weekend report / weekend thoughts

January 15, 2018
NOTE:  It’s MLK day today, which is so important in times likes these.  Hoping to explain to the kids what he did and why there is a day in his honor. 
“The time is always right to do what is right.” -Martin Luther King Jr.


I have come to the conclusion that to really enjoy weekends with kids (and I’m hazarding a guess that this might apply to many with children under the age of say, 6) planning and even some negotiation is essential.

There are three potential scenarios that I’ve seen play out over the course of a weekend at home with kids:

1) Everyone does everything all together.  Neither parent gets any time for themselves.  No one works out.  No one really gets anything done.  Maybe one or both parents manage to ‘sneak in’ time, which is unsatisfying AND leads to resentment from the opposite spouse (um, did someone just disappear for an unannounced nap or — worse — mindless insta-scrolling!?).

2) One party does what they want and the other plays the role of martyr.  (You can guess which gender typically takes which role).  Actually, this really doesn’t happen in our house, but I’ve seen it play out over and over again with friends and blog readers/podcast commenters.

3) Parents discuss what they’d like to do, creating a concrete plan that includes:

personal time for each adult (exercise, reading, cooking, working, napping, insta-scrolling – whatever the person wants!)

family time – with some fun activities thought of in advance, because staying home and lazing around with kids A&C’s age just doesn’t work (G would be fine in her current stage, but she barely counts at this point).

couples/social time, either a date night / extended family dinner / friend date / whatever.

Scenario #3 is the only one that leaves me feeling satisfied on Monday morning.  This is why I craft a weekend plan every weekend and send it via email, and I am lucky that Josh is very on board with this (I don’t think he enjoys scenarios #1 or #2, either).

This weekend was a great example of this – he asked to do a long run + have a ukelele meet up with a friend (yes he is super into this currently, and is sounding great!).  I wanted some time to brainstorm/write and some relaxed time to cook/read/maybe nap.   So, here was my email (and again before someone accuses me of spousal abuse, he really does ask for this if I don’t do it!):

s – ~8-9:30 am time to write, etc 
annabel ballet 10:30 then bday party.  go all together to ballet so we can drop off A w me
post ballet drive a to bday party
brunch near party
pm – playground – outside time, mobile library pickup
josh ukelele-  4 – 5:30?
dinner out all together early?  

josh – run in am.  can go at any time but can you be done and showered by 10:30?
trip to jcc to swim
lunch at home
s – ~2-4 time to cook, read a little or nap
pm – playground possibly with friends
din at home
We actually did not end up following this plan to the letter — it was too cold to swim on Sunday so we ended up going to the children’s museum and then ice cream (all 5 of us) and then came back later than my 2-4 pm window.   So, I cooked dinner from around 4:30 – 6:30 and listened to podcasts (with G sleeping/just hanging out in the Ergo — she eats frequently in the afternoon so it didn’t make sense to send her with the others) while Josh took the other two to the park.

And though there were some hiccups (kids were so bad at the restaurant, though the food was great — try Soul Tavern, locals — it’s a self-described “plant-based gastropub”!), I feel so happy with how we spent our time!  We had a lot of family time, but I got to do some things for ME, too.  Josh got in his desired workout and music time.   There is such a difference between having some time (even if limited) to use at one’s discretion versus having none.  And when there are many moving parts, I am not sure how this can possibly happen without careful planning, communication, and discussion.

I am interested in others’ thoughts on how they manage their weekends with kids.

Kon-Mari in process!
(during my Saturday AM ‘personal’ time 🙂 )

growing rapidly

Tunisian lablali soup from Milk Street Magazine
Kids ate various components but not soup itself because sadly I accidentally made it too spicy!

(unfortunately not online, but I do love this mag and recommend subscribing if you enjoy interesting international recipes in Cook’s Illustrated style – their former editor Christopher Kimball left that publication to establish this one)


  • Reply SusannahEarlyBd March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Enjoyed this, I was actually just writing a post about how key our weekends are. For whatever reason, I didn’t find the need to plan so stringently when we only had two kids….most everything seemed easier to manage with 1 on 1 defense. Once we had three, we learned quickly that we had to plan down to the hour!

  • Reply MLT March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Thank you – as always – for your posts about things like this. I so appreciate the emphasis on intentionality and I get inspired by how you apply that. It makes a difference in my family!

  • Reply Emily March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Love this (and love that Josh wants this email). Our plan is a little less formal (no email, just a verbal check-in on Friday evening where I give husband the run-down of the plan and ask him if he wants to modify in any way) but with kids ages 3 and 5 I have found it is absolutely critical to make sure we plan weekends in advance, and make sure they include family time with anchor events, as well as personal/couple time. I find that it”s even more crucial during these horrendous winter months where spontaneous trips to the park or just playing in the backyard are basically off the table! This weekend was too cold for any outdoor time (never reached 20 degrees) but we both worked out (2x for him), I got a girls night out, he got football watching time with kids out of the house, kids got a play date including brunch with good friends of mine and their kids, and we had two big family meals with my family.

  • Reply gwinne March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    The baby on the bed! Love the pictures!

    I appreciate this general topic but come at it from a completely different angle, as this assumes there IS a partner in the equation. As a single parent, more often than not, weekends make me crazy. My kids are radically different ages (7.75 yrs between them–thanks, infertility!) so want different things out of a day. I want to spend time with both of them. I want to have some down time. I need to get work done….need to run errands, etc. It’s a work in progress. My main strategies right now are: the Sunday afternoon babysitter (I need to hire a new one) for me to get my ducks-in-a-row for the week, having my small one in planned activities, and relying on the good will of my teenager for brief coverage (like, if I need to run to the pharmacy). We’re coming off four days of weekend, thanks to snow day plus MLK…. I’m writing this in my first five minutes home because, wow, I need to take a breath before diving into my own work week. I’m privileged in that I *can* afford some weekend childcare/paid activity, and it doesn’t come with the emotional baggage of negotiating with a partner. But it’s also not a given, and for many folks not a possibility at all…

  • Reply Stacy March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Just popping in to say I hope you are keeping the Fords cheerleading shirt! My kids are 2 and 4 and I totally agree on the need for planning the weekends. If we try to just have a lazy weekend the kids go bonkers and the parents don”t get down time. We also both like to “sleep in” (7:30/8:00am) on weekends so we coordinate who gets Saturday and who gets Sunday. Our anchor events are usually planned in advance but we do a more casual check in each morning of the weekend to figure out what each of us wants/needs to do.

  • Reply Marissa March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    This is exactly how we plan our weekends as well! The husband gets an email just like yours from me every Thursday afternoon. He”s off FRI-SUN. I”m a SAHM. Just like your husband, my husband asks for the “weekend plan” if I forget to send it. This is the only way, with two tiny babes, that our weekend runs smoothly & that we both feel we get some sort of a break. Highly recommend this method to others!

  • Reply Colleen March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    We put a to-do list on the fridge, usually Friday night, with everything we want and need to do on the weekend. We don’t outsource cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. so t’s satisfying to check things off as we finish them. We have 1 two year old so we can usually figure out our "anchor events" as you would say on Saturday morning. As he gets older and if we add more kids we will probably have to start planning earlier in the week. My husband doesn’t like thinking too far ahead but as you said in this post, I don’t think it will take him long to appreciate the benefits of extra planning 🙂

  • Reply Jenny March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    This is a timely post. I’ve been in a huge funk the last two weekends, as our easy and fun weekend dynamic changed a lot when our second baby was born ten weeks ago and we are struggling to figure out our new weekend normal. Right now I feel like we are doing a terrible job of meeting everyone’s needs…my husband just wants to chill after a long workweek, my four-year-old needs to get her energy out, and while we can try to do both, husband can’t easily soothe baby’s fussing so my personal time often gets cut short, nobody’s happy with the amount of time they get for anything…agh.

    I am 100% down with planning to the degree you advise, but our other big issue at the moment is that for the life of me I just cannot figure out any activities that are both kid-friendly and also at least mildly interesting for the adults. By this point in our parenting journey, I am already soooo sick of the zoo, Children’s Museum, Crayola, etc. I used to genuinely enjoy them, but winters here in MN are so very long and cold that we’ve done all the indoor stuff a million times already. I actually like kid birthday parties and really enjoy chatting with the other parents from my kid’s school, but they don’t happen very often. It is SO much easier on my husband and me in nice weather, when we can hang in our nice backyard, go to the beach, sit by the pool, take nature strolls along the creek, stuff like that that we ALL actually enjoy. Money’s tight right now, so we’re not eating out when otherwise brunch or dinner out would put a nice big bullet in the day (and our kid is really good at restaurants, so this is actually genuinely enjoyable for our family!). We’ve already done all the board game/movie nights and baking projects I can stand. Honestly, I feel so stupid that I can’t think of anything, but I am just completely at a loss. Maybe the answer is "suck it up" with regard to the indoor playspaces I am so tired of already? I would love some more ideas if anyone has any.

    • Reply Colleen March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      I hear you. I stay home with my almost 2 year old in Atlantic Canada and this time of year is SO hard. I often just want to go out to eat for something to do but they money adds up quickly! I don’t have any good ideas, just sympathy.

      • Reply omdg March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

        I totally hear you on this. Eating out is nice to do sometimes, but…. again it’s expensive and I end up eating too much. Plus there are only a few kid friendly places we can go to, and then only at specific times or the wait is too long.

        I wish I weren’t so over all of the popular kid places (zoo, museums, etc.). I sometimes feel that I too should just suck it up and take her even though I don’t want to. I honestly don’t know what the solution is either.

        The good news for you is that once kindergarten rolls around you will have more birthday parties to attend. Yay? I like a lot of the parents of the kids in my daughter’s class, and seeing her run around happily, but even that has gotten a little old.

        • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

          (reposting here so it goes to you b/c otherwise not sure if it will!) — in our case, the bday party alternative has been play dates, either at our house or at a neutral location. meet up in park (I know not a good idea given your current weather!) or at someone’s house, and then doing dinner together (can be simple, make a pot of chili & some cornbread & beer, or we do take out though I know that can be just as pricey as eating out!).

          they do require planning ahead but they are one of my favorite weekend anchors. often we’ll do it at like 3 or 4 pm on a sat or sunday and then plan on having them stay for dinner. or lunch/afternoon play. satisfies social time, entertains the kids, and isn’t boring.

          i do hear you on museums etc getting old with repeated use. they are more fun when i go WITH josh (so we can talk) or meet up with another friend. our summers are like your winters (it’s stormy and grossly hot, the only pleasant thing to do is to spend time in the pool) but i can imagine winter is even worse. (although . . . i do have fond memories of sledding as a kid. but i’m sure even that gets old!)

    • Reply Brittnie March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Makes total sense. I feel this way during the summers in Houston where I live. Yes, we have the pool but past that it is so hard being outside when it feel like 110 degrees. And the pool gets old after a while. I have a 5 year old (special needs so this doesn’t apply to her) and a 4 year old and for the 4 year old I try to come up with creative crafty things. I am no Pinterest mom and actually hate crafts, but I try to find something new to do a few x a week in the summer. Make slime. Homemade play dough. Easy stuff, nothing elaborate. All cheap. Or even create "centers" for her where she switches activities every 20 min or so . . . anyways, not sure this is what you’re looking for but maybe something that could help you get through the winter months in MN?? Good luck!

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      in our case, the bday party alternative has been play dates, either at our house or at a neutral location. meet up in park (I know not a good idea given your current weather!) or at someone’s house, and then doing dinner together (can be simple, make a pot of chili & some cornbread & beer, or we do take out though I know that can be just as pricey as eating out!).

      they do require planning ahead but they are one of my favorite weekend anchors. often we’ll do it at like 3 or 4 pm on a sat or sunday and then plan on having them stay for dinner. or lunch/afternoon play. satisfies social time, entertains the kids, and isn’t boring.

      i do hear you on museums etc getting old with repeated use. they are more fun when i go WITH josh (so we can talk) or meet up with another friend. our summers are like your winters (it’s stormy and grossly hot, the only pleasant thing to do is to spend time in the pool) but i can imagine winter is even worse. (although . . . i do have fond memories of sledding as a kid. but i’m sure even that gets old!)

  • Reply Brittnie March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    "There is such a difference between having some time (even if limited) to use at one’s discretion versus having none." – YES!

    As you know I am a SAHM with a few side gigs, but no major full/part time work commitments. I will admit for a while we operated under scenario # 2 – Husband did what he wanted on weekends (scrolling phone, running errands, woodworking in garage) and I played the martyr. We did things as a family, but during the down time we were classic scenario 2. This has changed (funny, after talking to my husband years ago he was like "Britt, just tell me what you want to do! I don’t care at all and want to help you make it happen!") and while I don’t send a formal email as you do, we def have a discussion a few days before the weekend. We are both on board and it helps our weekends run so much smoother! We check in about our vision for weekend, what actual commitments we have, and anything extra we would like to do on our own or as a family.

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Totally with you on thinking through weekends ahead of time. Thinking through this 3-day weekend ahead of time meant we got a date night (with another couple), we both got to exercise, my husband got to ski (with the two kids who can do this independently), I got some work time, I sang with my choir, and we did family excursions on Sunday and Monday — plus celebrating the 3-year-old’s birthday. There is absolutely no way this would have worked without thinking it through. In general, if one of us has to work a lot on the weekend (e.g. I’m traveling for a speech, or my husband is flying overseas and has to leave early, or one of us has a big deadline) we’ll get childcare to cover at least some of those hours. Much better than dealing with the resentment factor. Not a universal option, I know, but a definite choice of where we’d rather allocate resources than some other things.

  • Reply omdg March 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    By your schedule it looks like from 10:30-5:30 on Saturday Josh has to himself. Similar story on Sunday with the exception of Sarah time from 2-4. Is that accurate?

    I got really tired of the Children’s Museum and Zoo, find the pool very stressful, am not a fan of children’s birthday parties. I also need to get work done on the weekends. You seem to enjoy these things and don’t typically have work unless you’re on call, which… makes a pretty significant difference. Maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but this post felt like a bit of a dig.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      About the rest of your comment – It”s a huge difference but I think everything about planning still applies in your case. I want to write more but not on my phone! If we needed time to work (and honestly this is going to happen), some childcare and switching off comes into play too. The plan / discussion / negotiation is still essential if not more so.

      • Reply omdg March 10, 2019 at 9:00 pm

        Do you plan Josh’s weekend activities too? It sounds like…. yes.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Also Sunday he only had morning until 1030 to himself. Otherwise we were together.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      Noooo josh only had 4-530 to himself Saturday! He drove the car so I went onto the ballet building w A but we were all together! Sorry that was unclear, it was the actual email.

  • Reply Irene March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Really enjoyed seeing the example of how this weekend went! It is so much more interesting to me to see the specifics (maybe I”m just nosy though😀)

    I would have loved hearing more about discussions around how you guys came to this balance in your marriage podcast. Did you or josh feel differently about what this distribution should look like in the past? I can imagine it might be too personal but I think we all feel kids need *some* time with each partner and as a family if possible even though every family probably thinks that minimum is a different place and for families where one or both parents work a lot it seems like it must be something people at least discuss. I generally feel my daughter needs more time with us than my husband does and we generally compromise well enough but it”s a tough subject to discuss with our someone”s feelings getting hurt.

    I guess the other thing that”s tough for us is that my husband is just a spontaneous person-he likes not having plans! And to be fair to him he frequently won”t know if he needs to work on any given weekend until Friday,so while we generally have an outline of the things that might need to happen or we want to happen, there are more decisions made on the fly than I”d like. He”s made a lot of positive steps to reduce the craziness of his schedule so I”m trying to let things go and be supportive where I can. I think the hardest thing for me is planning social things (especially with couple friends that at least started as “his friends” that he really should be corresponding with). I”m sure I could do better since he rarely ends up working the the whole weekend anymore so I just need to figure that out.

    He generally spends the vast majority of his planned personal time working or making up sleep from the week. Sometimes it”s hard to encourage him to take some actual personal time but eventually I can tell he really needs it no matter what else is going on… It”s hard to feel like we get things right! Any way, compromises are hard. And I think we generally have it pretty easy!

    Btw – I didn”t think your post came off as remotely smug or anything but I do think it”s easier to fit in all your *wants* when you have very little to do in the way of chores. I am very fortunate to be able to outsource a fair amount but I do need to fit in a trip to the grocery store at a minimum most weekends which is more of a production right now (especially if I have my 3 year old) because I”m verrrry pregnant right now haha!

  • Reply Danielle March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    I don’t even have kids and we do #3 to make our free time both enjoyable and productive. My husband had to assure me many times "Just tell me what to do!" before I got comfortable with it. He tells me if there’s anything he needs or wants to do then I plan out the rest. I go for an overall balance of together time, alone time, and being productive.

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