I have a love-hate relationship with the whiteboard calendar on my fridge.
The calendar looks harmless. It’s even kind of attractive at times. Colorful dry-erase marks decorate almost every square.
Each color represents the most important things in the world to me.
Herein lies the complicated matrix we refer to as The Family Calendar.
Blue is for my husband. Purple is for my older daughter. Pink is for my littlest lady. Orange represents the whole family, and every now and then, some green makes it on the calendar too.
Green is my favorite color.
Green is Me-Time.
This month, there are four green items. All of them are doctor’s appointments or meetings. Buzzkill, but I'll take it.
The seeds of The Family Calendar TFC) came about as a marital adjustment phase. My husband and I are both teachers. It’s the kind of job that can easily take over your life (in case you haven't heard).
Like many of our colleagues, we spent hours at the school grading, planning, prepping. And then we had our social lives to consider. We are people too after all.
Both of us had things we enjoyed doing. He liked playing in his band and drinking beer. I liked running and naps. We started to struggle with working in time for "us."
And then we had a baby.
Time was now the ultimate commodity. No one had any, and everybody wanted more.
Enter the refrigerator whiteboard, soon to be The Family Calendar.
I bought the magnetic calendar for less than $10. I had high hopes when first I unwrapped it.
I thought it would help my husband really see how much he got to do. I thought it would level the uneven playing field that had made its way into our lives since we became parents.
The life where "Me-Time" seemed like a forgotten day dream, but he still had his “fun.” Me-Time seemed as fanciful as finding myself saddled upon a unicorn ready for a trip to the moon.
I expected the TFC would give me an opportunity to make some Me-Time plans. It was a rocky start. I’d jot down my “Drinks at 7:00” on a Friday night and my husband would say, “Oh. I meant to write down that my band has a gig that Friday.”
So we started a whoever-gets-there-first policy.
You forget to write it down, it doesn’t exist, so just pray no one else lays claim to it before you remember.
This phase of the TFC was one of the toughest. It nearly caused me to throw in the TFC towel (and/or contemplate asking my doctor for Xanax).
I would have such anxiety over the possibilities of an empty week. I just knew it was going to fill up with everyone else’s stuff before I had a chance to make any plans. I would stand in the kitchen, paper towel in my hand, furtively checking over my shoulder. I was sure I would find him standing behind me, blue marker uncapped, ready to pounce.
Me-Time is still especially scarce. With baby number two came a regression in the amount of green our calendar carries. This time, I see things differently.
During the first drought of green there seemed to be nothing but blue as far as the eye could see, and it scared me. I couldn't be sure green would ever come again. This time around, I know this is just a phase.
It's a small part of a long life.
Armed with this hard-won wisdom, I've found peace. I am satisfied, delighted even, with seeing more oranges, purples, and pinks than green. I know there will come a time when I can start plugging myself back in and rounding out our family rainbow.
The TFC approach to scheduling a family is not for everyone. I know many families who fly by the seat of their pants. I know some that let one person take the lead on telling everyone else where they’re going and when.
(Most families call this person “Mom” I’m told).
I know many other families who would think, “Smartphones, and whiteboards, and markers? Oh, my!”
But for my busy family, this is what works.
It’s the secret to keeping this house humming. It’s a system I often loath but can’t imagine doing without.