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Bringing home an infant is your crash course in managing someone else’s schedule. Feeding times, nap times, and planning for diaper changes – miss one of those, you pay the price! But, managing your kid’s time quickly becomes second nature, and you learn to balance work, personal activities, and parenting. As your children grow, your family schedule gets more complex with their activities and social lives. But you manage…
And then Mom gets this crazy idea to do a triathlon.
Once you toss in the demands of endurance training, that schedule becomes a delicate juggling act. Ben and I know this firsthand, as we also have to work hard to find that sweet spot where training and family time happily coexist. After coaching hundreds of athletes who are parents, I’ve learned that this is a universal challenge. Here are a few tips to empower athletes with children to not let any of the balls they juggle come crashing to the ground!
Be Intentional and Flexible with your Training Plan
One of the first steps I take with athletes is to create an annual training plan, which gives perspective on the big picture for the entire season. We incorporate family vacations and busy work seasons or travel in that plan. We plan for the big things, but also for little things, like Saturdays off for swim meets in the fall, needing short at-home workouts on Wednesdays because it’s their spouse’s late night at work, or scheduling around on-call work weeks, or modifying training to counteract the pains of long drive times.
Your training plan should be built around your life – not vice versa. Plan your training season early and be intentional and flexible so the chaos is less likely to sneak up on you.
Put the Non-Negotiables in Your Calendar
You already use your calendar to schedule important things you need to remember like work meetings, medical appointments, and school functions. Why not add other non-negotiables to your calendar as well – like family fun, training sessions, meal prep time, and sleep? If you do these things impulsively, they will be less likely to happen because other things can easily get in the way. But, by intentionally (there’s that word again) setting aside time, you make these important things non-negotiable. If it’s on your calendar, you will be much more likely to say no when an ask conflicts with your scheduled date night!
Hold Regular Family Meetings
This is a must at our home with 5 people in multiple activities and differing schedules. I tend to be the primary manager of the family calendar. If we don’t stay organized, it becomes stressful and ultimately I end up sacrificing my time if something pops up without a plan. The family meeting is a lifesaver for me. I’m not sure the kids feel that way, but mom needs it!
Our meeting is on Sunday evenings, and it’s a rundown of what’s coming up for the next week. We discuss work and school activities and make sure everyone has a ride where they need to go. We also plan time for workouts – for all of us! Ben and I coordinate our morning and weekend workouts, asking the teenagers to watch Cassie if needed. And, we now ask the teenagers, “When are you going to the gym?” Making time for health and exercise is not just important for someone training for an event. We all help each other make the time for health!
Evaluate and Rearrange
You’ve made a training plan built around your life, your calendar is full of non-negotiables, and your family is meeting regularly to stay on the same page. It’s all working seamlessly – until it’s not. If the juggling act is becoming too much for you or someone in your family, it is okay to change course. Talk openly and honestly about the challenges, and how everyone is feeling about the family schedule. Evaluating and rearranging will allow your family to prioritize what is truly important to everyone, and talking about it allows everyone to feel heard.
Prioritizing Life: Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand Analogy
A professor gave a lecture with a glass jar in front of him. He began by filling the jar with big rocks. He then poured small pebbles into the jar to fill the space around the big rocks. He then poured sand into the jar and it went between the pebbles and the rocks.
He explained that the rocks, pebbles, and sand represent everything that is in your life. The jar represents your time.
The rocks are the most important things that have real value – your health, your family, your spouse, your children – if everything else was lost and only these things remained, your life would still have meaning.
The pebbles represent other important things, but you could carry on without them if you had to – like your home, your job, your hobbies, and friendships.
The sand is everything else – the small stuff like chores, social media, material possessions. These are things that don’t truly add value to your life.
If you fill the jar up first with the sand, you won’t have space for pebbles or rocks. If you give too much of your precious energy to the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Take care of the rocks first – the things that matter. Set your priorities. Once the rocks are in place, the pebbles and sand can form around them. However, the reverse is not true.