I’ve been a working parent for almost eight years now. Yet, by Thursday evening, I still get lulled into a false sense that the upcoming weekend will be for rest and relaxation. It must be ingrained from childhood—like how summer still feels like a vacation—even though I haven’t been a student in over a decade. The sentiment just sticks with you.
After endless chaotic weekends, I’ve finally come to terms that my two days off aren’t going to be restful until my children are older. I have an 11-month-old. So, weekends can often feel more strenuous than the workweek because it’s 48 hours of tough domestic labor.
Over this past year, my husband and I have been completely drained by the time Sunday evening rolls around. And then we face Monday without feeling any more rested. We knew we had to change something about our weekend schedule so that we could get some of our free time back. So we sat down and made a plan to work together to “take back our weekend.” We’ve since benefitted from a much more enjoyable time away from the office. Here’s how we got started.
Come up with a game plan for the weekend
Don’t make our initial mistake of just “winging it.” Before the weekend, find some time to look over the upcoming schedule and make a plan for who is going to tackle what. Who will run the errands? Who will do the drop-off at the birthday party? Once you divvy out the required tasks, you can see where there are pockets of free time. Without a clear plan, everyone is running around all of the time.
Make sure each person gets time to do something they like
Once you’ve planned out your free time that weekend, make sure each adult in the household gets their fair share of it. It takes some flexibility—if my husband could, he’d play 18 holes of golf every weekend. But golf is time-consuming and isn’t always going to fairly fit into the spots of free time. Sometimes it may be possible, but sometimes he’ll have to settle for the driving range. Small pockets of time still count as time dedicated to yourself and your interests—it doesn’t need to be all or nothing.
Aim for a balance of productivity, relaxation, and social time
I consider it a successful weekend when I get time for one item in each of these three categories. I try to plan for it when making our weekend game plan. If by Sunday night, for example, I’ve fit in meal prep (productivity), a bath (relaxation), and a bonfire with neighbors (social time), it’s a success.
This strategy of categorizing my free time helps keep my expectations in check. In my pre-kid days, I could solely focus on fun plans from Friday night to Sunday evening if I wanted to. That’s not going to happen anymore. But, I can make sure I always get at least some time to maintain friendships, even if it’s just an hour.
Keep things fair without keeping score
This step is very important. Make sure the caretakers in the household both get their time away from the grind. But, don’t constantly keep tabs on who did what and when. It will take away from the relaxation and cause resentment. Don’t let your partner get away with doing less than their fair share of work. Yet, avoid pointing out every single thing you did and keeping a scorecard.
Weekends will never be the same as they were in my early 20s—when I had 48 hours to do anything I wanted. I’ve come to accept that. But with some planning, I can at least feel like I had a weekend break. One day, my kids will be grown and out of the house, and I’ll have all of that time back—and probably find myself missing the chaos.
Based on your work schedule, it may not be the traditional Saturday-and-Sunday weekend to “take back.” Your days off may be Wednesday and Thursday, but this still applies. Make sure you work with each other to enjoy some of your time away from your job.