Life is not a 9:00-5:00 job, and being a family is definitely not. It is a 24/7 commitment and sometimes it involves early morning breakfast before school or work. Other times it involves 6:00 PM or 8:00 PM baseball, soccer, football, volleyball, track, basketball games or band, choir, musical, play performances. At other times it involves staying up restless without sleep waiting for your teen to come home after they have received their driver’s license.
There are seasonal events like Fall sports, winter activities, weekend events, Spring sports, and then crazy summer schedules. Extracurricular events, church, dates, meetings, vacations, chores, work, and a list of other things are constantly filling our time. You do not need me to tell you there could ALWAYS be more time in your day.
This can make for a hectic life schedule, and one that doesn’t leave you a whole lot of leftover time for yourself or your family.
However, everyone of these activities “closes” at some point. They all have their “day off,” or else you should make one yourself. Don’t neglect this. My mom mentioned the other night when we were discussing a recent marriage which was ending that it takes two to make a marriage, and two to break a marriage. The same goes with the whole family unit. The most dangerous thing we can do is place our “calling” over our family in level of importance. Do not hear me wrong, there will be times which you sacrifice, but in general, your family is your first job. The work at home never ends. Other things come and go, but your family will be there forever, even if you push them away.
You must stay personally healthy, and part of that balance means being a healthy member of your family. Relationships are multiple-way streets and you have to pay attention to them and care for them.
Here are five ways you can and must protect your family time:
1) Shut down your email
One of the quickest ways to lose your day off is to stay logged into your email. Parents, students, co-workers, family, friends, and others will send you emails on your day off (whether they realize it’s your family day or not – and surprise, they won’t!). One helpful tool is to even turn on your “Out of the Office” automatic reply, so people know they can expect to wait to hear from you. Your emails won’t go anywhere; you’ll still get them, but you will better set up yourself and your day for your family.
2) Turn off notifications
This is closely linked with email, but also with social media, phone calls, and texts. You need to set clear boundaries regarding communication for your day off. Turning off notifications, turning your phone on Airplane mode, or setting specific hours of Do Not Disturb time can be a life-giving decision. You won’t be bombarded by texts, emails, phone calls, and questions regarding things that you could have answered during the work week, and can get to when your day off is over. And to add to this, when your turn the notifications off put your phone in the bedroom. Check it once every 2 or 3 hours for an emergencies, but be present. Be present with your family in your time for them and let them have your full you, attention and all. With this, also agree that there will be no “office talk” during family time unless it is pertinent — this does NOT mean discussing all the things going on at work you are ignoring for family time.
3) Cultivate a hobby that your family enjoys
This is one of the most beneficial things you can do. Whether this is going to the movies, board games, biking, kayaking, hiking, etc., find something that your family as a whole enjoys and can interact during or after. I would advise not letting this be something necessarily tech-based — like video games, Netflix-binging and the like — because those can actually tire you out in other ways and don’t necessarily provide the personal time together, as you just replace one piece of technology (your phone) with another. Whatever it is, find something that the family as a whole enjoys and commit to doing it often in your family time! Maybe there are multiple things your family enjoys. You can rotate them weekly or let a new person choose from the list weekly to keep it different.
4) Don’t apologize for having family time
There is always more work to be done. I get it. I love to-do lists, checking things off, and being task-oriented. But, we all need a day off. Don’t let an employee, an overworked co-worker, or anyone else make you feel bad for taking a day off. If you are going to be effective in the long-term, you need to protect your family time. Don’t apologize for it and don’t feel guilty over it.
5) Understand why you’re doing it
One helpful way to not feel guilty about having a day off is to remember why you have a day for family time: The family dynamic is part of God’s creation and is necessary to live life to the full. Even those who are not called to be married still have a family, but this is especially true for those with a traditional immediate family. When you intentionally take time for your family, participate in hobbies that you all enjoy, and can take time away from work-related conversations and notifications, you will have a greater capacity and longevity in your calling, be able to lead yourself and others more effectively, and will be healthier spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Don’t neglect the power and absolute necessity of family time!
Questions to consider as you analyze your family time:
- When is your typical family time?
- What do you do as a family in this time?
- Do you feel closer after time together as a family?
- If you do not feel closer after time together, how can you restructure your family time for enjoyment and memorable experiences which can positively imprint your children in their future?
- As your next family day approaches, what can you do to make it intentional and purposeful?
- If you do not have weekly or monthly family time, where can you rearrange family schedules to coordinate one?