I wrote way back in March about seizing the freedom to make memories with our families. However, the advice in that post doesn’t really cover an important topic: how do you make family memories easy on Dad. You see, Dads and Moms both work hard. I think they both long to make great memories with their children. However, it’s not always easy on Dad to just go on a family outing. That’s why I’m writing this follow-up.
How Do We Make Family Outings Easy on Dad?
For general tips on planning, please go read “Seize the Freedom to Make Memories With Your Family Today.” On top of that article, there are some other ways to reduce the stress so that family outings can be easy on Dad.
Things to Keep in Mind While Planning
The After-Work Crash
I have the traditional setup where Hubby works full-time and I stay home with our daughter. Up until this point, there’s been a twist in that he had a full-time schoolwork load as well. As is true of most families with this set-up, I relish the chance even to go eat in a restaurant because suddenly my appearance in a day actually matters.
Usually, Hubby just wants to rest with his free-time. Sometimes work is stressful for him, and that leaves him even more drained. As much as I might like to take a Saturday to spend over in beach territory or hiking a mountain trail, it’s not always fair to him. Just like I wrote in how can Christian mothers balance self-care, sometimes we need to rest more one week than we do another. That’s just as true for your husband.
This is just a very small point as we’re in the middle of Georgia summer heat. You see, for the first time in forever, we have time to go do more things. However, we’re unwilling to spend afternoon hours outside right now, which means that we definitely don’t want to subject our toddler to being carried in the heat.
It’s important to look for indoor activities as well, both for when it’s hot outside and as potential backups to rainy weather.
Don’t forget to factor in the overall cost of your family outing, especially if you keep a tight budget. This means you need to think about the cost of food as well as the gas needed to get there.
I’m incredibly blessed with a Hubby who tries to shoulder 100% of our financial needs by himself. This was true even pre-baby and back when we were both working as newlywed college students. Because of this, though, I also need to keep in mind that wanting to do too many pay-for-admission outings will doubly add to his financial stress.
As an additional note, make sure you have cash on hand. You don’t want to be cash-less for surprise parking fees.
Time for Other Relationships
Your husband needs time to unwind with his friends. You need time to unwind with your friends. Make sure that you’re not always putting a family outing ahead of your respective friendships (or vice versa!). One solution for this is to invite your friends to go with you on the outing. This is how you turn close friends into an extension of the family. For other solutions on how to manage things, see the later section, “Fun Ways to Decide What to Do.”
Prepping for the Outing
When you have your itinerary planned for the trip, you are able to work on the next phase of de-stressing the trip for Dad: preparation. Ways to prepare for an outing include:
- Writing a list of needed items/snacks: We tend to travel light, but it’s still difficult to remember to grab toddler-ware, toddler snacks, outing specific items, and so on. Writing a list makes it easy for you to both pack everything up at one time, which cuts back on some of the last minute, “Oh no, honey, can you go grab (blank) while I wrestle Timmy into the carseat?”
- Use a staging area – This is especially handy for outings that require several different categories of items to be collected. For example, if we were going fishing then we could group the fishing supplies, snacks, emergency and safety gear, and toddler gear all-together in one staging area. This makes it easy to add to as you remember stuff, as well as lets you easily look through to make sure you truly got everything. The best part? You can do most of the staging the night before.
- Overnight Trips – These are their own special animal. While technically we use the two methods outlined above, the Hubby and I have a teamwork system streamlined for overnight trips. Normally he stacks up the clothes and items that he wants to take. I create a list for my daughter because it’s surprisingly easy for me to forget either diapers or wipes. Then I go through and pack his stuff while adding mine to it while he’s at work. By the time he gets home, we’re usually all ready to go.
- Keep basic supplies in the car – You know, the stuff that you’ll wish you had grabbed but sometimes forget. Keep emergency first-aid – plus Tylenol for spontaneous headaches – in your vehicle. You can also keep spare diapers, sunscreen, wipes, and outfit changes for emergencies. We used to keep a large umbrella in each of our vehicles, which we used for both rain and sunshade at youth events (in our former lives as youth ministers) when we spent more time than expected outside. And while we’re on the subject, keep some tools and fix-a-flat in your trunk. Just do it.
The Day Of
Okay Moms, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: our own moods.
Maybe it’s just me, but my own emotions reflect back at me from my family. If I stay light-hearted and laugh, then we all enjoy ourselves. If I get stressed though, the Hubby and my daughter also start to get moody.
Most trips will not go as you expected. We recently took Hailey to the Zoo and thought we would get to have a lot of fun watching her experience new animals. In reality, the animals were all staying so still (thanks heat!) that we couldn’t even get her attention on most of them. It wasn’t a magical trip, but we still had fun together because we took it all in stride.
This isn’t just a point to keep it easy on Dad; this is about making the most of things with our own attitude. It makes it easy on yourself, too.
So don’t let the kids get to you, don’t let bad GPS directions get to you, and don’t fall prey to stress. The goal of a family outing is to spend time together, right? So unless half of your tribe magically gets teleported away from you, you’re accomplishing that goal already, right?
But the Kids…
Yeah, kids can be a pain sometimes. So figure out what’s bugging them. Are they tired? Hot? Need to run out some energy?
I’m not truly in this stage so take this with a grain of salt, but it’s okay to be spontaneous. Stop at the shiny park you just happened to pass by so they can explore a new playground. Or stop for an icecream cone (pretty much all fast-food places have them).
Sing songs to entertain the littlest ones, tell stories as a family one sentence at a time, or play some other classic road games.
Fun Ways to Decide What to Do
The Daytrip Jar
Create a list of possible daytrip ideas for your area that can be done at pretty much anytime and with very little preparation. Don’t forget to include simpler items like “ice-cream date at the park”. Write them on scraps of paper or on popsicle sticks. Then place them in a jar. Whenever you guys have a free Saturday and want to go do something more spontaneous, pull something from the jar.
To keep this in line with the earlier advice, go ahead and have a “game plan” in mind for any idea in the jar.
The Bucket List
This is better for the more serious items that you want to do. For example, if you want to do a family kayaking trip you’ll want a few days warning to make sure life jackets are updated and so that people will know where you went.
Write down items that you really want to do (including limited date activities like a hot air balloon festival). Ask your husband to help narrow (or add his own items) to the bucket list. Then, agree on the basic details (when, what) to pre-plan a couple of outings.
Compete for Decision Rights
Turn rock-paper-scissors or a family favorite board game into a competition. The victor gets to choose the family outing for the next weekend – as long as they abide by parameters, such as cost, established by the parents.
So there you have it. We all know that family outings can be stressful, but they don’t have to be that way. Planning, even for the misadventures, can help take the stress out of it. And when the stress is gone, it will be much easier on Dad to say yes to whole family trips.