Slowing Down My Family
Last weekend my family experienced the Saturday morning of my dreams. No alarm clocks. No sport practice or games. No out of town travel or out of town guests. No social engagements of any kind. Just sleeping in, making a big breakfast, and laying around. If only this were true. In reality, the weekend consisted of the usual: two sleepovers, no naps, arriving 10 min late for church, pizza for 3 meals, 2 swim practices, a trip to the grocery store, homework, a family get together, and a dinner date for myself and my husband. Yep. Another weekend flew by without a second thought and we skidded into Monday frantic and tired.
This is not to say that we didn’t enjoy most (if not all) of these activities. And the benefits of structured activities such as sports and social engagements are numerous. Also, some activities (like food shopping and homework) are completely necessary. But I can’t help wonder if there is a way to have a little more balance where “rest” and “recharge” are on the agenda? As wonderful as our chaotic, fast paced house is, the dream of the ideal Saturday morning is still alive.
In researching this idea of balance, I came across the author of “The More of Less.” Joshua Becker is a self proclaimed minimalist who has found a way for he and his family to declutter their lives and live with little to no possessions. Ok. So this is a leap I am not willing to take at this point in my life. Still, I felt I could learn a lot from Mr. Becker. Turns out he also has some ideas about creating stillness in the lives of my family members. In brief, here are some of Mr. Becker’s ideas for slowing down a family’s schedule….
- Discern where the motivation is coming from: you or your child.
- Determine an ideal baseline number of activities.
- Elevate the importance of family mealtime.
- Schedule time for yourself to be with your children.
- Leave space between events.
- Develop a family, weekly routine.
- Reduce your personal commitments.
- Own less stuff.
- Leave room to add.
To this parent, the list seemed ambitious and unattainable on the whole. Determined, I decided to narrow it down to one item I could successfully implement. I spent a week noticing how very tight my schedule had become. Red flags included a child changing into a swimsuit in the car en route to practice and her sister “recycling” a packed lunch that was left in the fridge for days as it’s owner had forgotten it. Motivated by these events, I decided I would try to leave space between events.
This was easier said than done. My work, family, and carpool schedule run on the very minute some days. Effective? Yes. Stressful? Absolutely. Resolved to reach my goal, I looked at the coming weeks and found items that could be pushed out, delegated, or even cancelled. I found ways to allow extra time between transporting kids and work. I found that I needed to delegate or ask for help when the schedule was especially cramped. The outcome was worth it! I used the extra time to engage with my kids or just relax. I had time to share a snack with my kids before they rushed off to practice. I read for pleasure in small increments of time. I had uninterrupted conversations with my husband. In general, the days where I left space between commitments seemed less hurried and stressful. I know that the distance between a few extra minutes in my day and my dream weekend is vast. But after a week of making a small but significant change, I am hopeful that I can continue to get closer to a weekend where we can all experience some real downtime and connect to one another.
Shelley Coleman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor. She is in private practice in Lakeway where she provides play therapy, child and adolescent counseling, family therapy, group therapy, and parent education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org