Barbara Bush was speaking very wisely when she said the following about having a meaningful existence in life:
At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.
The struggle to strike a good balance between family time and work time is real. This struggle can leave many with deep feelings of anguish and guilt. Am I spending enough time with my kids so that they feel secure in our relationship? Is our family time meaningful and considered quality time?
The good news is that there are solutions and tips you can implement today to strike a good balance between work and family time. Below are these tips for you so you can maximize your family time:
1. Make family events a priority
If you are not a life saving surgeon and currently on-call, then your work can likely wait. Most of us aren’t in the business of life saving. That gives us some legitimate flexibility in our off-work time. You don’t need to be tied to work 24-7.
When your kid has a little league game on a week night, then don’t work late that night. Make your family events a priority. Get there so you can be present in your child’s life. In order to be a good parent, it means you need to be there.
If you are working all the time, you are missing out on the family events that you can’t replace. Kids grow up fast and they don’t get to repeat their childhood.
That little league play off game may be the only time they make it to play offs. Their piano recital may be more than just showing their level of skill, it is their time to shine and show their parents how hard they have worked so that their parents can be proud.
Being present at family events shows your spouse or partner and children that you care. Love is shown in actions. Make sure your actions are showing love, by showing up for holidays, birthdays, family nights, and the kid’s games and performances. These things matter.
Even if they act like it doesn’t matter (like most teens will act), know that it does in the long run. They will remember that you showed up time and time again, that you put family in front of work and you make family your top life priority by being present.
Quality time is a wonderful thing but it is difficult to achieve without having quantity time. Make sure that you are spending time with your family so that you can develop deep relationships that are meant to last a lifetime.
Those relationships will be even more important when life hits rough patches for any of your family. Death, job loss, moves, etc…they all have a huge impact on your lives and you want your family to be the ones you can count on. Developing relationships, as the kids grow up, is what will help each of you when your lives hit rough times.
2. Schedule it on the calendar
We put our work stuff on the calendar because it is important. But what about family time, family events and kid’s activities? If you aren’t putting those things on your calendar, you may want to ask yourself why not?
If you value your family, then the activities that involve your family should be on your weekly schedule. Put in those ball games, ballet recitals, family date nights, holiday parties, and more.
You need to make sure you have time for your family. If your calendar is getting filled up with work stuff every week, then plan ahead. Find out your kid’s activities’ schedules when they start, as most of us get a schedule for the semester or year when they begin practice. Then take that schedule and put the important games or performances on your calendar so that time slot can’t be taken in the future because of a work obligation.
Making time for your family means making things a priority before they come up. Scheduling can be one of the biggest obstacles, so having things on the calendar well in advance should help you immensely.
3. Establish work boundaries
You need to be a team player at work, but you also need to be a team player for your family. Don’t allow your work to over-run your family time.
When you have family activities on the calendar, then be willing to speak up when you are asked to stay late for the third night in a row. Know your boundaries with your boss, so that you aren’t jeopardizing your job, but you also don’t want to minimize the value of your family and your time that you have scheduled.
This is why it becomes important to place the important activities on the calendar, so you know which nights are more important than others at a glance. If it’s not on the calendar, it becomes easy to forget until that date pops up.
Don’t allow your family to be trumped by your job when it doesn’t need to be that way.
4. Have a weekly scheduled no phone time
One of our good family friends is a CFO of the world’s largest property management companies. He is obviously a very busy guy. Yet he is purposeful about making family time on the weekends.
Every Saturday evening, he disconnects from his phone and does not reply to texts, emails, or phone calls (unless it is a true emergency). He does not reconnect with his phone and communications until Sunday evening, long after the kids have been tucked into bed. This allows for his focus to be devoted to his wife and children during those 24 hours.
He is present during the week as well, but he disconnects from his phone and other electronics for a full 24 hours once a week to dedicate his entire focus to his family.
What he does is a great example to all of us. What if we could dedicate 24 hours of the week to disconnect from our devices in order to reconnect with our families?
There are 52 weeks in the year. That would give us 52 days of true, 100% focus of what is most important to us, which is family.
We can work hard to provide for our families, but if we never connect, nor do we develop strong interpersonal connections, what is the point? Then our work and efforts are in vain.
Work hard for your family, but also play hard with them to make the time count.
5. Have purposeful family time
Make your time with family have purpose. If you are all at home, yet you are all in different rooms doing different activities, it doesn’t count as family time. The best kind of family time is when you are engaged with one another in an activity. This way meaningful discussions can take place.
Other options include side-by-side activities. Either help to create bonds and relationships within the family unit. The goal is time together, doing things together.
Being at the same place, but not together is not helpful to creating relationships. Therefore, if you go someplace outside the home, such as a museum or art gallery, make it a priority to stick together to experience things as a family.
Below are suggested activities for you and your family to do together. Create variety to make things interesting and fresh for everyone. Schedule these activities on your calendar, so that work doesn’t come up and take you away from your family time together:
- Play board games
- Go hiking
- Do family yoga
- Go indoor rock climbing
- Pick a family movie to watch together
- Visit a state park
- Visit a national park
- Go to a museum
- Go to an outdoor concert
- Go to a play
- Take an art class
- Go to a make-your-own pottery studio
- Get manicures or pedicures
- Check out local events in your community
- Go fishing
- Play a backyard sport like softball or soccer
- Attend church
- Go swimming
- Rent a boat
- Go camping even if it’s in your own backyard
- Go biking
- Go to a beach
- Take a scenic drive
- Go to a park
- Go on a picnic
- Play lawn games like croquet or badminton
- Go to an art gallery
- Plan and cook a meal together
- Make holidays and birthdays a celebration
- Read books aloud (especially great for families with smaller children)
- Complete craft and art projects (there are at least a million ideas on Pinterest)
- Go to a fair or theme park
- Attend a craft fair
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Many times in life, we allow the small stuff to get the best of us. We get upset about things that won’t matter a year from now, or for that matter, even a week from now.
If it doesn’t matter in the long run, then let it go. Some things are not worth getting upset about which in turn get the rest of the family upset. Usually if one parent is upset, it creates an upset in the entire family. Don’t let your time together as a family get upset by things that shouldn’t.
A bad day at work? Leave it at work, don’t bring it home. A fight with a friend? Forget about it for now, and commit to have a conversation with the friend after your family time. Your teen is not completing their chores? Let them know they will do it after family time, but don’t guilt them so that it ruins your family time.
If it isn’t something that must be dealt with immediately, then don’t allow it to interrupt your family time. Chances are the problem will still be there and in the same condition when you get back to it later. Deal with emergencies, but let other stuff slide and get to it later.
Make your time and focus intentional on the family, rather than extraneous junk that can be dealt with later.
7. Make kindness and forgiveness a policy
It becomes difficult to have quality family time if there is arguing, anger, hostility, and other negative emotions going on between family members.
If you have serious issues that impede on family time habitually, then it’s time to get some family counseling. If it’s bickering, lack of forgiveness, and/or general lack of kindness, then a policy needs to be established so that family time is a time for everyone to get along.
Meanness or lack or kindness will not be tolerated. The example begins with the parents. Teach your kids by talking about kindness, but also by being an example of kindness to your fellow family members.
If things start getting unkind, then have a key word that helps family members remember that they are supposed to be kind to one another and not to bicker, argue, name call, or be unkind. Our family’s key word is muskrat. You can think of your own word and perhaps make it funny to lighten the mood when undesirable behavior does arise.
8. Make sure time away from work is time off
Are you taking your work home with you every night? Are you playing catch up after hours? Are you still returning work calls and emails after work? If this is your daily habit, then you may need to access your situation.
Can you begin to wean yourself from bringing home work and doing work activities after work hours? If you can’t stop cold turkey because the panic that rises inside you is too overwhelming, you can begin to wean yourself from afterhours work. This means you find ways to cut these things more slowly from your evening routine, so that you are giving more time and priority to your family in the evening.
If you are working tirelessly in your job and it is not humanly possible to get it all done during a normal working day, maybe it’s time to talk to your boss. Make sure you have legitimate examples and a breakdown of how your time at work is spent, so that they can see your point of view. Present it in a way that they can step into your shoes and see things from your perspective.
Not all bosses will understand, but there are also laws surrounding work hours and wage. If you aren’t certain if your employer is violating wage and hour laws, but you think there is likely a problem, then you can contact the US Department of Labor, Division of Wage and Hour via their free hotline at 1-888-487-9243.
9. Use family meetings for deep discussions
When tough topics come up, like setting rules and dates for family time together, make it a family meeting at the dinner table. Sit together and discuss things, free of electronic distractions, so that you can all understand one another and the goals.
When you say “family meeting time”, everyone should know that it’s time to gather around the dinner table for an important discussion. If you have never done this before, then you can call your first family meeting to discuss your plans to have weekly family time and come up with ideas together.
Our twins are only four years old and they are always included in the family meetings. These meetings can start at a young age, that way each family member knows that they are valued from a young age. Their opinion and inclusion in discussions is important, because they are part of the family, regardless of age.
10. Make the time enjoyable and not a punishment
Don’t ever use family time as a threat. Time together as a family should never be perceived as a punishment. If it is, your approach or the activities together are not right.
Find activities that everyone can enjoy to some extent. You will never find something everyone loves to do, but you can find activities that all will like to do. The goal is an enjoyable time together where you are bonding together through activities and interactions. The more face to face interactions the better. Games can be of great value because they require more immediate interaction.
Make your goal of family time to be enjoyable and fun, so that everyone looks forward to that time together. Include your children (especially the teens) in your discussion of how family time should be spent, so that you have an idea of what everyone finds enjoyable.
You will end up with great family memories because your family activities were a positive experience. You will also be forming bonds that will help strengthen family unity.
11. Be committed to regular family time
Making time for family shouldn’t just be reserved for birthdays and holidays. If those are your guidelines for defining family time, then you are missing out on the rest of the year.
Time with family should be a regular weekly commitment. If you want family ties and true family relationships, you need quantity time and not just quality time on the rare occasions.
Showing up for birthdays and holidays is simply not enough to make meaningful connections and deep relationships (ask any kid who has been in a divorced situation and only sees one parent on those special occasions). The relationships lack depth if everything is always on the surface level.
In order to develop relationships below the surface, time must be invested. Making a commitment to things like dinner as a family several nights a week can make a huge impact on family relationships in the long run. If you can’t all be home for dinner, think about other options that don’t take long periods of time, such as half hour family walks in the evening several days a week.
The time commitment isn’t huge, but doing it consistently is what makes an impact. You get to talk about what is happening to your kids throughout their week and not just highlights on the weekend when they may have forgotten about what happened during their week.
12. Family dinners are a wise investment of your time
If you can make one thing a priority in family time, it should be doing family dinners at least several times a week.
Michigan State University examined research studies about family dinners and found that kids from homes that did family dinners at least three times a week had better grades, were less likely to develop eating disorders, had better language development skills, and better health. They also stated the following of importance:
Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs. Additional associations include lower incidence of depressive symptoms, suicidal thoughts and better grades in 11 to 18 year olds.
Dinner time not only helps form relationships and meaningful conversations during the week, but also has overall benefits that affect the development of children and teens.
You have to eat meals anyway, so its something that won’t cost your family anything extra to do together. Don’t allow electronics to be a distraction at dinner time, keep them away from the dinner table to keep the attention on family conversations and interactions.
12. Put distractions aside
The biggest distractor from family time is the phone. If you have teens with smart phones, it becomes an easy distraction from family time, which means family relationships are being disrupted. The quality time needed to form meaningful relationships is non existent.
Make rules, for adults and minors to abide by when it comes to phones and other electronics. Make family time as distraction free as possible. They can check their email and texts after family time. If an emergency comes up, you will know it because the person will likely call repeatedly.
Everything else can wait until after family time. It likely will not affect your life, work, or social life if you have to pause your phone activities for a few hours. If you can have a basket in the house for everyone to place their phones during family time so that you all are completely distraction free, then you are truly winning!
Keep the devices away and you are likely keeping the distractions away, so that everyone can be present in mind and body during your family time together.
13. Make family time a judgement free zone
Life is hard enough. We get judgement from the rest of the world all day long. Time with family should be a safe haven from judgement.
Make a rule about passing judgement on one another when you are having family time. If there is a serious issue that needs addressing, call a family meeting to discuss the issue. Otherwise, let it be.
Let your family be themselves, warts and all, and let them know they are accepted and loved for just the way they are. Because isn’t that what family is supposed to be about?
At the end of your life
Friends tend to come and go, but the people who tend to stick the closest from birth to death are family. We don’t get to chose them, but we can make relationships stronger, closer, and more positive by implementing these above tips on creating positive family time together.
The bonds created when your children are small can last a lifetime. The key is making meaningful bonds and loving relationships that are built on positive experiences and quality time interacting together.
Time in the same home, yet never interacting makes you roommates. Doing activities together, having meaningful conversations, having quality weekly family times and doing life intertwined together makes you a family with bonds connecting you for a lifetime.
Kids go from zero to 18 quickly. If you are buried in your work, you may just miss out. Make family a priority today by choosing family time and getting it on everyone’s calendar right away.
Calling a family meeting is the best way to get the ball rolling. Don’t forget to ask your children what they would like to do for family time to get started on the right foot.
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com
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