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September 4, 2013

The Together. . . Parent?!?!

This is definitively not a self-help blog. And I try to keep it reasonably professional. However, I thought I would pull back the curtain on a frequently asked question I get around working parenthood: How do you keep it Together at work AND at home?!?

First off, I’m no expert, and I’m just trying to hold down the fort like everyone else. And I’m not a neatnik. I specialize in TIME management, not STUFF management—though I do love my laminator as much as the next person. Joke, people, joke. I may or may not have a laminator at home. I will never tell.

Full disclosure: Want to know why there have not been as many blog posts this month? Because yours truly has interviewed upwards of 15 babysitters and cannot find one she loves enough to entrust with her baby and three-nager!

So, yours truly begged her amazing editorial buddy and friend, Marin, to come stay with us for a week. Marin has a gift with words (and is also a former kindergarten teacher and elementary principal), but it turns out she is also like Mary Poppins. We were sad to see her leave, especially since she appeared to tame the grumpy counter-top height troll that wanders our house looking for granola bars.

Since my lovely husband is home with the kids in the summer, we’ve been scrambling to find the right person to be with our little people while he starts the school year (Jack teaches sixth grade) and I run around the country.

All of THAT drama aside, for those of you who juggle teaching full-time PLUS full-time children, well, we know it is not easy. And I’m no expert. And I’m not interested in having a color-coded household. Just together ENOUGH to control the chaos slightly so we can sleep enough at night and have fun with our family time. Here are a few tips we’ve gathered to help you keep Together at home (we promise not to become Real Simple magazine, we promise!).

  • Keep a master shared family calendar, preferably digital. Create a Google or Outlook calendar into which all adults and able children can enter events, deadlines, and the like. Get all the family birthdays in there, weddings, birthday parties, school holidays, early dismissals, after-school clubs, parent date nights and more. It was a pain to enter all of my husband’s school calendar and my daughter’s preschool calendar dates (bless those districts who have that nifty download to Outlook/Google Option!), but it was worth it to find out early our spring breaks don’t match up!
  • Create a short-term visual version to hang up at home, so everyone can see it. A weekly extraction often works well. Here is a version from a friend of mine who is juggling three children and a full-time job:

photo (13)

  • Meal plan for the week and “publish” said meal plan. Who wants to think about what’s for dinner at 5:30 PM after a full day’s work with whiny hungry children hanging off your leg? My own efficient teacher of a mother used to put one person in charge of dinner each night of the week. By the time I was eight, I was making a stovetop tuna casserole for the fam! If you don’t want to go that far, make sure it’s someone’s job on the weekends to plan out the meals, shop for the food and pre-chop any ingredients. Bonus points if you can portion out food for school lunches for you and the kids. This will save you from frozen pizza—except when you feel like it, of course!
  • Have a super clear division of labor between and among all adults and able children. Usually either no one sweats it or everyone sweats it. Let’s make sure someone is DOING it. Make it clear who is responsible for what, so arguments like who-is-picking-up-the-drycleaning-I-have-no-clean-shirts never again need to happen in your home. I cook (or better said, I ASSEMBLE, meals), and my husband does nightly clean. He does the laundry, I pay the bills. And so on. And we revisit when circumstances change.
  • Create a family information sheet and keep it current. Have one place for everyone’s social security numbers, blood types, credit card account numbers, that darn Time Warner account PIN, car license plate numbers, retirement funds, etc. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I know security is a huge issue, but put it somewhere secure and be done with it. The alternative is that each person stores a certain amount of this info in their own individual system and then the family scrambles when the pediatrician requests vaccination records! We each keep a printed copy because you never know when you will be at the bank and need your spouse’s social security number! Make it digital or make it paper, but get it all in one place. Here’s a template that our family uses:

Together Parent Template

This is a small start. As you already know, it takes a lot more to get families Together, so you can have more fun with your limited free time.

We are working on a little guide for Together Parenting (mostly for selfish reasons). I have a lot of friends and colleagues with great tips to share. Stay tuned! And share away!

Discussion Question: How do you juggle family and work?

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