Every family is busy these days, and ours is certainly no exception. With a father doing doctoral work full-time while holding multiple part-time jobs, a mom who freelances, home-schools and serves on the board of the kids' cooperative preschool, and two very active young children, finding time together is always a paramount concern.
When the challenge came up to blog about finding family time in a freeway world, I decided it would be a good exercise to sit down and think about what we do to protect our time together. Since the beginning of our marriage, Duane and I have been very conscious of protecting our time as a couple. Once the kids came along, it wasn’t any different… we just had to be a little more creative!
Here’s a short list of some intentional things we’ve done to carve out more family time:
- Live near work. When we moved to our current town, we knew we wanted to be within walking distance of campus. That way we could maximize little bits of time that Duane might have in between classes. A picnic lunch at Daddy’s office, or a walk to pick him up could buy an extra 20 minutes with him. Eliminating a 30 minute commute could reclaim up to 20 hours a month!
- Set aside a family night. With Duane’s performance and class schedule always changing, we realized that there was one night we could pretty much always depend on to be free – Friday night. It also happened to be half price night at our city pool, so Fridays became family swim night and pizza night. I have to admit that a lot of times Duane and I are too tired to do the swimming thing, so sometimes we cop out and get a movie, but it’s always PIZZA night. It’s the one thing the kids can absolutely count on (even if we have to have it at three in the afternoon because of a concert later that night).
- Limit sports and activities. Our kids participate in just one sport or activity at a time. In addition, we try to keep scheduling down to a minimum on nights and weekends. It’s tough, and sometimes we feel like the only people in America who have this priority, but preserving our family is more important than what type of athlete my child becomes – and I was an athlete growing up. I know that sports can teach valuable things, but so can a loving, relaxed family environment.
- Protect weekends. We keep one weekend morning completely unscheduled for just family lounging around time. This can be challenging, but we’ve found it to be incredibly rejuvenating not to have to get up and rush somewhere.
- Prepare meals together. We’ve worked hard to find ways to involve the kids in the kitchen, and it is amazing what they can do and how much they enjoy doing it when you just give them the chance.
- Limit TV. We’ve talked about this before in terms of what is best for the kids’ brainpower, but it’s also better for the family. When you’re not glued to the TV there is more time for spontaneous, creative things to happen, and these things are usually far better than anything you could have planned because they just happen organically.
- Celebrate the little things. We celebrate every chance we get around here – first bike ride without training wheels, Daddy passing a big test, the fact that it’s Thursday and we’ve made it through another crazy week. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just take a few moments as a family to soak up and appreciate these special moments that make life really good. The kids love planning these “little parties” and Cason has become the queen of confetti.
These last two may seem a little extreme, but with everything that demands our time and attention these days, sometimes extreme measures of protecting your family are worth it.
- Home-school. This is a HUGE commitment and is not for everyone, but one I started thinking about long ago (before kids) when Duane was in a very demanding profession. Homeschooling allows for flexibility and family time in a way that public or private school does not. In fact, just this week we were surprised by a last minute day off for Daddy, so we planned a hike and spent the afternoon together just the four of us. The children really needed this after Duane’s tough performance schedule in that last couple of weeks and thanks to homeschooling, we were able to take advantage of it.
- Live in a small house. When we moved in to our 900-square-foot grad school house, it was only supposed to be for two years. Four years later, we're still here! I will be quick to admit that I am dying to get into a bigger house, but we will most definitely look for something under 2000 square feet. I’ve seen the advantages that a small house has to offer… and it’s not just vacuuming the whole house without having to unplug!