Oh, glorious weekends! Like that so-called “extra hour of sleep” (ha!) for daylight savings time, the benefits of weekends do seem to accrue to those who don’t have children.

After having a baby and heading back to work, I found that my previously bliss-filled weekends became even more stressful than my work week. I had a million and one things I needed (or at least thought I needed) to get done at home.  I wanted to spend quality time with my little one and my husband.  And I wound up angry, frustrated, and exhausted with the inability to get it all done. In the early days of having a baby, those 48 hours were gone before I could blink.  I couldn’t seem to catch up.

I discovered later that I was not the only new parent whose loss of the concept of a weekend hit me with a fair bit of shock. But knowing I wasn’t alone in my struggle didn’t solve the problem of the too-short weekend. Out of necessity, I discovered some key strategies for reclaiming my weekends.  And my sanity.

One of the best decisions my husband and I ever made was to take family friends up on their offer to have their then 12-year old daughter come to our house as a parents’ helper on weekends. She started coming shortly after we had our second child, when “chaotic” did not even begin to describe the state of our household.  (“Desperate” might be a more accurate word choice.)

She started coming about two Saturdays a month, from 10am-1pm.  Now, this may not sound like much, but it made a HUGE difference in our lives.  At first, having her there simply freed up one parent to do one or two household chores that wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise. Gradually, though, as the kids came to trust her, and she grew in her childcare experience, we were both freed up to get more done.

We’ve taken her grocery shopping with us. She’s helped out with swimming lessons. She’s come over during daycare closure days. She has even accompanied us to the zoo and the County Fair. And our kids absolutely, positively adore her.

Here are 3 benefits you can get from a parents’ helper:

  1. You get more done at home.  Which frees you up to relax a bit more on weekends.
  2. You’re still in the house.  So you get to spend time with your kiddos and monitor the parents’ helper’s evolving caretaking skills.
  3. They’re affordable. Enthusiastic. And they grow up into independent babysitters who know and truly love your little ones.

In addition to getting extra help, the other strategy we started employing was to limit our weekend scheduled activities to one. Yes, just one. We were able to ease up on this as the kids got older.  But in the early days, saying no to many a potential commitment helped us focus on one another and survive. At least until Monday morning.

Note: This post was first published on the fabulous website, Well Rounded NY, on November 10, 2015.

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