Brandie Weikle is a journalist, mom of two boys (aged 8 and 12), divorce consultant, and the founder of The New Family website and podcast, which are both dedicated to exploring modern families and parenting issues. She’s written an e-book called Eleven Ways to Keep Your Family Weeknights From Spinning Out of Control, which has some practical ideas for parents who are feeling overwhelmed by their family’s schedule. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Brandie to hear more about some of our favourite tips.
Why did you choose this topic for your e-book?
A lot of the time we just get pulled along by the things that our children are doing, or their schedules. We have this disease of busyness in our culture, and it’s as though we can’t do anything about it, but I really believe that we can. These are our decisions to make about how our family spends time. And that’s why I decided to focus the e-book on reclaiming your life.
It can be busy but it doesn’t have to be insane, and the culture of raising children doesn’t have to be one where you’re careening from one activity to the other. The e-book is geared at packaging together some tangible advice to make more room for the things that matter to you.
One thing you suggest is that parents ease off on programming their kids with too many activities. Are your kids in any activities? How you decide which ones they participate in?
We’ve let it be guided by their interests for the most part. It’s so easy to get caught up in hearing that your neighbour’s kid is in piano lessons and feeling like, “Oh, I didn’t give my kids the gift of music,” but the thing is that there are too many enriching activities to possibly fit into the schedule. You can’t do everything all at the same time.
Right now their extracurricular time is focused on basketball and baseball. My elder son plays basketball and my younger son plays baseball. They’re very sporty kids but we’ve never pushed them into the higher levels of anything until very recently when it came from them. My elder son now plays on a rep basketball team, so this has been the first year we’ve had any travel related to sports. And my younger son is now on the select baseball team. So we actually have more activities going on right now than we normally would, but still way less than a lot of people.
Two of our weeknights involve sports, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and there are tournaments on Saturdays. Their dad is more of the organized sport parent and I’m more the outdoorsy parent, so he ends up doing the lion’s share of weeknight sports stuff, though sometimes we’re both required to take the kids in different directions, even if it’s his night. We’re often both involved in Saturday activities. It’s really important on those other nights that we’re at home having dinner together.
Another great tip in the e-book is to get outdoors, and you mentioned that you’re the more outdoorsy parent. When do you find the time to get outside with your kids and what do you typically do together?
We’re lucky to live somewhere where we can walk to school, so that helps us get out. And when we have more time, we live near High Park, so we go hiking around there. They have these woodsy little trails and it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of the city. We love to go on day-trip hiking excursions to places like Rattle Snake Park, and on our annual camping trip. And I’m the skiing parent who oversees ski school and skis with them, though their dad did also get himself outfitted so he could go from time to time.
The last tip I want to ask you about is the one where you advise parents to keep themselves in the mix and to role model self-care. What are your favourite ways to be active yourself?
I like running; I’ve done a few middle distance running events. I like cycling, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and hiking. But honestly, sometimes I’m in a better groove than other times — over the winter I fell out of my routine of going for a run in High Park after dropping the kids off. We all stumble in trying to live an active life, but we have to be willing to get back out there no matter how painful it may be at first.