asleep in front of Supernanny? That sounds about right.
The weekend is broken down into four wickedly short/long shifts: Saturday Morning, Saturday Afternoon, Sunday Morning, Sunday Afternoon. In these non-napping time slots, we usually try to fit in everything that our life requires outside of the work week. Trips to the hardware store, esoteric, yet nagging house chores, conversations with each other as husband as wife, any activity at all as a family. The problem is, our dumb brains wake up on Saturday and still think it’s Saturday (like it was in 1993), instead of realizing it’s the kick off of a “move it or lose it” race against time to keep the children happy, fed, occupied, entertained, rested and subdued. Or as my husband likes to say “let’s keep the kids from getting captured.”
And with disappointment, comes conflict. Invariably, we butt heads, once, twice, maybe one thousand times over trivial things because we’re both desperately clamoring for our weekend time. Or at least, we pine for “the time formerly known as the weekend.” But seeing as how our weekends are the only time we have as a family, it can’t be good for our kids to see us so locked in battle for down time that doesn’t exist. It. just. doesn’t. exist.
So, in the wake of the weekend wreckage, here I type on Sunday night trying to formulate a strategy to survive Saturday and Sunday in tact.
1. Schedule. Just because it’s the weekend, doesn’t mean we should just throw away the idea of a schedule and play everything by ear. Our family always falls into this trap. On the days when we don’t plan anything, the kids are in their pajamas until 11 and we spend the whole morning passively aggressively trying to get the other one to watch the kids while the other one tries to go back to bed. We’re both exhausted and irritated by the time 1:00pm rolls around. A schedule is an objective third-party arbitrator in this case. Activities don’t have to be set in stone, but I think it’s a good idea to lay down some general guidelines about how the hours of the weekend will be spent.
2. Split up. You take one of the four shifts, your partner takes another. Simple as that. Maybe it doesn’t seem fair (especially if you have the kids all week), but it will keep the peace and good will flowing. Everyone needs some alone time to look forward to.
3. Surrender. In the other two shifts, do stuff as a family together. Don’t wish you had a break. Don’t try to multitask. Don’t rush. Surrender to the floor to play with trains. Make the trek to the playground. Get out the arts and crafts supplies. This is your life and there will be a time when you will be nostalgic for it. You won’t remember how tired you were or how unshowered. It seems impossible, but these are the days that memories are made. Make lots of coffee.
4. Short Siesta. Today, after a “family” time slot spent at the Bronx Zoo, I was exhausted. I wanted a break. The kids voices sounded like nails on a chalkboard and I felt like I had taken 100 sleeping pills. Initially, I just announced to my husband that “I was going upstairs.” He looked at me, mouth agape, with frantic and outraged eyes that communicated one simple thought: “Are you fucking kidding me??” He’s a nice husband, so he just said “Go.” I went upstairs, lay on the bed and spaced out for 15 minutes. I realized, that’s all I needed. I came back downstairs, ready to tackle the rest of the afternoon. I realized that this could be a great tool: the 15-minute tap out. It worked for me today and will not require major negotiation in the future, because he can take them too.
5. Sunshine. Vitamin D. Fresh air. Outside play (if possible) leads to longer naps and earlier bedtimes. Enough said.
So, I realize that this may come off as simplistic, idealistic crap, but I find myself in desperate need of coping strategies and plans to survive this wilderness. What about you guys–do you feel the same way about weekends or am I alone in this debacle? What does your family do to keep the peace on Saturday and Sundays?
[Disclaimer: If these Five S’s aren’t helpful, try my other S’s on for size: Smirnoff, Sephora, Since You’ve Been Gone (played loudly on headphones in the privacy of your own home), Sauvignon Blanc and Psychotherapy (phonically, anyway…)