Being Intentional with Family Life
At the start of the year I shared a blog post with you all about our decision to live a simple and intentional life in 2019. It was a post which had been simmering within me for quite a while, and the new year seemed like the perfect time to put it into action.
Of course, it’s very easy to make statements like the above without putting anything practical into place, and I didn’t want this year to become another period in our lives where we didn’t live up to our full potential. Once again, I will reiterate that I am not a fan of buzzwords or phrases but sometimes you gotta get a bit inspirational, okay?
One of the main areas where I felt life was happening to us, rather than us taking control was with our family time. We are a busy, young family with lots of commitments outside of the home. Both James and I work long hours, our two kids have after school clubs in the form of sports and musical instrument practice, we have church on a Sunday and weekly small groups. That’s before you even start to think about actually having some form of social life.
One other area we decided to work on this year was our fitness and the start of the year saw James signing up to a boot camp which sees him out of the house twice a week, plus playing football once a week. I will touch more on this in a later blog post but you hopefully begin to get the idea that our time is limited and not always necessarily our own!
It was so easy for other things to creep in and demand attention.
We would set aside time to spend together as a family; promise the kids a day out or a movie night and then we’d get an alternative offer and let them down. Maybe it was to hang out with friends we hadn’t caught up with in a while. Maybe it was something we felt would be more exciting because…in all honesty…we could watch a movie with our kids any time, right?!
We do a lot of stuff for our kids, heck we do a lot of stuff with our kids but hand on heart, I don’t know that we had that many moments when they had 100% of our attention.
When I think about the fact that Meg will be 10 in May, it gives me a squirmy feeling inside to think that she’s soon going to be a teenager, and if we don’t have the foundations in place for a good relationship with her those years are going to prove very tricky indeed. This was what prompted our decision this year to prioritise our kids and our family time.
Am I saying this to make you feel guilty if you can’t spend a bunch of one on one time with your kids? No, absolutely not. Please read me right on this. This is my heart speaking to my mind. If it also calls to other parents out there then I hope that the post can be helpful.
I don’t want my children to grow up and all I can remember of their childhoods is that I was busy. That I played taxi to them but never sat and chatted to them. That my house was nice and clean and we never had a pile of clean washing sitting for more than a day but I can’t remember when I last did something silly to make them giggle.
If those statements ring true or make your heart start to hurt then know that I feel you. It is so hard when you have other things, important things, crowding in for your time and attention. Plenty of us don’t have the choice about going to work. Plenty of us don’t have anyone else to do the chores and keep our house clean and our family fed etc. So many of us have external pressures which pull our attention. If anyone in the world is guilty of this, I am! I often describe my brain to my husband as a swirling vortex of thoughts and feelings and STUFF which is never-ending. I am constantly thinking about the next hour, the next week, the next month…the things we need to sort out and arrange and plan and how we can best get it all done and what I have left to do today and truly, it doesn’t ever end.
But I need to make sure my children know that they are loved, valued and so important in my life.
This won’t be for everyone, I know that. But for me, it has become something I am striving for.
So. Long introduction over. Never say I don’t love a good waffle.
How are we being intentional with our family time?
One day a month. Just one day in the whole of the 30 or so we are gifted with, we are making it our priority to spend the day together as a family. There are no pressures and no expectations other than we will spend it together. We put our phones away. We put our worries to one side. We give our whole, our entire to that day with the kids.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes priority. We change no plans, accept no other invitations.
It’s as simple as that.
We are being intentional and making the decision that our time as a family is precious and a priority.
We might not be able to sit down together each evening and eat. We might feel as though we are constantly rushing from one thing to the next. But we all now know that there will be one sweet day when it’s just the four of us.
Maybe it’s a disaster and the kids don’t behave. Maybe it’s like our February day out when James got kicked by a cow (for real!) but it’s our time. And we don’t take that for granted.
Those times we do sit and eat together, we sit at the table. On occasion, if we are having a treat, we will sit and eat in front of the TV but we can often pass like ships in the night so the times when we will all be around and able to eat together, we make it a priority. We gather together at the table and we eat.
We also…and here is the dreaded phrase…put our phones away I watched a video on Facebook recently, whilst I was having 5 minutes just mindlessly scrolling (probably when I should have been doing something else!) and it caught my eye. This guy was talking about the studies which have been done into how addicted we are as a society to our phones. Now, this post is not about that, but rather about one thing he said which caught at me: when we bring our phones to dinner, and we place them on the table, we are saying that there might be something else which is more important than the people we are eating with. We might get a more exciting message or phone call. There might be something else which will draw our attention away from those we are with. He also said that putting it facedown on the table still didn’t count! That really resonated with me.
Now we leave our phones on the kitchen side when we come to dinner.
If the kids come to talk to me whilst I have my phone in my hand, I might ask them to wait whilst I finish what I’m doing, but then I put my phone down and give them my whole attention. I don’t continue to hold my phone as that suggests that my mind is still partly on the phone in my hand. A small thing, but I believe an effective one. I want my kids to know that when they come to talk to me, whether it’s over something daft or whether it’s something important, that they get my full attention.
To take it one step further I have also started journalling with both Meg and Eli. On Amazon I found a journal specifically for this purpose, one for each of them, and we have had a lot of fun writing little notes to each other and hiding the journals for each other to find. This has opened up many conversations for us, especially with Meg, and I am so grateful for the chance it gives us to share thoughts and feelings.
The brutal reality is that our kids are growing up. Fast. And if we don’t want to blink and miss it, we need to be intentional with how we spend our time together.
I would love to know how you make your family time intentional. Leave me a comment or find me on social media.