You want to get out of the house. No, you need to get out of the house.
Maybe it’s for a date night, quiet time alone, girls night out, or a family vacation. But every time you try to get out of the house for some self-care you wind up frustrated, stressed out, and pissed off! Why? Because you’re the one doing all the work and dealing with all of the last-minute challenges and frustrations while everyone else simply shows up and has fun.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
The Four Steps to Freedom
Those who fail to plan are planning to fail. I don’t know who said it originally, but I do know that my dad said it to me enough that I cannot hear it in anything other than his voice. Maybe that’s why I love lists so much. Nothing is satisfying in quite the same way as crossing an item off of a list. Lists and deadlines are the basis and the key to this plan. Are you ready?
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Pick a Date.
This system works when you get to choose a date (girls night out, date night) and when you don’t (business trip, weddings, family reunions). In any case you want to have as much planning time as possible – I suggest at least one month.
Step 2: Make the Meta-List
The Meta-List is simply a list of all the lists you will make. This is an overview of everything that needs to get done before you can leave the house stress free.
For example: say Dork Dad and I want to go to dinner and a movie and have the house to ourselves. That Meta List might look like this:
Budget, Childcare, Food, House, Son, Daughter, Date
Once I’ve made the ML I generally check in with Dork Dad to see if there’s anything that I’ve forgotten. We have two young children and are almost always working through some form of sleep deprivation. Double checking is necessary.
Step 3: Make Sub-Lists with deadlines
As for what, exactly, should be on each Sub- List – well, that’s up to you. I get detailed. I get very, very detailed.
For example – when I create the list for packing my kid’s clothing I write down the exact shirt, shorts, color of socks, pair of underwear, etc. That is what works for me. You can write, “Clothes for kids” or you can write, “3 shirts, 3 shorts, 3 socks”. You can get super detailed on one sub-list and be really general on another. At this point the rules are up to you.
A Few Tips:
- Put aside money each week (or each payday) for your event and there will be less scrambling on the day to check credit card balances and or try to do things inexpensively.
- If you are traveling I suggest getting a Groupon for a cleaning service to come in either the day you leave or the day you return. If you have a regular cleaning service have them come to the house while you’re gone. This is also something you can budget for.
- Separate your Sub-Lists into Pre-pack and Day Of. Anything that can be done ahead of time DO IT.
I cannot stress enough how important deadlines are to this process. Doing a few things each week is simple, but if you try pulling everything together the day of frustration and overwhelm will take over.
This is a draft of what our calendar might look like for a date night.
Step 4: This is the MOST IMPORTANT STEP.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER THE LIST.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT attempt to complete these lists by yourself (unless you live alone or are the only person over the age of five in your house).
Children can pack for themselves with supervision. Teens can pack for themselves and take responsibility for a Sub-List. If there are two adults in the house the list should be split very nearly evenly. This works with roommates, lovers, spouses – anyone.
*Disclaimer – I am horrible at this. You may have guessed by now that I like control. In the beginning I gave Dork Dad one Sub-List to handle. Things were better, but I was still tired and a little annoyed by the time we left for our date/trip/etc. Things didn’t really change until we started sitting down together after the SL were complete and I allowed him to claim half of them.
Decide who will do what. How will you check things off? Once everything on a list is checked off the header gets checked off on the meta list. Your goal is for the meta list to be totally checked off by 48 hours BEFORE the date night, or family vacation, etc.
Here’s how and why this works (for me):
I like having control of the details. I like being able to see our progress. Having the lists, being able to check things against the list as many times as I need to, that helps me calm my anxiety. Working on this together helps me to not feel so alone in the planning and parenting part.
We put all of our deadlines on our Google calendar because we are both constantly on our phones and computers, but you could put this on a regular old calendar on your wall, or write it on a piece of paper. When the deadlines come up we make sure our tasks are done and cross them off of the calendar. If they aren’t and we need help we ask for it.
Planning ahead leaves plenty of time for things to blow up, for me to freak out about it, calm down, ask for help, fix the problem, and move on. That process can take a while, so I build in the time.
We do some version of this for his business trips, my business trips, our date nights, family trips and vacations. Giving ourselves as much time as possible to plan means less overwhelm. Less overwhelm means a happier family. Who doesn’t want that?