Q: Everyone in our house keeps a hectic schedule, and sometimes I find myself wondering: how do you create “family time” when you’re simply trying to make ends meet and get through the demands of the day?
A: Today’s marriages and families lack time – quality and quantity – for a number of reasons. An endless pursuit of material things requires increasing amounts of money. This translates into more hours at work. Busyness creates fatigue and deflects attention from pressing relational issues. Couples “grow apart” as their lives travel down separate but parallel tracks. Mums and dads model a task-oriented mentality that communicates an unmistakable message to their children: take care of your duties and obligations first, then feel free to retreat into your own (electronic) stimulation, recreation, or leisure-time activity.
If you want to escape this numbing pattern, you may need to revamp your schedule. Go back to Square One. Revisit your basic values and priorities. Resolve to make some countercultural choices and decisions if necessary. Take steps to reduce your outside commitments and block out weekly family time on the calendar.
In particular, don’t worry about how it looks to “other people” if you limit yourselves to one or two selections from a long list of worthwhile activities. Resist the temptation to sign your children up for numerous sports teams, music and dance lessons, social clubs, and all kinds of community organisations. One activity per month per child may be more than enough.
Carve out spaces and create margins, and don’t be afraid of “voids.” Agree to turn off all communication devices at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week. Instead of watching TV, read together, play board games, take a walk to a local park, or sit and talk. Get into your children’s’ space. Hang out with them and find out what excites them. This is all part of the process of turning quantity into quality time.
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