It’s undeniable that weekends with young kids can be a stressful affair. Long gone are the lovely long days of leisurely brunches, browsing the shops, cheeky afternoons in the pub to watch some live music. You might even have spent Sunday mornings enjoying DIY projects together or having a lie in. Oh my, those were the days! Recently, my brother showed me the garden kitchen he’s built in his spare time. Spare time?! Yes, his kids are 19 and 16 so no more clinging to his leg, demanding attention. It does get better. In the meantime though, those of us with babies, toddlers and children in primary school need to rethink our weekends and how to reclaim some of that precious time.

Weekends have different pressures depending on the age of your children, and your working patterns as parents.

  • Babies want their routine. You’re dictated by their mealtimes and nap times, or try to get them to nap while you’re out and then suffer the consequences of the fatal 4pm danger nap on the way home.
  • Toddlers have an excessive amount of energy to burn off and need to get out the house to be exercised or want constant entertainment.
  • Once you hit primary school, you’ve then got to fit in all the parties and gymnastics / football / tennis / dance clubs.
  • Add in siblings, then you’re dealing with multiple layers of organisational wizardry alongside the tears and fights!

Alongside all of this, all you want to do is get on top of the washing / food shopping, get that shelf up or paint that wall that’s been needed to be done for the last nine months, go out for a nice walk / potter round the shops / coffee / see some friends, without anyone whining or moaning about it, and actually enjoy some ‘fun’ family time together. Quite quickly, it can become two days fuelled with unmet expectations, frustration, and exhaustion.

What’s the answer?

Focus on quality over quantity. Reduce your expectations about what you can achieve.

  1. Plan in advance. Before you wake up on Saturday morning, make sure you’re on the same page about your expectations and plan it out around your child’s routine or commitments.
  2. Get clear on your essentials. What are the 1-2 things that you really need to do and how do you need to help each other get them done? Maybe the washing is piling up, the baby has run out of socks or there’s no food in the fridge.
  3. Give each other space. How can you carve out 2-3 hours for each of you to have time to themselves – without expectation to ‘achieve’ anything. Whatever gives you energy, it’s so important to give each other that time to recharge without the baby or chores.
  4. Do something nice together. What are you going to do as a family, or as a couple just for fun.

Yes, weekends used to be the time for spontaneity and pottering. With young children, it needs more forethought and communication. That doesn’t mean spending more money on day’s out, but making sure you and your partner are clear on what you’re both expecting to achieve and how you can carve out time together as well as time for yourselves.

Download the worksheet for a simple template to help you reclaim your weekend.

This article was written by Rachel Childs. Rachel is a couples coach who helps working parents navigate their transition through parenthood as a dual-career couple. She is the author of Beyond Baby Talk. Two people, nine months and the twelve conversations you never knew you needed to have; a couples workbook for expectant and new parents.