For a few months now, Andrew and I have made an effort to have a weekly meeting together to “touch base” and plan for the coming days. This weekly meeting has been a game-changer for our family, especially since adopting our son six months ago. Now we have two little ones with schedules and appointments to keep on track. If we don’t sit down once a week and map out, take stock, etc. the wheels are likely to fall off the bus.
Before you read this whole post and think “WELL GOOD FOR YOU, HAVING YOUR LIFE TOGETHER AND ALL THAT JAZZ,” let me be very clear: we have tried to employ some system like this for over a year and it was only in the last 3-4 months that we have made it a priority out of necessity. The “agenda” has evolved and it fits our family’s current season, so we’ve found what serves our family best and now its a non-negotiable.
It might not seem like it, but this is self care for us. I feel very strongly that self care doesn’t always take the form of bubble baths and rosé. In my opinion, more often than not, true self care is not easy. It looks like doing something you’ve never done for the sake of improving your mental health. It looks like embracing the discipline it takes to develop a new habit for the sake of having a thriving family and home. It looks a lot like meal prep, screens off past 8 pm, and eliminating caffeine for a season.
So if this weekly meeting idea seems like it’s right up your alley, I’m thrilled! But if it seems like you could never be so methodical and scheduled with your week, I’d ask you to get honest with yourself about the possibility of it being something great in your life.
Because we have littles (two and three years old) Andrew and I have the meeting without the kids. If you have teenagers or even pre-teens, including them could be a great way to teach TONS of good stuff- budgeting, meal planning, and all the moving parts of managing a household. Include whomever you think could benefit and contribute to the meeting.
I could see this being a sort of rite-of-passage in a family. Like, once you’re ten, you get to go to the family meetings and say, choose Thursday night’s dinner from one of mom’s cook books or pick the movie for Friday night. Just some ideas for family’s with older kids. I have single friends who say this could be a useful tool to have with their roommate once a week. I really think that whomever you’re sharing your space with can be included in this weekly event.
You can meet at any time that works for your family. Andrew and I find that Sunday afternoons are best because we have the whole week ahead of us and the kids are usually napping comfortably by 2 pm. We also find that Sunday mornings at church give us a renewed energy for the week to come. When we get home from that gathering, we feel a sense of purpose and we have the right mindset to approach planning our week.
Our weekly meeting takes about 30-60 minutes. Sometimes we have to really hash out the schedule or budget. And sometimes the gloves come off because we can’t decide whether to have chicken or fish for dinner! (Kidding, Andrew will eat literally anything and I do almost all the cooking, so I choose most of the meals.)
We like to pile up on our couch to execute the meeting. We don’t find it to be hard to focus without a tabletop or desk. We both grab our laptops and sit side-by-side. I’ll usually have a pen and paper because I like to make lists by hand sometimes.
The How (Schedule)
You can think of our weekly meeting as broken down into three sections: schedule, budget, food. Occasionally there is talk about other things. For instance if we are traveling any time soon, we might have a few extra details to discuss. But almost everything that is necessary to discuss fits into one of these categories.
We use the Apple Calendar app on all our devices to plan our schedules. I fought HARD against a completely digital setup for our calendar, but alas, it is extra convenient and works like a dream when you know how to use it. Take some time to find what works for you. We tried other apps like Cozi and Google Calendars, but with an exclusively Apple household, we came back to the already-installed Calendars. Here’s what I love about it:
You can create separate schedules for each member/members of the family. I’ll write another blog post all about the features we love on this built-in app, but just know, it works very well for our very busy family of four.
The main stays of schedule-planning are drop-off/pick-up, appointments, and weird work hours. All of these are intertwined, but basically we have to decide who will be doing school drop-off and pick-up for each day of the coming week. If the kids have any appointments, we have to nail down which of us will be taking them. Finally, since Andrew and I both work for ourselves (besides the three days he’s at his part time job) we are able to be somewhat flexible. In the meeting, we tell each other if we have meetings with clients, important phone calls, or anything else that needs to be prioritized on the schedule. We make sure all those items are clearly explained on the calendar. If either of us needs to add weird work hours to the week, like me getting out SUPER early at a coffee shop, or him staying at the office until after the kids are in bed, we talk through that, so that those needs aren’t a shock to the person who is getting the kids out/in the door, fed, in bed, etc. by themselves. I’d say each week one of us does solo bedtime for an evening so the other one can get some work done. As long as we communicate this ahead of time (i.e. weekly meeting) it doesn’t “throw us off.”
The How (Budget/Meal Planning)
When it’s time to look at the budget, we are basically taking stock of the withdrawals from the week before and anticipating those to come in the current week. On and off throughout our marriage we have used a budgeting tool called mint.com. We are currently using it diligently because we are zero-based budgeting to pay off debt. Mint allows you to create budgets for income and spending and track it via transactions. We use this feature for all automatic transactions and bills, but we withdraw cash for our groceries, sundries, and household items. During the meeting, we look at all the transactions to come for the week, make sure nothing seems “off,” and decide how much cash to withdraw for the coming week.
To be completely transparent, the work in Mint and looking at all the bills to come is mostly Andrew. I am definitely looking at the numbers with him, but around this point in the meeting, I am planning meals for the coming week (which doubles as recipe testing for the blog, win/win). He might have questions for me about transactions or something he doesn’t remember, but there’s a bit of a divide and conquer situation at this point. We use Wunderlist to share a grocery list. I check that list and add to it based on the meals I’ve planned to make. I look at the calendar to see when a grocery run can happen and add that into the schedule. Meanwhile Andrew is knee-deep in numbers and spreadsheets that make me want to run for the hills. It works for us!
Well folks, there you have it! I’ll share more details about the apps we use in a few later posts. Does your family have a weekly meeting? How do you spend that time?