This guest post comes from Katy Rollins of 18 Channels: An ADHD Life.
Hi, I’m Katy
I’m a wife and a stepmother of three. I have an excellent relationship with my husband and stepchildren. Yes, there are challenges to raising kids between two households, but these days our family unit is pretty functional most of the time.
I’m in my 30s. I was diagnosed with ADHD five or six years ago, and so was my husband and one of our kids.
Why we needed a central calendar
It’s challenging enough trying to organize one household, never mind keeping everyone organized when your kids are living between two households. And they have activities. And so do you.There are many ways for families to approach the task of “getting organized.” That’s part of the challenge for us ADHD’ers: that process requires too much executive functioning brainpower, something we aren’t well-stocked with.
Nonetheless, life became too stressful without a calendar for me to continue pretending we didn’t need one. This wasn’t completely out of the blue — I agonized over it for a long time. I hate using calendars. I get confused and I miss things and I forget the calendar exists. Yeah, I might have been avoiding this for a while…
Choosing a calendaring system
First, I had to figure out what kind of calendar we needed: paper? Dry erase? Electronic? Did my husband have any opinions on this?
We talked about electronic calendars — with hilarious, anxiety-provoking results. I ended up installing a dry erase calendar in the entryway to our house. Everyone has to walk past it when they go in and out of the house or up and down the stairs.
Our dry erase calendar is visual, easy to use, and accessible by everyone — of every age — in the household. Because everyone can use it, everyone can be expected to use it.
Getting information onto the family calendar
I needed access to all the necessary information for our calendar: Where could I find the kids’ soccer schedules? Could they be printed? How would we manage all the kids’ schedules, from acquisition to action? Could my husband access any of this information and help gather it?
As it turned out, he can print it all out for me. I write it into the dry erase calendar each week.
I actually found a nice dry erase calendar at the dollar store near my house. I’ve set two of them up on an easel. The one on the bottom is a regular monthly calendar, and the one on the top is a weekly calendar, which is useful for us because we have the kids on different days each week. We need that weekly capsule of information.
Getting buy-in and making it happen
Now, how was I going to get my whole household on board? A good system requires buy-in from all (or at least most) participants.
I don’t know if this approach would work with every household, but I realized that this initiative could get really bogged down if I waited for everyone’s opinion. So I didn’t ask them. I decided we needed a system, I got some input from my husband, and I just did it.
I adore my husband and he’s smart at coming up with systems, but sometimes it’s hard to get him to sit down and engage in this type of thing. I decided I would just start thinking it through on my own and engage him at the points where I needed help.
Honestly, I had little confidence in my own ability to use a calendar, but we still needed one. My baggage didn’t matter. And I think the method I chose — the dry erase calendar in a central location — is probably the easiest option for everyone, at least to start. I can’t forget to look at it when it’s right there.
Challenges — and success!
My own confidence and willingness to assert myself ended up being my biggest obstacle. On top of my discomfort with calendars, I don’t like being ‘bossy.’ In a lot of ways I’m an assertive person, but I don’t always like telling others what to do.
The really important lesson I got from all of this is that I can’t let my ADHD issues or personality quirks keep me from doing what I need to do for my household to keep us all sane. I ultimately decided that it would be selfish to continue to let those anxieties get in the way.
We are a few weeks into using the new calendar system, and I hope we all stick with it. I still need to remind the kids to look at it when they ask, “do I have a soccer game tomorrow?” When my husband forgot to put a gig on the calendar — meaning a surprise for both of us — it was a good reminder of how important it is for us to use this tool.