Ah, the weekend’s here. Time to relax and kick back. Just kidding, you’re a parent. But it’s still possible to enjoy some downtime, even when the house is full of small people who want to get up at dawn and definitely do not want to relax.
How To Relax at the Weekend When You Have Kids
Remember when weekends used to consist of nights out, sleeping late, shopping trips that were actually enjoyable, leisurely brunches, or even taking a hot bath without people arriving to use the toilet right next to your head? Nope, me neither.
Weekends as a parent of young children are not what they once were. Gone is the space to binge-watch your latest trash TV obsession, enjoy a time-consuming hobby, or recover from a hangover in peace.
Instead, your weekends become primarily about entertaining those small children. And it doesn’t matter how tired you are from the week from hell, your kids are going to be raring to go. You might want to relax at the weekend, but I guarantee your kids will have another idea.
But – Don’t Give Up! Laid-back weekend life isn’t over. You’re not resigned to a decade of 7-days-a-week exhaustion (even though that’s how it might feel right now). You just need to rebalance a few things, and get better about how you manage your family weekends.
Here are some easy ways to find the time and space you deserve to relax at the weekend when you have kids.
How To Enjoy Weekends When You’re a Parent Of Small Children
Having a relaxing weekend with small kids around is not impossible. Here are a few ideas to help.
First, Think About Your Weekend Mindset
Weekends have changed since having kids, that’s a given. So, try shifting the way you view weekends now too. It helps to accept that the automatic downtime you used to have is not going to happen on its own any more – BUT it can still happen if you make it.
If you only think of the weekends as a slog of playdates (for younger kids), being a taxi service (for older kids), and wading through chores, then that’s how your weekend’s going to play out. That’s how it’s going to FEEL – like a slog with nothing else in it to enjoy. But remember you deserve time to relax and recharge, so start prioritising your relaxation time as a non-negotiable part of your weekend.
If you’re regularly counting down the hours until Monday morning when you can escape back to work to relax, then it’s time to take action. Making subtle changes and planning ahead to make weekends more balanced and enjoyable takes practice, but can totally be done. (Ok, maybe not every weekend, because life happens – but it can be done a lot of the time.)
Remember – there won’t be a prizegiving ceremony on Sunday night for who had the most miserable weekend, so don’t feel guilty about making some changes so you can enjoy your time off more.
Let Go of High Expectations
If you constantly feel like the weekend is wasted / stressful / unsatisfactory, ask yourself if you’re putting too much pressure on. Are you expecting too much of yourself and of your time off? If you’re aiming high in terms of how much you can get done or how much you want to relax, you’ll usually end up disappointed.
Try re-assessing your expectations of the weekend, and what’s realistic with a young family in tow. If you’ve got small children, it’s impractical to believe you can manage to paint the house, host a get-together, run the week’s errands, and go on a hike this weekend. Pick a couple of those things instead, and actually do them.
Be kinder to yourself. You don’t need to achieve everything this weekend. If you have a list of projects you want to get done, sit down and plan out how you can realistically get through them over the next few weekends, while still factoring in some time to relax / go to the park / bake brownies / go cycling / take a nap / go out for ice cream. Commit to some things that you need to do, and some things you want to do.
Lighten Up – For Your Own Sake As Much As The Kids
The weekend is your downtime. And while we all know that kids tend to thrive on routine, don’t be afraid to let things slide a bit over the weekend. Let a loosening of the rules become the weekend routine. Why? Because relaxing the rules means more fun for the kids and less stress for you.
You don’t need to let chaos take over. But agreeing to a PJ day, a carpet picnic breakfast, a movie dinner, a wear-whatever-you-like day, or anything else you can think of provides a memorable experience for the kids while actually taking the pressure off you.
Divide Up Your Weekend Time
Nobody wants to schedule and organise every minute of their weekend, but having a rough plan can really help give you the time to prioritise the things you want to do. If you don’t plan for it, it’s less likely to happen.
It also really helps if you can divide your time up into what parts of the weekend will be family time, time for you and your partner, and some alone time to really switch off. Planning ahead isn’t exactly free-spirited and spontaneous, but it’s probably your best chance of actually getting what you want out of the weekend.
Don’t Schedule Kids’ Activities for the Entire Weekend
Kids tend to have a lot of activities at the weekend. Sports, playdates, birthday parties etc are all important parts of your kids’ lives but they all stack up, and if you’re not careful they can easily end up taking over the whole weekend, leaving you worn out (and possibly a bit resentful).
So do what you can to keep commitments scheduled to one day if at all possible. Obviously this isn’t always doable, but taking whatever steps you can to confine them to one day will give you a free schedule on the other day to fit in time for everyone to relax and recharge. Or try to fit them in on mornings only, leaving the afternoons free for some family time or alone time.
Remember it’s also totally fine to say no to extra commitments. If your weekend is already looking full, don’t feel guilty about turning down any extra ones. The more things you sign up to, the less chance you’re going to have to relax.
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Give Everyone a Say in The Weekend’s Activities
Not all weekends are busy. When you have a quiet weekend without much planned, try asking everyone what they’d like to do that weekend, and incorporating a bit of everyone’s ideas into the planning. Even little kids will be able to state some kind of preference.
The essential thing is to remember here is that YOU count too! The beauty of this simple exercise is that it gives the adults the opportunity to discuss what they want out of the weekend, and the kids get a sense of choice while learning about give and take.
Find Ways To Balance Everyone’s Fun
Just because you’re off to do something child-friendly doesn’t mean it can’t be fun for you too. Engineer your weekend to make the kiddie activities involve something enjoyable for you as well. Pick the soft play with the best café. Pick the park with the best coffee truck. Choose activities where you can drop off the kids and do something for yourself. My husband has found a dance class for my daughter which takes place at a nearby university campus with running trails, so he goes for a run while she dances. Making activities multi-task also frees up time, and is key to a better weekend for everyone.
Getting Time For Yourself At The Weekend
Take some turns with your partner to get alone time. And don’t feel guilty. You shouldn’t feel bad for not wanting to spend every single waking moment of your weekend with your family. This doesn’t make you a bad parent. In fact, once you’ve had some time off, you’ll be a far better parent. Take the time. Recharge.
Agree To Trade Lie-ins With Your Partner
Kids not really into sleeping late at the weekend? Thought not. Take turns getting up with them on Saturdays and Sundays, so either you or your partner can go back to sleep.
Do Something To Tire The Kids Out
With any luck you’re looking forward to a bit more downtime on Friday and Saturday evenings that you normally get during the week. Increase your chances of a smooth bedtime by factoring in some kind of daytime activity that will leave the kids tired. Preferably something in the open air, and if you get to sit down during it, all the better.
Make Friday or Saturday Nights a Little Bit Special
One of the realities of parenting life is that Friday and Saturday nights tend to be largely the same as all the other nights. You might stay up a little later, you might have a glass of wine, but in the end you’re probably just sitting on the sofa watching TV again.
Try doing something to make Friday or Saturday evenings a bit different from every other night of the week, even if you’re not going anywhere. This is especially important during the pandemic when going out for a date night feels like a distant memory. Take turns cooking something new, order takeaway from somewhere you’ve been wanting to try, set up a video call with friends, do a virtual activity together, or try one of these at-home date night ideas.
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Make the Most of Family Weekend Time
Before I had children, I hilariously thought that parents spent weekends skipping through the park with their delightfully-tempered offspring, before returning to their clean, tidy homes to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. You can imagine my surprise when the reality hit me and I was faced with the sheer exhaustion of being a working parent literally just trying to limp through the weekends.
Sound familiar? Sometimes it feels like there’s no time at the weekends to enjoy family life because you’re using the whole time to catch up from the week. Don’t despair: try a few simple tactics to get stuff done ahead of time so that more of your weekend can be used for fun family time.
Use Friday to Get Organised If You Can
Take a bit of time on Friday evenings (even 10 minutes will help) to do all the sorting through schoolbags, lunchboxes etc and get as much prepared for next week as you can. This will mean you’re ahead of the game on Sunday – especially useful if you’re prone to the Sunday night blues.
Also, if you’re working from home on Friday, try booking your grocery delivery that day so you don’t need to spend hours in the supermarket at the weekend.
Fit In Chores and Errands Where You Can During the Week
You might only be able to fit in a couple of things here and there during the week, but every little bit will help. A room vacuumed on Tuesday evening is one less room to vacuum at the weekend. Try to go to the post office or drop off the dry cleaning on your lunch break. And get as much as you can delivered or use click & collect, because shopping trips with small children are usually far from relaxing. Always take the path of least resistance.
Then at the weekend try to corral chores and errands into one timeslot only, like Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, to avoid letting them taking over a lot of the weekend.
Plan Ahead If You’re Going Out For The Day
It takes more than just grabbing your phone and keys to get out of the house these days. Getting out for the day with young children requires stuff, and more stuff, and toilet trips, and going back for a favourite toy, and forgetting things. Do yourself a favour and plan ahead if you’re heading out for a weekend day trip with the kids. Pack a bag the night before.
Try to eat a meal out of the house
Life with small children involves a lot of food prep, table clearing, surface wiping, and crawling around on the floor picking up the endless stream of food that people have chucked there. An easy way to lighten the load at the weekends is to eat one meal (or more!) out of the house. Not having to think about what you’re going to cook, or pick it up off the floor afterwards, is worth its weight in gold. One of the major things I’ve missed during the pandemic is eating lunch out in a café on Saturdays or Sundays – and it’s one of the first routines I intend to reinstate once life returns to normal.
I hope this post has given you some ideas for how you can relax at the weekend when you have young kids. If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them – drop me a note in the comments!