What does your family calendar look like? Monday soccer and violin. Tuesday lacrosse and spelling bee. Wednesday night youth activities. Thursday meeting for mom and bowling for dad. Friday night school play. Saturday housecleaning and sports playoffs. Sunday visiting relatives. Then back to Monday, again?
Life can get crazy with a houseful of people trying to learn and be all that they can. As parents, you want to give them all the opportunities you can. But even good activities can stress families. Make sure to schedule in some downtime.
Who needs downtime?
Parents need it:
You will be a couple long after the kids have grown. Right now, you are so busy supporting them that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But someday, sooner than you could imagine, the kids will be gone, and you will need to have a foundation of friendship to build on. Don't risk that by allowing yourselves to grow apart. Your marriage needs to be reinforced and nurtured. It is a lifelong friendship and must be fed a regular diet of alone time to thrive. Set aside one night when it's just the two of you and go on a date. You are setting the example for your children. Your children watch and scrutinize your relationship, and they need to see how it can be done properly. Show them by example how much you care for one another. Make date night a priority for the children as well as yourselves. All we want is for our kids to have eternal relationships with a spouse they care for. Show them how. Separate time, as well. Take time to just be you, also. Both mom and dad should have a little downtime each week alone to recharge their batteries. Support one another in this, even if it only means a quiet, uninterrupted bubble bath or a trip to the library. One takes charge while the other recharges and then swap.
Children need it:
The gift of boredom. One day my husband and I went out. When we came back, we found 4 of our children sitting at the table with all kinds of supplies laid out. We did not have TV in our home and limited computer time. "How are you guys? What are you up to?" "We are so bored!" "What have you done here?" "I started writing a book," said one. "I designed some new clothes I want to try sewing," said another. "I am drawing up plans for a hovercraft," said another. "I'm painting a picture," said the last." "Hmmmm . . . too bad you're bored." Boredom can be an amazing gift and a springboard to creativity. Kids need to just be kids. Sometimes kids just need to be left to their own devices without schedule and without limits. They grow up fast enough, and the world tries to accelerate that process with movies and TV shows that depict children acting out as adults. Encourage them to have a little downtime to just be and to run and play and imagine. Family time is important, but so is alone time. We should dedicate some time in the week to build family unity, but we should also allow kids to go off on their own and become comfortable with themselves.
Families need it:
Turn off. Find some time each week to go electronics-free. Set aside at least an hour when no one can use the computer, phone, or tablet. No TV. No stereo. Just quiet time. Get away. Make some downtime for your family when you are away from the demands of being home. No matter how you try, if you are home, you're going to want to be accomplishing something. Working in the kitchen or doing laundry or scheduling. Plan time as a family away from the house. Go to the park or the library or a museum and just be. Go without an agenda or a time-restraint. Vacation. Try to have at least one family vacation a year when you get away and make it something that is not demanding or overscheduled. Make it as unstructured and relaxing as possible. Stress, even good stress and positive activities, will take a toll on you both physically and emotionally. Find downtime and make it a priority. Remember who you are and what your dreams are. Take five minutes to go and lay on the cool grass and stare at the clouds. Put on the headphones and go back to the era when you were a carefree teen. Encourage your family to find a block of unscheduled time every day, even if it's only a few moments. You will be amazed at the good it will do you.