Many of you may have read my recent article "The Busy Life" published in Fostering Families Today magazine March/April 2013. In the article I gave some tips to help get through the busy routine of being a Foster Parent. Here are some more helpful tools that could help you as you fight the battle with the calendar.
Finding someone you can trade babysitting with is a wonderful blessing. If you can find a parent or caregiver you could exchange with, you could both take advantage of the help. This is also a great idea for a much needed day off. Maybe a day to run errands without a handful of little ones tagging along. Or a morning to just sit in the quiet.
I have a close friend who had 4 kids of her own and would exchange babysitting all day with another friend who had 4 kids. So once a week they would have 8 kids all day while the other one got a free day to do what they needed. Then they would switch. Trading time without having to fit money into your budget for childcare is a great way to get some much needed time and help out a fellow caregiver.
Everyone has their own style when it comes to routine. Embrace yours and make it work for you. Think about how you want to run your errands and make it important on your calendar. If you like doing a lot all in one day and get it over with then block out the time for you to do that, with nothing else that day. Or if you like just one or two things each day then you can set the best time to do that. I have learned the hard way that I need to have a mellow day at home after a busy day of obligations. If I have too many busy days in a row I will get overwhelmed. If I schedule a big shopping day with the hope of doing some freezer cooking, well, I better have time the next day to get it done or it won't happen. There is no right or wrong way to work your calendar just think about what would fit your family the best.
When to Say No:
We could fill our days with every invite and every obligation we are approached with but then we will lose time for ourselves and our family. It is so easy to say yes right on the spot. If we have an empty square on the calendar than why wouldn't we fill it, especially if it is something fun. However, as the day approaches we feel the guilt and stress that we now have another obligation when we really just need a day off at home. It is hard to say no, we often feel the need to have an excuse. The reality is that we need to take care of ourselves too.
After too many months of having no day off, not one, I felt the stress changing who I was. I didn't have anytime for myself or just to enjoy my family at home. I hated the idea of missing out on the latest gathering more and more I was putting myself on the back burner. After one month of having obligations, extra work days, parties, birthdays, appointments and anything else I said yes to I realized I had only 2 days in the whole month of being at home. I was behind on laundry and we were eating out all of the time because I was too tired to cook and I felt exhausted. So my husband and I decided to gaurd our calendar the next month and not book up our weekends and limit our week activities. What a breath of fresh air. I noticed a huge difference! I try to remember the words, "When you say yes to everyone else, you are saying no to yourself."
We can often get a long list of homework from our children's therapists. It can be easy to feel guilt for not doing every ounce of each of the recommended activities. I absolutely think they are important and if they can fit in our schedule they should be a priority. There is a reason for homework and can greatly improve our child's behavior. However, if there are too many items, try to break them up. Focus on one for a few weeks then move to another. Create a specific time each day to try to accomplish these tasks. This will help keep it consistent for the child and help remind you to work on them.
I would love to hear other tips you have learned along the way. The important thing to remember is that we will get busy, but we can always start fresh tomorrow. If we listen to what our body needs, what our family needs, we can make a schedule that works for us. We need to remember to guard our time without rushing to please those around us at the expense of our sanity. I hope these tips help!