Sunday, March 20, 2016

5 Tips For Surviving A Busy Season In Your Family or Marriage

Most of y'all lovely readers out there know that I'm a tax accountant, which means from about February 1st to March 31st I work 55+ hours a week and from then until April 15th I sell my soul to my employer.   In the olden days this wasn't such a big deal since it was just me and Trent, but now with three chillens in the picture, and a disaster of a tax season last year with only two chillens, we approached this spring with some planning and some fierce determination for it to be a success.  And you know what?  So far so good.  So I decided to impart to y'all some of our strategies we've landed on, in case it could help anyone else out with a busy or challenging season in their family or marriage.

Maybe you're a tax accountant too (may the odds be ever in your favor).  Maybe you're in some type of ministry that has busy stretches, like summer for youth ministers (been there).  Maybe one of your kids is on a select sports team that requires intense devotion, time and travel.  Maybe there's an illness in your family that is pulling certain members away from normal roles in order to provide care.  Whatever the season may be for you and yours, I hope these tips can help out at least a bit.

1. Make a plan
Coming into this tax season, we discussed what my overtime schedule should be, how we should tackle daycare drop off and pick up, under what circumstances we'd call in OmieJean as backup help, who would generally be responsible for different chores, etc.  We set up a routine and we have stuck to it as much as we can and as long as it has worked.  It is not, however, set in stone, but I'll get to that.  You gotta have a plan though to start out.  Discuss expectations and hopes for how the busy time will go.  Allow space for each other to voice concerns or things that are scaring you to death about how this is all gonna go down.  Pinpoint areas of your normal routine that are normally handled by one or the other of you that may get turned on their head because that person simply won't be able to handle those things for a time.  Our main goals for tax seasons are for Trent to not be a single parent for three months and for me to actually see my kids and remain a present parent.  We've made a plan that splits the daycare duties and has me home in the evenings and most of each weekend.

2. Be intentional about date nights and family fun
Our plan involves me going to work at 6:00 am six days a week and Trent getting the kids up, dressed and to daycare by himself.  I pick up the kids from daycare four days a week and we generally have our normal, chaotic, fun evenings at home.  We also try to throw in fun trips to parks and such on weekends.  I work when my kids sleep so that I can see them when they are awake, but then once they are back asleep, I'm soon to follow.  Because my alarm clock begins with a 4...  Then on weekends there are chores to catch up on.  Where in all that am I supposed to hang out with my husband??  We made the decision before this busy season cranked up to put a bi-weekly date night on our schedule.  Our fabulous babysitter, Carlie, has us penciled in every other week and we pay her real dollars to give us a few real hours out.  It's a break, it's a chance to sit still and talk to each other across a restaurant table, a chance to reconnect, a chance to pretend it's not tax season.   Best. Decision. Ever.  Prioritize family relationships and your marriage to the degree you can and you won't regret it.

3. Budget accordingly
Leave it to me to bring dollars into this, but it's a valid point.  When life is out of whack for a busy time, your regular household budget may no longer be accurate for that situation.   For us, we end up eating out a whole lot more than we otherwise would, whether it's quick lunch dates for me and Trent or drive thru trips for the whole family.   I also make more trips to Starbucks than I otherwise do, because of that whole alarm clock beginning with a 4 thing.  Thankfully, my busy time includes overtime pay, which helps with these increased or different expenses, but that may not be the case for everyone.  So take a look at your family budget, think about what could be affected because of this wacky season and adjust accordingly.   While some expenses may increase, like eating out, others may likewise decrease, like leisure activities or entertainment, since you ain't got no stinkin' time for them.

4. Adapt
Just because you made a plan in the beginning doesn't mean you have to stick with it the whole way through.   Have regular check in discussions to make sure things are still working or see if you need to tweak how you are approaching your routine.   Trent and I had a conversation recently in which we asked questions like is this working for you, what are you struggling with, what can I do differently, what do you think we need to do differently overall, should we shift this schedule item, should we prioritize such and such more or less, etc.   In that discussion, we changed some of our plan, mostly because I'm to the point in the season when I need to work even more hours.   I'm gonna shift my arrival time earlier and he's going to handle daycare pickup a few more days a week.  I may pull some second shifts, working more after kids go to bed, and we did indeed have to call in OmieJean recently for backup.  If your busy time stays the same all the way through, it may be more possible for you to stick to the same plan all the way through, but if yours ramps up at the end like mine, you'll need to roll with the punches and adapt.

5. Encourage and acknowledge
This is hugely important.  It is less about logistics and more about attitude and sanity.   If one of you is busting their butt to accomplish the busy season tasks, that means the other is picking up some slack in some way.   Acknowledge that both are working hard to make this work and encourage each other in the roles that you have taken on.  Our busy season abounds with "thank you for handling the kids each morning" and "thank you for working so hard to make our money" and "you're a rockstar dad" and "you're an asskicker CPA" and "thank you for doing the laundry" and "thank you for doing the dishes" and so on and so forth.   This attitude of appreciation and encouragement lightens the whole dang thing up a few notches and make you feel like a valuable part of a team instead of just a slave to this challenging season.

In conclusion, in the words of my mother, the aforementioned OmieJean... Go! Fight! Win!

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