Confession: A few months ago, I sat on the bleachers at my son's basketball playoffs, secretly pleased when his teammate missed the shot and put an end to the team's season -- at last. After months of running from field to court for my children's various activities, I longed for a break in the rat race. I'm pretty sure other working parents in the bleachers were feeling the same way.
With the start of school, kids want to sign up for extracurricular activities. Then, it is up to us parents to get them where they need to go. Sometimes, we drive ourselves over the edge trying to make our work schedules mesh with their activities.
Here are a few tips you can use when juggling your work schedule with your children's activities:
* Gage your flexibility at work. Your employer may be willing to make an arrangement with you, even if it's temporary, to allow you to get your kids to practices if you come in earlier. This usually involves a conversation in advance.
* Consider proximity. The more activities kids can do at school, the easier it is on working parents. Get a schedule of team try-ours from your child's school. Some day-care centers have started to offer dance or martial arts classes during the day.
* Let your child choose. Children inevitably are more successful when they choose the activity rather than a parent. "If it's something they really want to do, they are more likely to figure out on their own how to get where they need to be," says Mandee Heller Adler, a Hollywood college admissions consultant.
* Find a carpool. This is when networking with other parents pays off. When asked, most working parents are thrilled to split driving duties.
* Do the activity with your child. Attorney Valerie Greenberg enrolled in martial arts classes with her two kids. She found it the best way to combine exercise for her with activity for them.
* Look into online activities. Your child might want to take cooking lessons by watching online videos at home.
* Enlist multiple children in the same activity. This may seem like a no-brainer but it may require some compromise.
* Ask about flexibility. If you plan to sign up for gymnastics or dance classes for your child, find out whether they have make-up opportunities for those times when your work schedules prohibits you from getting your child to their activity.
* Lose the guilt. "Parents don't have to be at every practice or show," says parenting expert Laura Gauld of greatparenting101.com. Sometimes, stepping back has its advantages, she says. "Someone else steps up and can turn out to be a good mentor for your child."
*Know the expectations. While elite youth sports teams are popular, they require travel and mandatory practices. It's best to check into requirements before signing up for a major commitment.
Wishing all parents a great 2010-2011 school year!