We hope you are all settled in after the holiday festivities and maybe starting to get back into a routine…maybe? I about to start semester two of graduate school and, in a few weeks, my third trimester! It’s about to get wild around here, but my husband and I are no strangers to chaos. From 2019-2020, we navigated my husband’s command, my primary staff job, countless field exercises, family trips, and nights away with two toddlers, a dog and a cat. Whew, it was a crazy time. The thing that we got pretty good at that proves to be a key to success is syncing calendars, which we affectionately called our “Family Training Meetings”. Between communication and syncing calendars, we were able to navigate through the bumpy chaos and arrive here to where we are today, the new chaos. I’m here today to walk you through what syncing calendars looked like for us, and how it can help you as well! And it will be done in list form, in true enneagram three style.
1. Gather your supplies.
What does this look like? First, agree on what type of ‘family calendar’ you want to use. Do you prefer physical calendars? Sweet, snag one! Digital lovers? My husband and I use the Cozi App because we can both access it from our separate phones, there are built in to-do and shopping lists that we can both edit, and we can color code activities by people. (not an ad, just what I use! And it’s free!). We also have our personal physical planners. Finally, you also need your work schedule and your spouses’ long range and short-range calendars, as far as they can get. My husband and I usually had an annual training calendar (which we ALL know changes daily) as well as a more detailed quarterly calendar (a little more certain). Do not attempt to sync calendars until you gather all your supplies.
2. Set a time, place, and date, AWAY from distractions.
Back before COVID, hubs and I would set up a day date and meet somewhere like Panera for about 2 hours. We would get lunch away from the distractions of the dirty house, needy animals, and loud kids. We would turn our phone volume down and not answer unless it was an emergency. Times look a little different now, but I highly recommend getting away from distractions in order to sync calendars. You also might not need two hours. But definitely give yourself some time to hash out a month or so at a time to get started.
3. Start with the big, non-negotiable stuff.
Start with those non routine, big items. For us, that would be big training events that would require either overnight away from the family or later than normal nights. When we don’t identify those big events and communicate them, we run into situations like this: I’m running late from work, speed over to daycare to pick up the boys and head home, where I assume my husband is and has prepped dinner or is preparing dinner. When I get home, he’s not there because he has an overnight range I forgot, and now I have two hungry kids to feed and am hungry myself. Incredibly frustrating. Now, this is what it can look like: I pick up the boys almost late from daycare, and head home where I had made a crockpot meal that will be ready when we walk in. I also stopped by the house at lunch to walk the dog so she won’t be extremely antsy when I walk in the kids. MUCH smoother, right? Other examples of other non-routine big items would be work conferences, children’s programs, leave opportunities, family photo shoots, etc. I usually don’t include routine events that are known, every week, such as school, church, and sports.
4. Determine what you WANT to do, and pencil it in!
We tried to do this for a quarter at a time, but you can totally start with a month. Some weekends would be a wash with Army requirements. But for our open weekends, we started plugging in activities based off our Duty Station Bucket List. We also had a Nashville Zoo membership, so we would attempt to work that in once a month. Some weekends we planned to do just the ‘routine’ weekend: go to the pool at the Y, go to the park, grocery shop at Publix, etc. Don’t feel stressed about planning something exciting every single weekend. We planned many down weekends, too! But I found that if we didn’t schedule adventures, we simply wouldn’t do them. Then a year goes by and we let work dictate our lives and didn’t do anything from our bucket list. And here’s the thing, you can totally change your mind. That’s completely ok. But even having the weekends drafted and almost pre planned, you have the choice to do that or not. Planning in advance also gives you time to coordinate child care, pet care, hotels, or flights accordingly.
5. Hash out any ‘extras.’
This could be anything else that you just need to discuss that may be lingering. For us, this might be when we do trip/event After Action Reviews (most recently, Christmas for us!), chores calendar, budgeting, or even projecting out long term goals or trips (where do we want to go next Christmas? How much do we need to start saving now for that trip to be financially stress-free?). Or maybe it’s discussing upcoming family events (weddings, photo shoots, new sports). Anything lingering that affects the family calendar in the future.
6. Write it out.
This is where you write it all down in a system that works for you. We put overnights, late nights, weekend trips, and appointments in Cozi, so we can both access it at any time. I use my planner religiously, so I then put those things in my planner as well, because I go more into the nitty gritty on that. Once we’ve determined the division of labor (if we are going on a family trip, I have to coordinate hotel and he will do pet care), then I create a small to do list in my planner to work off of.
7. Schedule your next meeting!
Don’t forget to schedule your next calendar sync and be flexible. This is meant to open communication and allow your family to thrive despite the transient, wild lifestyle the military allows us to have!
I hope this was a little helpful for you! Everyone has a little different lifestyle, so feel free to tailor it to your needs! What we did last year as dual KD with two toddlers at Fort Campbell isn’t what we will be doing this summer as dual Grad students with three kids in Texas!
Share with us how you plan around the military lifestyle! Any tips and tricks you’d like to share? We would love to hear them!