defining quality family time. It seems that Fadra, the writer, had been finding it more and more difficult to set up social time with her friends due to the many, many obligations that her friends had regarding their families. It seemed that their schedules as of late were full of kids' activities, obligations to work, or other family obligations. Everyone she knew had seemed to have lost the spontaneity of life and were unable to answer a mere invite to coffee without first check their schedules. She worries that this inability seems to indicate that families today are over-scheduling themselves to the point where they were missing all of the best things in life, all which required spontaneity.
As I read this article I looked over my own life. I am one of those moms who has to look at her schedule to determine whether or not I have time for a coffee with my girlfriends. Every single one of my evenings are filled with scheduled activities either involving my children or my husband. I look at an invite to what should be something fun, a party invite, as just one more thing piling on top of me taking up all of my time. I get excited when a coach cancels a practice, or a game gets rained out, or the worst of all, when a child gets sick finally getting an evening where I don't have to be somewhere.
So how did I get to this point?
I'm not one of those people who allow their children to be involved in too many activities. My children get to have one activity each on top of school. Right now they are deep into soccer season, and what I have discovered is that the older each child gets, the more involved each activity gets. What started out as a once a week practice, if that, plus an early morning game on Saturday has turned into two to three practices per week and spending all weekend at the soccer field. And I'm lucky as my children aren't involved in more involved activities such as competitive soccer which also requires three to four days a week of practices, game days, and five weekend trips a year or football which requires four days a week of practices plus games. My children are in "light" activities.
On top of that my children are at the age where homework has gotten more heavy. Just last night my son finished up a project for Social Studies that required many evenings, and most of his spare time this last weekend. School obligations get heavier as the kids get older.
Then there is my family's adult schedule. If you look at work it seems that the more money you make, the more promotions you get, the heavier your work schedule seems to be. You earn every bit of the larger salary and bigger title that you get. You find you have to schedule time off just to make it to a child's soccer practice or parent/teacher conference at the school.
And on top of that you know that someday your children will leave for college. You desperately try to avoid the future empty nest problems by maintaining your friendships with people and striving to enhance the community you live in through your volunteer work. All of these things seems to suck up what last few bits of free time that you might have left for your own.
You can't remember the last time you sat down to read a good book. You sneak in movies alone during the day while the kids are at school. The every day fun stuff like sitting down to enjoy your clean house after spending hours cleaning after the latest kid activity never, never seems to happen any more. And your DVR is full of unseen shows and movies.
So how do you find the time for the spontaneity in life where all of the joy seems to be when you are probably at the beginning of what will be the busiest time of your family life, the time where the kids are in grade school through high school?
Well I try to find it the in between. On the car rides to activities we play "Slug Bug" looking for VW bugs, Hummer Bummers, or bright yellow cars that require a "Happy Slap." At home while doing homework we decide that it's accent day, and pick a funny accent to talk in making homework that much more fun to get through. We take cameras to each others activities and search for new ways to look for things while waiting for our kids, brothers, sisters or parents to finish up their obligations. We have long talks at bed time where sometimes we might spontaneously break out in silly songs. And we accept the fact that the house is a mess because taking advantage of a spontaneous 15 minutes of cuddle time on Saturday morning before the soccer games begin seem that much more important.
But most importantly we cut ourselves some slack. We know that the busy times will not last forever. We know that the kids will eventually move out of the house, and that all of our friends, being in the same boat that we are, will be there when the kids are gone. We don't feel guilty about saying no when people ask more of us than we have time for. Most importantly we understand that we can only do the best we can with what has been given to us. As many successes we have trying to find the spontaneity of life where all the joy seems to be, we will also fail when we rush the kids out the door scolding them for wasting time. And that is OK too.