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How I Learned to Survive, and Love, Weekends With My Kids

"I think we should talk about the weekends," the hubs says to me six months after our son's birth.

"The weekends ... suck," he says. He backs away for fear of my reaction.

"Oh, thank God," I say. "I thought it was just me."

I appreciate the hubs taking on the role of Subject Broacher, which can often lead to one being the Couch Sleeper On'er. Quite frankly, I'm plain-old relieved. My husband said what I'd been thinking. I just didn't have the guts to admit it.

As a new parent, everyone else seems so happy all the time. I take my kids to the park on the weekend, and the place is filled with parents who seem anxious to spend their whole day there. Me? Ten minutes in I'm checking my watch wondering how long until I can do something I want to do, like anything but watching my kid play. At lunch, while my kid makes a weapon of the salt and pepper shakers, other parents within earshot can be seen looking into their kids' eyes, saying, "I just love the time together." By Sunday afternoon, I'm counting the minutes until Monday morning, when I can get back to work and relax.

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My husband asks how come I waited until he brought up the subject, "If you were miserable, why didn't you tell me?" he asks.

"I didn't know I could," I confess. "I never knew I was allowed to dislike something about being a mom. I thought that meant I was a bad mom."

So we dig into a very lengthy, and very honest, discussion about how to make our family weekends better. The hubs wants more freedom and feels guilty for not wanting his life to only consist of work and time with the kids. I want to exercise, spend a little time alone, or better yet, with the newspaper. We both want to spend time with our son, together and apart. We just don't want to spend all our weekend time with our son, together or apart.

Since we've been spending so much time doing what we don't want to do, we decide to be honest about what we do want to do. We decide to try to design our life to be filled with what we want it to be, not with what we don't want it to be.

Give yourself a break from having to enforce the rules, and give your kids a break from having to live by them.

Together, we came up with a plan that would help us BOTH enjoy our weekends. Here's how we learned to survive, and enjoy, weekends with our kids.

1. Lighten up! Let loose on the rules, and inject a little more fun into your weekends. Give yourself a break from having to enforce the rules, and give your kids a break from having to live by them. This may mean you have a "Carpet Picnic" breakfast in front of the TV (your kid, not you), "Silly Sunday" (breakfast for dinner) or "PJ Mornings" (which may last well past lunch). Don't worry, come Monday morning everything will be back to normal, and your kids won't always expect cupcakes for breakfast.

2. Don't be boring. A bored mom is a bored kid, so fill your weekends with stuff you actually like to do with your kids. Don't "gut it out" just for the sake of passing time. There's no award ceremony on Sunday night for the most miserable mom, so do what you like to do.

3. Make plans. Most parents see weekends as, "How long until Monday?" Instead of waiting for it to end, make plans with other families and friends with whom you and your kids enjoy spending time. And, anyway, there's safety in numbers. More parents are better than one, and it takes the heat off of you.

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4. Bribe the kid. Sure, sure, we don't want to use treats, TV, or later bedtimes as rewards for good behavior. Except on the weekend when we've worked all week, haven't had one minute to sit down and we really need our kid to take that treat, TV or later bedtime in exchange for a hassle-free weekend. So if the kid watches a little extra TV while you do the New York Times crossword puzzle, have at it. Just don't expect your toddler to help. Those puzzles are tough!

5. Ask for time off. It's parenting, not prison. Most working parents will confess to feeling incredibly guilty for not wanting to spend every waking moment of their weekend with their kids or spouse. Be honest and let your spouse be honest, too. If you love that spin class, schedule it in and leave dad home with the kiddos. If he loves that tennis game and hates to miss it, give him your blessing. By giving yourself and your spouse the permission to spend time doing other things than parenting, you'll enjoy the times you are parenting much more.

And, for God's sake ...

6. Get help! We call her the marriage saver, the college girl who comes over some Saturday mornings and hangs out with our kids for a couple hours while my husband and I both do things we want to do—separate from our kids, and separate from one another. I've been going to the same Saturday morning yoga class for 10 years and I don't want to stop. My husband loves his morning tennis game and finds the time helps him to de-stress from a hard week at work. I don't resent him and nor does he resent me because we're not leaving the other hanging. The rest of the weekend is "all hands on deck," and we love it.

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