When parents take a moment to think about what matters most in life, one of the top responses is always spending more time with family. It’s something we can all agree on, but how do we get there? What gets in the way of spending quality time with your family?
Perhaps the better question is, what doesn’t get in the way of spending more time (let alone quality time) with your family?
There’s the lack of time. The time when we’re awake and our kids are awake can go by really fast. Add to that the time we spend working and all the daily chores that demand our attention—cleaning, shopping, cooking, driving, and homework. And doing those things with kids in tow probably isn’t the “quality” time any of us wants!
Looking at all those things that take up time leads to the next barrier to spending quality time together: energy (or really, the lack of energy). The combination of poor sleep, stress, worry, and constantly being busy leads to a lot of exhaustion among parents, and the best intentions for spending quality time are no match for exhaustion.
Time, Energy, and Life… Oh My! How to Spend More Time With Family?
There are other factors, too. Many of us are also caregivers to parents, we’re running side hustles alongside full-time jobs, and we’re dealing with health challenges. The list could go on and on. But the truth is, we want and need that time with our families no matter what else is happening.
Heather Odendaal, the head of the WNORTH organization that unites female leaders in corporate, notes that pandemic years brought us a new reality where women had to navigate another layer of complexity in drawing lines between their work and home life to avoid burnout.
So, let’s look for solutions. But all solutions must come with a caveat. You have a lot going on. The last thing you need is a load of guilt.
Look for what might work or help. Ignore anything that tempts guilt to weigh down on your mind and heart. Even taking time to read these tips is a good step, so please be kind and supportive to yourself! Below are nine tips on how to spend more time with family.
1. Decide that Quality Time Is Going to Happen
Intention can be really powerful, and in this case, the intention to spend more quality time with your family is the right place to start. Intention takes an “I wish” and turns it into an “I will.” You don’t need to have it all figured out or even have any idea how you will make it happen. Start with deciding that it will happen. “I will spend more quality time with my family.”
Of course, you also need to take steps to make it happen. But with a clear intention in place, you can evaluate everything next to that intention. Ask yourself, will this get me quality time with my family? If the answer is no, look for alternatives that will get what you want.
2. Ditch the Fluff
Sometimes, we’re so used to doing certain things—or doing things a certain way—that we don’t realize how much extra time/energy we’re devoting to it. This is the fluff of life that sucks away resources we could spend on ourselves and our family.
There’s an old tale about a mom who always cut the roast a certain way before cooking it. When asked why, she answered, “That’s the way my mom always did it.” The question goes back to the previous generation. And the answer? “It’s the only way I could fit it in my roasting pan.”
Are there things you’re doing out of habit that aren’t serving you? This could be happening at home (a rigid chore schedule comes to mind) or at work (the good old meeting that should have been an email for one).
3. Create New, Easier Ways of Doing Things
One nearly universal mom trait is the ability to somehow make things work when the odds are totally against us. Use this superpower to identify some of the fluff in your schedule, and either ditch it or change it. When you see something that’s easier and/or it saves time or money, go for it.
Perhaps we’ll even set things up for the next generation, and our kids will enjoy spending less time and energy on the stuff of life simply because that’s what they learned from their parents.
4. Monkeys and Circuses
Have you ever heard the saying “Not my monkeys, not my circus”? The idea is that things that aren’t our responsibility are, well, not our responsibility! That’s not to say everyone’s using up their time and energy jumping into situations that we could walk away from (although we’ve all done that).
It’s more about the mental and emotional energy we give to problems and causes we really can’t change or we don’t have the resources to address right now. Anything from the news to social media to family drama can fit this bill.
We simply don’t have the bandwidth to get involved in everything that’s not working in the world. And for many people who care deeply about everyone, exposing ourselves to crises and tragedies outside of our immediate responsibilities can destroy the little energy we have left.
You may want to go back to that intention and focus on the top thing you chose for your life: spending more quality time with family. If that text thread or news cycle is a circus you don’t need to be a part of, step away. Let someone else wrangle those monkeys!
5. In Search of Easy Family Moments
Spending quality time together does not mean an epic voyage to a cabin in the woods where you’ll climb trees and play board games for a week. (For some, that may be awesome. But others just felt their hearts start to race in terror at the thought.)
Look for things that are easy to do and easy to sustain. There are no hard and fast rules about what quality time should look like. Every person, every child, every family, and every situation are a little different from the others, and it’s okay for you to create the family moments that work for you.
6. Use Your Phone
It’s true, many articles say to turn off your phone when you spend time together. This doesn’t have to be the right thing all the time!
Sit with your teen and figure out the Wordle together once a day. Watch silly animal videos with your preteen. Have a family Pinterest board where you pin fun ideas to try.
7. Choose Your Time
There may be some trial and error to figure out what times work best for family time. It’s a balance between what’s best for you and the rest of the family.
If your toddler has epic meltdowns between 4 and 5 every day, maybe don’t try to cook supper as a family. (And, if you have epic meltdowns at certain times, give yourself the space you need to make it through!)
8. Be Gentle
The last thing anyone needs is another thing we ‘should’ do every day that becomes an unbearable chore. A wise woman once said, ‘Don’t let anyone should on you’. That includes yourself!
If that family time just won’t work today, it’s OK! Try again tomorrow. If it still isn’t working, give yourself permission to try something different, or to try a different time. While there’s something to be said for creating habits and traditions, there’s also a lot to be said for being gentle with yourself and your family.
9. Watch Out for the Suppertime Monster
This is a huge source of guilt for some moms. Lots of sources push the importance of eating supper as a family as if your relationships are doomed if you don’t. But if you’ve got non-traditional work schedules or your kids are in almost any activities, eating supper together as a family might be an unreasonable expectation.
Maybe instead, you go out for ice cream every Sunday afternoon, eat breakfast together, or pull the kids out of school to have lunch out together.
Heather Odendaal of WNORTH shares a study that discovered found that the proportion of meals shared with their children and time spent reading to their children increased between 2018 to 2020, whereas the time spent on family outings at the same time frame decreased due to travel restrictions and other pandemic related factors. Whatever works for you is a good thing!
There’s a lot of pressure on parents these days to be everything to everyone. That doesn’t mean the pressure is appropriate, fair, or required. It’s okay to reject the things that aren’t serving you and your family so you can make a way to spend more quality time together.
Oh, one more thing. Being that so many things can change so quickly, it’s always okay to change the plan so that you can continue to have what you want in your life. And when you find something that works for you, consider sharing it with others.
When one good idea works, we can all get inspired!
Featured photo credit: National Cancer Institute via unsplash.com
|||^||Journal of Translational Medicine: Eating habits and lifestyle changes during COVID-19 lockdown: an Italian survey|