Great news: your child has been accepted into a renowned dance programme/made the rep hockey team. They are ecstatic and you couldn’t be prouder. And now the not-so-great news: better engrave that chauffeur cap you’re wearing because it’s about to see a lot more action. The after-school activity chaos is about to begin.
The struggle to balance kids’ never-ending activities with your sanity can be overwhelming. Financial considerations aside, some families may opt to cut back to reduce the chaos. But, for those who find themselves getting more ice time than an NHL player, keep these tips in mind to avoid a full-blown meltdown (parents included). After all, planning is the name of the game.
5 Tips to Survive After-School Activity Chaos
Find a carpool comrade
Coordinating schedules with multiple pick-ups and drop-offs can be overwhelming, so know when it’s time to call in for reinforcements. If you can manage to enroll your kids in the same activities as their friends or neighbours, you’re already on the right track (cue victory dance). But if that’s not doable, get to know the parents of the kids enrolled in your child’s activity to determine if there’s carpool potential. Chances are you’ll get to know them very well if your kids continue pursuing the same activity.
Pack snacks in advance
Regret is a six-letter word that comes to me almost daily at 3:15 p.m. We’ve breathlessly arrived home from school pick-up and are mid-way through the mad dash to get back out the door when I remind myself that I should have organized snacks ahead of time. Setting aside parent-approved grab-and-go snacks that are easily accessible for kids to reach, or preparing an extra helping of cut fruit and veggies when making lunches are a few of the ways you can save time later. Your future self will thank you.
Identify quick-and-easy meal solutions
There’s no time to ponder “What’s for dinner?” while you’re breaking a sweat as you tighten the laces on your kid’s figure skates. Plan meals before the start of the week so that you can hit the ice, er, ground running and choose meals that don’t require a degree in culinary school. Meal prep in advance as much as you can and cultivate a list of slow cooker meals with leftovers that can be used for school lunches. And there’s no shame in hitting up the drive-thru… that’s where you’ll find me every Thursday night!
Find ways to make the wait … great
Mom guilt can hit me while I’m sitting in the car with one kid while her sister is at dance class. I worry that her time could be better spent than doing the after-school activity shuffle. But I choose to overcome that guilt by maximizing our time together – we take a walk, grab a hot chocolate at a local café, or pull out the pile of schoolwork we’re supposed to stay on top of. Admittedly, some days are spent running errands but even that time can be an opportunity to catch up on all the Grade 1 gossip.
Be kind to yourself…
Snacks are forgotten, classes are missed, dinners are less than desirable – every day has its own set of challenges. Remember that we’re all doing the best we can and sometimes that requires lowering our own expectations. Overcome the guilt and take the steps you need to get through the daily grind intact. There’s always tomorrow and a new set of activities that will make you feel like you’ve run a marathon.