Do you and your partner find yourselves in a delicate balancing act? You hit the ground running on Monday and don’t stop until Sunday just to restock at the grocery store, throw the eighth load of laundry in the washing machine, and start all over again the next day. Throughout the week, you and your spouse are tag-teaming to ensure your kids get from school to the field and hopefully eat something besides a granola bar.
Connecting with your significant other can feel challenging when you’re in the hamster wheel of dividing and conquering household tasks while juggling demanding game and practice schedules. Finding a balance can be daunting, but with open communication and a solid game plan, it’s achievable and can strengthen your relationship. We’ve pulled together three strategies that can help you and your partner thrive (not just survive) while managing your household, kids’ sports, and relationship.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The foundation of any successful relationship is effective and consistent communication. Open and honest dialogue is paramount when dividing household tasks and managing after-school activities for your kids. Make sure you initiate discussions about your expectations, responsibilities, feelings, and needs.
Here are some conversation starters that can help ensure you’re communicating successfully:
Establish your family’s priorities
The Family Firm by Emily Oster is a valuable book that helps families navigate the crucial early years of their children’s lives. Through a data-driven approach, Oster emphasizes prioritizing and making personalized decisions that suit each family’s unique circumstances.
For instance, you could share with your partner, “Since our kid is an only child, I worry that they may have a difficult time learning how to work well with others. I want to give our child opportunities to learn strong team skills. I think we should look into kids’ soccer teams.” Each of you should share what you believe are priorities regarding household tasks and after-school activities. This will help you both understand what matters most to each other.
Determine available time
Evaluate the time both of you have available for managing these responsibilities. Being realistic about your schedules is essential to avoid overburdening one person. It can also help you brainstorm if you need extra support from friends or family for drop off or pick up.
For example, “I agree that team sports can be good for our kid, but I worry that it’ll just be more stressful for us. We both work and are barely managing dinner and the bedtime routine as it is. I can’t imagine trying to add soccer practices and games into our schedules. Do you think there are days that we can get off work earlier or ask your parents to help with taking them to practice once a week?” Check out this easy relationship check-in framework!
Share your feelings/Check in regularly
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed when you have multiple obligations and responsibilities to take care of each week. If you keep those feelings to yourself, it could lead to disconnection and resentment. However, if you share your feelings, it can lead to compassion and understanding.
For example, “I’ve been feeling more stressed out – between work, going to soccer practices, washing more laundry, and figuring out what to make for dinner I’m starting to regret signing up for soccer. But, I see how much our kid loves being part of the team and they have made some really sweet friends. How are you feeling about our schedule and all we have going on?”
Discuss your children’s needs, wants, and cost to commit
Make sure you are on the same page regarding your children’s needs and desires when it comes to sports. Do your kids need to be involved in more than one activity per season? What are the costs to your family if you sign up your kids for those activities?
For example, “Hey, I saw the school is offering chess after school and one of the parents asked if we were going to sign our kid up for softball. How do you think we’ve done with balancing soccer, homework, family time, couple time, etc? What are your thoughts about adding something else?”
“I’m not sure our kid needs more than one activity at a time. I think if we added more, it could really take away from family dinners and even interfere with the date nights that we’ve carved out. I don’t want to lose those important nights because those are what get me through some of the tougher weeks.”
2. Divide and conquer
After you and your partner find compromise with your family’s priorities, responsibilities, available time and energy, and awareness of your and your partner’s feelings, it’s time to divide and conquer. Divide tasks and responsibilities based on your strengths, interests, and capacity.
There are a few ways you and your partner can effectively divide and conquer:
Divide tasks based on strengths
Identify which tasks each of you is better suited to handle or outsource responsibilities, if feasible. For example, if your partner is more organized and better at meal planning and prep, let them take charge of the food responsibilities. It’s also great to involve your children! How can your kids help prep snacks or meals for the week? Or enlist a food delivery service, like DoorDash, on a specific night each week or a laundry service like 2ULaundry. You’ll pay premium prices, but if time and energy is more of a priority, it may be worth the added expense.
Share the load
Make sure you distribute tasks fairly. Create a shared calendar to help you visualize schedules and responsibilities to ensure that one partner doesn’t feel overwhelmed while the other is relatively free. This doesn’t mean a perfect 50/50 split of responsibilities at all times, but instead lays out the expectations and contributions each of you make to help support your family’s priorities. To be honest, we agree with Brené Brown that relationships being 50/50 is “the biggest crock of bullsh*t.” Instead consider what you are both capable of, which may not be equal, but sharing the load and finding what works for your relationship does increase communication and greater empathy.
Consider rotating responsibilities weekly or monthly to keep things fresh and equitable. If it is too challenging for both of you to go to your kid’s practice and get work or household tasks done, one of you can do the practice while the other is in charge of dinner for one week. You can also talk with your child about getting into a habit of doing homework while waiting to be picked up from school so when they get home, they can eat and go to bed on time.
3. Make time for your relationship
Investing in your relationship with your partner is one of the most significant gifts you can give your children. It’s great to get your child involved in sports, but not at the expense of your connection to one another. The health of your relationship will ultimately trickle down and influence your overall family connection. Your relationship sets the foundation for your family to function. It’s okay to tell your children that you need couple time (without them).
Just like you schedule your children’s activities, block out time on your calendar for each other (use your shared calendar!). No children, no interruptions, just the two of you. Date nights, or consistent connection times, are nothing new or novel, but they are linked to higher relationship satisfaction and lower rates of divorce. According to the National Marriage Project, couples were 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their relationship if they spent at least once a week in couple time, compared to those who didn’t spend as much time together. Even once a week connecting makes a big difference!
Just like you work together to get your kid to practice, use the same skills to keep couple time sacred (review step two, but instead of your kid, think about your relationship).When you are together, ask each other questions to cultivate gratitude or deepen your connection. You can also weave small gestures into your week to help strengthen appreciation for one another.
The juggling act is challenging, but it can be done.
It can be tough to juggle household tasks, after-school sports, and a healthy relationship with your significant other. Despite the hustle and bustle of life, your relationship does not have to be placed on the back burner until your children grow up and leave your home. Many couples who put their relationship off find it difficult to reconnect once their children have launched because disconnection and loneliness have crept in.
Your relationship is important and deserves prioritization among the many things you’re managing. Creating good habits to connect at least one time a week, is possible, has profound benefits for both you and your partner, and your family overall.
If you find navigating the demands of managing a household and after-school sports challenging, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. Compromise is possible — understanding family values is key and couples therapy can help you have this important conversation. Our practice offers in-person appointments in Charlotte, NC, and Carefree, AZ. We also have virtual sessions available for those who live in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas. Contact us to get started.