The never-ending quest for an organized life 

OPINION: Nothing motivates the need for superior time-management skills like having children in sports and calendars full of meetings.

family schedules, family activities,
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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

One of the reasons parents so often look forward to their school-aged children restarting a new school year is because it typically frees up time for that famed adult activity: work. You see, every summer you have to find something for your kids to do during the workday because, while children are all fun and cute and cuddly, they also require a tremendous amount of interpersonal attention, especially during the pre-teen years. You can’t let your 7- or 8-year-olds fend for themselves all day long no matter how independent they are. And if you have kids under 7, forget about it. Their time is your time. I’m actually amazed, at times, at how productive I manage to be with kids throwing balls, fighting and screaming at one another while sitting on a couch … next to each other. 

But that productivity also comes with a tremendous amount of anxiety at times. Something ALWAYS feels like it’s getting left in the lurch, not intentionally, but because so much brain power is devoted to ensuring that all of the moving pieces of life are running in concert, perhaps not seamlessly, but functionally and positively. This presents challenges. 

Let’s talk about those challenges. Three of my four kids are active in sports. My daughter made her high school’s junior varsity volleyball team where she is now a freshman. My 7- and 8-year-olds just might be soccer prodigies so they’re on teams (if you’ll remember, I mentioned both becoming a volleyball dad and coaching one of my son’s soccer teams) and now we’ve added additional training AND are likely to add another day of soccer practice for the teams. My daughter’s team has at least two games a week and they practice the other three days of the week. This means that there will be kids moving around the Washington, D.C., area, constantly for the next few months (who am I kidding, next decade) going from practices to games and such. 

Now it seems like that should be fine; all of those things are in the late afternoon or evening (or in some cases, weekends). But the issue is kids get out of school during the work day. So kids must be picked up. And then carried around the world. Which would be fine except I have a job (hi, readers!) that has me in many meetings throughout the day and sometimes recording podcasts. The more I look at my calendars the more overwhelmed I get. There are meetings that I have to take in the car on the way to pick up my kids who COULD go to aftercare (my daughter’s volleyball games and practice keep her at school to at least 6 p.m., five days a week) but aftercare costs money and in this economy? As if!

Keep in mind, I’m married and my wife and I share the burden of getting kids to and fro and all that jazz, but she is as busy as I am planning events for her organizations and public speaking and being a presence for those that need her. We are two busy people with kids who have active lives. It feels like putting anything new on the calendar is a setup for a negotiation; something always seems to have to give. And I haven’t even mentioned my 2-year-old yet who needs attention and focused playtime to ensure that his little mind is being stimulated. 

I suppose most working professionals, and especially those of us with multiple kids, are in the same boat: There is always something that requires your time and attention. Time management skills are a must, especially when you start to feel yourself drowning. But you know what the problem is? I feel like I have to take a bunch of time out to learn how to better manage my time, and if that isn’t hustling backward I don’t know what is. I’d like to say there’s an end in sight but the truth is, there probably isn’t. And I suppose if I get a little bit better at scheduling my life day-by-day, that’s a win. I’m trying to get organized, to see what life looks like when things run smoothly and one thing doesn’t seem to always conflict with another. 

I’ll let you know when I get there because, right now, I need to go pick up a kid to go somewhere in order to make sure one of the other kids can be elsewhere. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.