You had to stay late at work, you’re behind on the laundry, you didn’t have time to plan dinner, and you feel like you haven’t had time to breathe. You have a distracted dinner as you keep track of everything you need to get done before putting the kids to bed – and hopefully before getting a bit of sleep yourself.
Most of us are going from one thing to the next; feeling like the “To Do” list almost never gets completely checked off. We’re overwhelmed and our plates are too full, and far too many of us are missing out on real opportunities to connect with those whom we love the most.
It’s time to slow down, put things in perspective, and reset our priorities. Perhaps a full lifestyle overhaul and career change isn’t possible for you at this time, but if you’re living to work instead of working to live, perhaps a career change should be a consideration. In the meantime, here are 5 things you can do to reclaim quality family time, even with a hectic schedule.
1. Re-claim family dinner
If you’re not having dinner as a family, now is the time to start. Little children love to help, so they can feel like the grown-ups. Take advantage of that, and involve the children in the dinner ritual, starting with setting the table. The 2-year-old can put the napkins on the table, the 4-year-old can carefully help with dishes, and the 5 year-old can help with the cutlery. If you have teenagers in the house, they can guide the little ones, too.
If you’re already having family dinner, you can take full advantage of this great quality time by establishing dinner rituals.
2. Start a dinner ritual
Think of something you can do every day at dinner time to re-connect as a family. You could go around the table and have everyone say something good that happened to them that day, or everyone could go around and give each family member a compliment.
Having a no electronics policy at the table can help make dinner rituals something each member looks forward to doing.
Make dinner about more than just eating. Sit and talk for a while afterward, and really involve even the youngest members in the conversation. These are memories they will cherish for a long time to come.
3. Get active together
After sitting and talking awhile, set aside 20 or 30 minutes of your day to really play with your kids in an active way. Don’t just take them to the playground- really go to the playground with them. Get silly on the monkey bars, play tag, and learn to be a kid again.
Don’t have 20 minutes to spend being silly with your kids? Then you need to set aside an hour. The time you spend with your kids is more valuable than anything money could buy. If you work long hours to make more money to buy more stuff, that still won’t replace the time you could be spending with your children. If you choose to clean house instead of playing, what they’ll probably remember is that mommy was always cleaning, so she didn’t have time to play with the kids.
Think about how you want to be remembered by your kids and what kind of memories you want to create from them. Once you do that, how you should spend your time will become clearer.
4. Work on a project together
Find out what your kids are interested in, and come up with a project together. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it doesn’t need to be expensive. If your child is into fairies, make fairy wings out of cardboard, and decorate them together. If your child is always bugging you as you’re cooking, find a recipe to make together. Whereas having your child help you with dinner will probably mean it takes twice as long, the quality time you’re spending makes up for having a bit of a later dinner.
Take a true interest in your children’s passions and hobbies, and soon you’ll find that you’re not only spending more time with them, you might even enjoy their hobbies, too.
5. Establish your priorities… and act on them
If having quality family time is important to you, establish that as a priority, and then act on it. If you’re offered overtime at work, and if accepting it will encroach on your family time, say no. The extra money won’t make up for time lost.
If you’re afraid to lose your job for putting your family first, then maybe it’s time to consider a different job.
Once you’ve decided that quality family time is a priority, work together with your family to find out what each member enjoys doing the most. Cycle through suggestions so everyone gets a chance to make memories they’ll never forget.
In the end, memories are really all that’s left.