Guest Post by Jennifer Landis
When the kids finally go off to school, you can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. You miss them, but at least you get your day back. Unfortunately, getting it back might mean working more hours, and now you get to juggle your job with the demands of parenting. While it is change, it may just be a reshuffling of stressors and demands in your life. Ah, joy.
For the most part, they will be at school, and you will be at home or work. However, there will be times when they can’t be at school, and you can’t be away from work, which can be stressful for everybody. The kids have a schedule and are slowly developing a life of their own. Your job is to help them as much as you can, but sometimes your schedules will conflict.
What can you do to bridge the gap between the time you aren’t available and the time you are? Here are a few ideas to consider when determining the best after-school activities for your children.
What Are Your Needs?
Look at your schedules and determine where your greatest needs and time constraints are. Perhaps the kids have sports after school, or they are in a drama or activities club. You might have an end-of-the-month demand at work that forces you to work grueling hours, and you absolutely cannot be bothered then.
Maybe it’s just an hour or two after school when you can’t be available because you are finishing up work or starting your long commute home. The school gets out at 2:30 p.m. but you can be home no earlier than 5 p.m.
What if there is a yoga class offered after work that you feel is essential to your mental and physical well-being in order to transition from work to home life? Just see what it is you need and how much time it will demand.
What Are Their Interests?
If you are looking for something for your children to do to fill up a time slot, find out what their interests are. Your choices may be limited by the time of day you are looking, but it would be beneficial if it was an activity your children enjoy and that they will look forward to. Are they good at sports? Do they have an interest in ballet or the arts? Are there opportunities to learn a second language?
Is there a karate class your children can take between 3 and 5 p.m? You may get lucky and find the perfect activity at the perfect time, but that’s not likely to happen. What about a general after-school program where many children in the same situation can hang out together?
After-school programs offer a safe, engaging environment where your kids can interact with other children while they bridge the gap between their school and your workday. Some offer to care for your children in the morning as well as the afternoon, and many are open through the summer.
You just have to visit ones you are interested in to see if they are a good fit. You want to make sure they offer the specific educational and recreational activities you desire. You also just want to get the feel of the place.
Do the kids seem happy? Are the staff members respectful to the children? Do the children seem to get along? How do the people in charge handle behavioral issues? You want to be sure your child will always feel welcome and safe and will not be bullied or intimidated by other students. You also will need to find out if transportation services are offered. Picking them up might be convenient for you, but they will need a way there from school.
What Can You Afford?
Very little in life is free, so you will need to make sure your children’s after-school activities don’t eat up all the money you make at work. Can you afford a robotics class, or would a local YMCA program be more doable?
Spending money doesn’t always mean happiness, but you will find some of the more unique programs to be more expensive. Look within your budget. You may not find your first choice within, but you will end up with something enjoyable and affordable for your children.
How Much Help Do You Have?
Do you have a parent or family member who could help with driving your children to their activities? Is there another parent from school who has a child who would like to participate in the same activity?
It really helps when you can have someone share the driving load with you. It removes half of the time and half of the stress getting there and back. Plus, it’s a nice way to make friends. You will always share the memories of carting your kids around to their activities.
Juggling work and family can be stressful. Most of us would love to remove the need for money from our lives so we could spend more time with our family or do things that we love, but that’s not reality. We have to work to earn money to provide for ourselves and our families.
There are times we simply cannot be in two places at once. We need to devote time to our careers, and our children need to develop lives of their own. Determine what you and your children need, find a right fit and have fun making it work out. There will be days where it won’t, and that’s OK. Someday it will be a distant memory.