Just in Time Parenting


I often joke to people that I practice “just in time parenting.” I recall a lot of buzz around the “just in time manufacturing” strategy, used to describe the efficient practices of Japanese auto makers, and why they were outperforming American manufacturers in the 80s and 90s.

I like the efficient part, and it feels better to think of myself that way, instead of feeling like I am always a step behind. Its ironic, as by nature I’m a planner, but with so much going on, something has to give.

An example. This morning I began browsing online for costume inspiration, for an auction event tonight. I have posted pleading messages on my mom’s group; and am resigned to the fact that I must go to costume shops today to purchase an outfit, as I’m out of time to assemble one myself. Is this efficient, or a blaring reminder that life is too busy to calmly get things ready?

I think the answer is both — but the emotion of it is determined by my mindset. I can either get really stressed that I may not end up in costume tonight (and be jealous of all the others who are!) or I can chose to acknowledge that life is pretty busy, and I am making choices each day as how to spend my time to best maximize each day. I chose not to go shopping late one night last week to plan for this event — I chose to be home with family, or to get some sleep, or do laundry, or go to a board meeting, or take the kids ice skating… Reminding myself that it is all by choice that I am in this situation is comforting. Being accepting of my own choices is liberating.

To be honest, there are times when Just in Time Parenting isn’t as efficient as others. Learning this did cause some disappointment or distress, but like all rules, there are exceptions and knowing them is important! Examples include camp registration, well-child doctor appointments, using reward miles for travel and booking a good babysitter. For certain things, planning ahead is critical — the trick is to figure out what must be planned, and what can be done just in time.

I have embraced my Just in Time Parenting style more and more since the birth of my third child; when my workload increased by 50% and sleep decreased by the same. This mindset was born of necessity, and has flourished given it brings me less stress.

More Examples:

Son needs to wear a specific clothing item tomorrow. My choice is to stay up till 11 to get the wash into the dryer; or to decide its ok to wipe off the dried on food that shows its dirty. I chose the second option.

Family is undertaking a first ever road trip to Florida. We thought about trying to book hotel rooms ahead of trip, but the task was too difficult not knowing how far we wanted to travel each day. We decided we would figure it out when the time called for it, and ended up needing to drive a couple of extra hours the first night to find the hotel that we wanted with a pool. This one is less clear, but I call it a win since we didn’t stress about it ahead of time, and it all worked out.

Child requests out of the ordinary birthday “cake”. I could have posted for help on my mom’s group, ordered it from a bakery, or planned my own design. Instead, on the morning of the party, I googled “Donut Cake” and got tons of ideas, went to Dunkin Donuts, and figured it out as I assembled it. No stress, and the kids were thrilled. I mean, come on, the kid wanted a donut cake, it didn’t need to be a project!

There are plenty more examples. And I suspect that everyone has their own list of things they have dealt with in the moment, that was far easier and much less stressful than if they had planned ahead. I encourage all my parenting friends (and single folks could do this too!) to spend less mental energy and time on what is in the future, and you’ll be better able to enjoy and handle and be successful with what is going on right now!

I have to sign off now. I need a disco outfit for tonight!

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