One of the questions people often ask me is “How do you manage all the kids and their activities?”
It can definitely be a challenge.
But a couple years of practice under my belt has helped me to nail down a system that works pretty well and adjust when needed.
Back in April we made a pretty big change and changed swim teams. This is significant because our new team is a 40 – 60 minute commute (one way), depending on traffic, and four of the kids are on the team and in three different practice groups.
This means they practice at different times, so we are sometimes at the pool for three-and-a-half hours. With the commute added in, we leave the house around 4:00 and get home around 9:30 a couple days a week.
So the first thing I do to make things manageable is limit the activities the kids participate in. This fall, it’s pretty much just swimming. We didn’t do baseball or soccer or anything else for the younger three (except cub scouts for Number 6, but that only meets a couple times a month, so it’s manageable).
Number 3 and 4 are also doing middle school cross country, but that’s right after school, it’s free, it’s only a couple times a week and the season is only like five weeks long, and they walk home from practice and get home about the same time the younger three do on those days. So I don’t have to drive them anywhere, and it gives me another hour without kids on those days.
So that’s the first thing I do to make it manageable. SET LIMITS.
Next, I have rigged my car up so that I don’t have to constantly pack and unpack things that I’ll need to feed the kids.
I shared this in this post a few months ago, but here is what the back of my car looks like:
The plastic drawers have extra clothes, snack stuff, paper cups, utensils, napkins, etc. So I don’t have to pack and unpack that stuff every day when it’s time to go.
In the spring I had mostly junk in the cooler, but now I have my act together a little bit better and I’m packing healthier stuff for us to eat.
I have been pretty consistent about prepping some healthy options and having it portioned into containers in the fridge, so about a half hour before we have to leave, I grab some stuff out of the fridge and throw it in the cooler in the car. I have an insulated bag from Costco I use as well.
We are fortunate to have picnic tables at the pool where you are allowed to eat.
On Wednesdays, Number 5 and 7 have practice from 5 – 6, Number 3 from 5:30 – 8, and Number 4 from 6:15 – 8:30. Mondays and Fridays we get there a little bit later, but it’s pretty much the same deal. So three days a week, this is what we do.
As soon as the younger kids get off the bus, we get into the car and head to the pool.
I always have some food prepared for them to eat in the car on the way to the pool. (Yesterday everyone had chicken strips or chicken nuggets).
When the younger two are done with their practice, we have about two hours to wait around on Wednesday nights, so there is plenty of time to get stuff done.
I often use that time to french braid Number 7’s hair, so I don’t have to deal with it in the morning. It’s much easier to do when it’s wet anyway, so this is the perfect time. I can often get two days out of those braids!
Then we get homework done and eat.
(Number 7 doesn’t mess around with her salad).
This actually works out very nicely for us.
The kids pack their pajamas in their swim bags, and get those on before we head home so when we pull in the driveway all they have to do is run inside, brush their teeth, and get into bed.
Hanging out at the pool may not be the first place I’d pick to hang out with the kids on a school night, but this also gives me an opportunity to spend some quality one-on-one time with the three little guys. I probably wouldn’t spend that time with them if we were at home.
So those are some of the things I do to manage crazy weeknights.
It’s a bit of planning and organizing on the front end, but it makes the nights run very smoothly (or as smoothly as can be expected), and now we are a pretty well-oiled machine!