What does the typical weekend look like at your house? If it's filled with chores, you're not alone. It's hard to make time for fun when you're raising your kids solo and all of the responsibilities—from school work to laundry, meals, running errands, and more—falls to you. And even if you share parenting time with your ex, getting it all done on the weekends your kids are with you can be a challenge.
But here's the thing about making time to have fun with your kids: spending quality time together strengthens your bond and has a positive effect on every other aspect of your relationship. So it's an investment that's worth the time—if only the time were easy to come by!
Ways to Free Up Time for Bonding With Your Kids
If you're struggling to carve out meaningful quality time with your kids, use these tips to make time for having fun together:
- Create a weekend routine. Choose a set time for doing weekend chores, such as Friday night or Saturday morning. This way, you can get the chores out of the way and have the rest of the weekend to enjoy together.
- Combine errands. Running to the bank, the pharmacy, and the dollar store in one outing will save time and gas.
- Create a system for accomplishing big tasks. For instance, doing seven or eight loads of laundry on a Saturday eats up your whole day. Try doing one load per day during the week . . . you might start a load just before you prepare dinner, transfer it to the dryer after dinner, and fold it while your kids are brushing their teeth before bedtime. And if you need to use a laundromat, choose a time when it's not busy and you can do multiple loads at once.
- Contract it out. Consider occasionally letting someone else help you with the chores and errands. Most stores that offer grocery delivery charge less than $10 for the service, which may be worth the time you'd save. Wash-and-fold laundry is another option, and most laundromats charge less than a dollar per pound for the service.
- Take shortcuts. Even if hiring in-home help is beyond your reach financially, you may be able to afford some convenient shortcuts. For example, consider buying cleaning wipes, flushable toilet bowl cleaning pads, and floor care systems with disposable, pre-moistened pads. Look for coupons online or in your local newspaper to cut the cost of startup kits.
- Break the work down into smaller tasks. Instead of trying to clean every room once a week, try doing smaller, 15-minute chores once a day. For example, mop on Mondays, dust on Tuesdays, vacuum on Wednesdays, clean bathrooms on Thursdays, and change sheets on Fridays.
- Decide what you can reasonably leave 'undone.' Yes, that's right. Sometimes you have to practice the art of letting the 'small stuff' go so you can create time for what really matters: bonding with your kids.
There are many ways to carve out the time you need to enjoy some special time with your kids each weekend. Start by putting one or two of these suggestions into practice, and pay attention to how much time it saves you.
Compound the Time Savings By Tackling Chores Together
Doing chores together accomplishes two goals: It helps you finish in less time—which leaves more time for having fun—and it teaches your kids skills they'll need as adults.
So set aside any guilt you may feel about soliciting your kids' help and try the following suggestions:
- Make a game out of tag-team cleaning. Give everyone in the family one chore to do, and work on the chores at the same time. For example, your 4-year-old can use a feather duster in each room while your 8-year-old uses a vinegar-and-water solution to clean surfaces and mirrors. Meanwhile, you can vacuum. You'll cross "clean the house" off your list in less than an hour.
- Play "Pick a Chore." Write chores on index cards, and let your kids each select two to accomplish on Friday night or Saturday morning. This method doesn't just help you clean your house faster; it also exposes your kids to a variety of chores and gives them a sense of power and accomplishment, since they get to choose the chores they complete.
- Give your kids responsibilities when you're running errands together. Don't just make the kids tag along. Give them something important to do, like comparing prices or nutritional information for specific items when you're grocery shopping. For example, assign the job of choosing the week's snack foods. Tell them you're willing to spend $8 on snacks, but they have to be items that you can all agree on, that will last through the week, and that contain fewer than three grams of fat per serving.
Getting your kids to help teaches them to be responsible for the home you share.
Use Your New-Found Quality Time to Bond With Your Kids
Not sure what do with the kids once you finally carve out a free afternoon? Sometimes just having the freedom of choice can feel overwhelming, to the point that you end up staying home and doing nothing. Instead, consider the many options you have for bonding with your kids:
- One-on-one activities: Every child needs a little one-on-one time now and then. Remember, too, that it doesn't have to be an all-day event. Even spending 10 minutes playing a board game while your other child naps helps a child feel valued and important. Examples include establishing a regular lunch date, taking a class together, or sharing a read-aloud book.
- Physical activities: Most children don't get nearly enough exercise. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children get 45 to 60 minutes of exercise per day on as many days of the week as possible. While that sounds like a lot, breaking it down into shorter, 15-minute bursts counts too. And exercising together sets a positive example for your kids while enhancing the bond you share. Examples include going for a walk, taking a bike ride, and practicing a sport together.
- Free or inexpensive activities: It's good for kids to learn that you can have a great time together without spending a dime. Examples of free activities you can enjoy with your kids include community events, free or reduced-price movie clubs, and kids-eat-free nights.
- Relaxing activities: Our kids aren't exempt from the emotions we feel. They experience stress, frustration, confusion, and anger too. When they do, it's helpful to make time for something relaxing. Consider scheduling relaxing activities shortly after your kids return from your ex's home if transitions are particularly difficult for your kids. Examples include watching a movie, painting each other's nails, or building with Legos.
- Rainy-day activities: Teach your kids how to deal with boredom by ramping up their creative juices or doing an activity you don't get to enjoy every day. Examples include making a craft, building a huge puzzle, or going bowling.
- Everyday activities: Taking the time to do something with your kids that you normally do on your own demonstrates to them how much you enjoy spending time together. Examples include cooking, baking, or shopping together.
These ideas represent just a few of the things you can do. To come up with more ideas your kids will love sit down together and make a list of the things you'd like to enjoy doing together.