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The Family Calendar: How do you keep it all straight?

One Saturday morning last summer, I hurried the family to get ready for a birthday party.  The celebrant was a friend / classmate of one of my girls.  My daughter was so excited: there would be a clown!  It was a 10am start time, I do recall.  So, I was diligent about getting my Saturday morning chores out of the way in quick order so she could be at the party on time.  We knocked on the door - my husband, my two daughters, and I - and waited.  It was a protracted pause.

The celebrant - along with her mother and her father - opened up the door.  They were in their pajamas.  The house smelled of pancakes.  The girl had those big stuffed animal slippers on.

"Oh no!" said the mother.  "The party is next week!"

They offered niceties and even welcomed us in.  The welcomed us into their home, into their Saturday morning private time in pajamas!  I mumbled apology after apology.  In the steps leaving the house, I fought to hold back tears.  I felt so dejected, so inept, so disorganized, and so discombobulated.  My husband and my girls couldn't understand how I could have messed up the day.

Well, they probably couldn't understand because they actually have little to do with keeping our family calendar up-to-date and accounted for.  In our two working-parent household with two children who have varied social needs, not to mention varied academic needs, it is so hard to keep it all straight.  When are lunch order forms due?  When are books due at the library?  When are parent-teacher conferences?  When are NO SCHOOL days and where will the kids be?  And HOW much will it cost?   And, why are kid 1's NO SCHOOL days never the same as kid 2's NO SCHOOL days?  And, when do we have time for the doctor or dentist?  And, who will be taking time off work to take him/her to the doctor/dentist?  And, which kid has a birthday party when?  And when/what/where will we get for a gift?  And who has a late meeting on what day?  And - wait a minute - we BOTH have a late meeting on THAT day?  Then, what happens to the kids?

For certain, our family schedule is complicated by the fact that each parent works outside the home, late hours, and has some element of travel.  However, I just heard from another mama friend - a stay at home mama - who lamented that her daughter missed two birthday parties recently because she botched up the calendar and completely forgot about them due to other activites.  I do believe that calendaring complications can straddle mamas in different situations.

We have a paper calendar on the fridge, we have a dry-erase calendar where we write in all the highlights of the week, and we (my husband and I) have our respective outlook calendars that include our work schedules.  Still, it is ever so complicated and there are things that slip through the cracks.

How do you keep it all straight?  What is your no-fail method?  How do you keep the scheduling organized and everyone appraised of what is happening when?

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On Google each person has a different calendar that is merged into one. Each person has a different color: Myself, DH, son1, son2 and family as a whole.

OMG, I love this post. We too use the Google calendar, relatively effectively the majority of the time, but even then, stuff occassionally falls through the cracks. The Google calendar for the summer ends up looking pretty funny when you've got multiple kids' camp schedules on it.

just completely missed a birthday party due to my dyslexia. March 13- no the 31st. When I heard the other families at preschool talking about what a fun party it was, I had to come clean to the birthday kid's mama. Worst of all was trying to explain to two tenacious three year olds that they missed their first birthday party invite. Boo.

I was just writing to another urban mama, Courtney, about my frightening schedule. We have a paper calendar where we keep everything...supposedly. But then there's also a google calendar that my husband and I share when I remember to update it. They are mostly in sync but sometimes not. It seems that there are school, social, sports, work, and other changes happening too often to capture.

Life is simply moving too fast and I know that this mama is having a hard time reigning things in. I'm looking forward to what others share here. I need a better system.

We(ahem), I use a paper calender to coordinate everyone's schedule. I have tried to use Microsoft Outlook, my phone, and back in the day.. my left over from work Palm Pilot. It just came down to it being easier for me to pencil in everyone's activities in one place. The calendar itself is binder paper sized, so it's not really portable, but that hasn't seemed to be a problem. We have everything on it from when to change the furnace filter to when spring break starts and ends, etc., etc.

im divorced and have the joy of a step mom in the picture who doesn't work, and loves to harp on any imperfections in this department. sigh.

i use ical/iphone and mobile me to sync it all which is great when it all gets in properly.

Venting: it drives me nuts that I'm the one who's in charge of our child's calendar. I hate that it falls on me to know EVERYTHING about her school schedule, dr appointments, birthday and playdate invites, and so on. Not only do I have to know when everything takes place, I have to coordinate making things happen as scheduled, i.e. coordinate child care, arrange for time off of work to take her to the doctor, buy and wrap a birthday present, etc. And then he wonders why I don't have time for anything else.

Thank you, someone, for listening.

My oldest is 3, so for now it's not too difficult to keep track of things (although I have totally flaked on playdates etc now that I have two kiddos and understand the true meaning of mommy brain!). I try to use my Yahoo calendar and my neighbor makes this really cool window cling calendar called "A Window of Time" www.awindowoftime.net

I am in charge of ical calendar for me and the kid (I set up email reminders for myself so it doesn't just go in and then I never look at it again). Hubby keeps his own work/events calendar separate. We tried merging our calendars online once, but we were both so in our routine that I never checked it and he never updated it. Our method worked better when I was working only a little and was generally on point for kid-related activities. Now, the roles have reversed somewhat and Hubby is the one dropping her off at school, getting invites to birthday parties and play date dates and re-arranging work to accommodate no school days and late-start days. Generally, it's okay. One of us is usually free and whoever gets the invite makes sure the other one knows about it too, but it can be challenging sometimes.

I would love to have a shared google calendar with my entire family but I seem to be the only computer literate person in the family. Sigh. Therefore we have ONE paper calendar in the kitchen, above the phone, where we have to remember to write everything down. Which means that when I'm at work and something gets scheduled I either have to hold it in my brain (HA HA HA HA HA HA) or write it on my hand until I get home, where my 3.5 year old says "mama you are supposed to only write on paper!!" (because how many times has she heard me say that to her?!).

I hear you, Allison! Same boat, right here. If I ask him specifically to complete a scheduling task he'll do it, but otherwise it's all me.
I just use a paper calendar, electronic devices don't work well for me as I forget to update or check them. While things do sometimes sneak up on me (wait, no school next monday?!?), for the most part it works ok and I haven't forgotten anything major yet. My kids are still pretty young (2 & 5) so I'm sure as they get older and have more complicated schedules we'll have to find a more sophisticated system.

Nice to hear I'm not the only mama frustrated with being in charge of everyone's schedule. Linked ical calendars work pretty well with a chalkboard calendar in the kitchen for extra reminders. I don't miss much but I'm always afraid I am going to, especially now that we have 4 different child care/work configurations per week. It's my own personal neurosis but I find it a constant low level stress.

We also have a Google calendar with a different color for each person. My husband and I each have smart phones where we can use and view different calendar profiles (Palm & various Google calendars). The appointments that no one else needs to know about/consider, I schedule on my Palm calendar. The family appointments or reminding my husband about something he needs to do all go on the Google calendar. We've tried the paper calendar on the fridge and it just doesn't work. We need email reminders and bells going off!

Old fashioned huge wall calendar that I fill in/update constantly. I like being the schedule keeper. If this weren't enough for our family I would consider us too busy.

We're old school, I guess.

I keep a paper calendar in the kitchen. Nothing fancy; dh is in Parks, so it's whatever freebie nature calendar comes his way each December. I write down everything on that. Dh has a (paper) planner for work and he makes it his responsibility to check the kitchen calendar and add anything to his planner that affects the family as a whole - Hebrew School, birthday parties, etc.

The most "complicated" thing I do is to write school closure days and late openings in red. The kids are 7 and 10 and this method has worked well for us since they were born. My husband's motivation to keep his calendar coordinated with the family calendar has a lot to do with it, I think.

Google calendars with work, non work, kid and family events and to dos. I am in charge of kid and family calendars (currently those are all in my color), print out a paper copy at the end of the work week, put reminders/to dos on the calendar as an "all day event" (with alert reminders). We both have iphones but have yet to merge the calendars so we still have to look on google or the paper calendar to see each others. So far so good.

We're a little iCal crazy here. My partner and I each have multiple iCal calendars--one each for work (which we publish to each other and our employees), one each for "home" shared activities (which we publish to each other), and then I have one that's totally personal where I keep track of health and exercise things that no one else cares about. These calendars automatically update with each other and they sync with our iphones every time we plug them in. It's a great system.

When we get the annual school calendar, I go through and put all school closures, etc. into our house calendar. (If I'm really feeling on it, I try to book routine dr. and dentist appointments on in-service days!). However, we still mess things up sometimes because the event gets entered wrong or we forget to check the calendar, etc. Oh well. I don't love kids birthday parties anyway. ;)

My partner has got better at sharing scheduling responsibilities. I find that instead of asking him to be responsible for scheduling one event if I ask him to be responsible for a category (swim lessons, for instance), he's great. Okay, I sometimes have to ask if it got done, etc. but it seems to be getting better. And it seems to encourage him to take on more.

My husband and I both work full-time and are involved in outside groups, and our two kids are on different calendars due to one being in elementary school and one in daycare.

Both hubby and I favor paper appointment books. So we sit down at the beginning of each quarter and have a "calendar-syncing" session: We go through the next 3 months and both of us write down all the late work nights (and who MUST pick up the kids on those nights), PTA meetings, PPS late starts, weekend events, kids' swim lessons, kids' social events, school/daycare closures, repair guy appointments, who's going to take which car for the next oil change, etc...

I can think of only one time when we completely missed an event. No electronic communication beats actually sitting down and *talking* with your spouse.

One calendar hanging in the kitchen here. Everything goes on it, and one or two things get highlighted, like my work schedule that varies and days off from school. It works for us at this point. I've tried other ways, but then I don't look at it enough to remember what's what. And, I'm another one who really doesn't mind being in charge of keeping the schedules straight. I suppose part of it is that if I ask my husband to do something, he does, so it's not as though all the responsibility to make it happen falls to me. I just have to organize it.

I saw a couple people mention Google calendar, but I'm not sure if everyone uses it to it's fullest capabilities. We have one google cal for each family member. Each get a different color and shows up in one spot. But Google also allows us to map the calendars directly to the regular calendar program on our iPhones. I'm sure other smart phones would have the same capability. That allows us real time updates without having to sync or have a MobileMe account or anything. I can edit each calendar either from my phone or my computer, or check my husband's. We've also added additional calendars, such as our church calendar, which we import from the church's website directly into google, so we always know what's happening there. Many schools and districts are also taking advantage of google calendar, so you could import those as well. I feel like we've finally mastered the dreaded family schedule.

Old school here as well. A kitchen calender and a different color marker for each family member. My teens get their stuff on there and my hubby remembers most of the time.

We use the old-school visual calendar - binder style. Every family member has a different color. My mom used this method while directing a preschool, dad who traveled during the week and shuttling three busy kids around mostly BY HERSELF for the better part of a decade. To this day, if I come to visit, the calendar will read "___ visits!" in blue (my color). Makes me laugh every time.

Google calendar also has an option to send you a TEXT or EMAIL reminder the day before or so (depending on what you set it as) for up coming events. Kind of annoying sometimes when you get texts all the time that you PROBABLY already know about...but I have to say I have had a few "OMG I completely forgot about that appointment" moments, that saved my butt.

KARLI:
I am curious how you map the calendars directly to the regular calendar program on your iphone. Does it populate the information to outlook or something? Or just to google calendar which is viewable on your iphone?

Really good post!

Here is some helpful advice I found about scheduling and even meal planning. Great site: http://simplemom.net/home-management-online/

Don't be so hard on yourself. I'm just surprised your family was surprised that it got mixed up. This brings to mind a salient point: why is it automatically us (the momma) who has to keep it all straight? Granted, the average 3yr old isn't good with calendars, but how about hubby there? Just think it's worth bringing up again.

Not to beat a dead horse. Just read the other posts. Anyhooo....

I'd like to think one day my hubby would look at the paper calendar. Haven't written on it in a long time- gives me one more reason to harp, nag& remind him whenever I feel like it! I have my own tiny one in my purse.
Plus, since I do the running, unless I ask him to be accountable for certain thing(s), there's no missing, confused, blaming, which works out better for us.

I keep the calendars for the family as well and have a paper calendar in the laundry room where I write nearly everything down so that I can see the big picture all at once, and I also keep iCal updated on my phone since I often make appointments while I'm out and about. I also get seriously irritated that I'm the one in the family who has to keep the calendar straight for each of us, but also any household appt like the cable guy, the contractor, etc. Sometimes the fact that it all falls on my shoulders is just too much to handle, although at the moment, that's just the way things are for us and it won't change until/unless my husband's job gets a whole lot less demanding. So in a sense, the coordinating of schedules is not as complicated for us since I take care of everything for myself and the kids and if Papa can join us, it's gravy. He makes his own appointments for the dentist and doctor so I don't have to worry about that. If I need him to do something with me/us during working hours, I send him an email in advance so that he can put it on his work calendar and we all just hope that the CEO doesn't make other plans for him that day...Sigh.

The Google calendar has worked *so* much better for us than paper. Just being able to check it or add things away from home has been huge. My husband never really checked the home calendar but the Google is merged with his work one so he's way more in touch with what's coming up. We've got all the different colors going, too. I just started printing out a copy for the kitchen when the kids complained that we didn't have a calendar up anymore...
Of course, if you put the *wrong* date in, you can still show up at someone's house on the wrong day for their party, like I did during the holiday season. Wondered why it was so quiet on their street. I also did the almost cry on the doorstep after dragging my family across town.

Another family using a google calendar for everything :)

Still the occasional mistake when something is entered wrong or not entered but it has made a world of difference.

My husband and I both use Outlook Calenders. We use the appt invite to book family outings, dr appts, etc on the calender. For example, if I am scheduling a party for my girls to attend I will send him the invite and might include a note asking him to be in charge of my son while I take the girls to the party.
We both synch our calenders to our smartphones.
It's been very effective for us!

Paper calendar in a prominent kitchen spot, and frequent emails from work back and forth to remind, coordinate, cajole.

But what seems to keep many things from slipping through the cracks is the Sunday night family meeting where we all (6 and 9 year-old included) go over the schedule for the upcoming week, even reiterating the stuff that always happens, noting any changes, talking about how it's going to work. Then we talk about "what's working and what's not" for everyone (ignoring remarks like, "My brother's not working for me.") and dole out allowances.

Of course we still usually end up with some kind of rapid-fire parental discussion of the day's plan over coffee at 6:30, before the kids are up.

Another vote for Google calendar. We have a color for me, a color for my spouse, a color for our family, and a color for our daughter. We share our daughter's calendar with her two (yes, two) care providers so they always know what's coming up, when her school is closed and who's watching her. We got them both on gmail, and they love being able to merge their care duties with their own calendars. IT IS AWESOME.

The only redundancy is my Outlook calendar at work, but I simply add anything that's outside of normal work hours -- late meeting, early conference call -- to my Google events.

So far, so good. And it really helps my husband and I make sure we aren't double-booking anything. We also exchange schedule-related emails a lot from work, and do a Friday "what's going on this weekend?" email exchange every week.

Another google calendar user here. I have one, my ex-husband has one, and we share one for the kid. This not only has things like school closures, field trips, teacher conferences and birthday parties, but also has our custody schedule set for the whole year. It works really well if both parents remember to use it. It's also helpful to see past years, as we trade off some holidays every year and sometimes it's hard to remember whose turn it is.

we're also old school--paper calendar in the kitchen with a chalkboard highlighting the week's upcoming activities.

Old school planner for me. I carry it everywhere I go. I keep all appts etc for me and my daughter. I inform the husband if it is something he is responsible for or needs to (or might want to) attend and he keeps his own calendar for his appts etc. Since I am a SAHM most of the responsibility for my daughters appts, school stuff and extracurricular activities falls on me anyhow. This system has worked well for us for the last few years. I have always prefered a written planner and used the same system when I was a working.

We went to a birthday party a week early once. Started using google calendar, a paper calendar in the kitchen, and a little planner directly after that. I've only missed one appointment in the last 5 years. BUT all those calendars have not taken away the nervous feeling that I am forgetting something or am maybe getting the time/date wrong.

Great timing, we are trying to figure this out as well and Google calendar keeps coming up as an option. I will have to check that out.

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