Tag Archives: better family life

Is Your Family Choosing Money Over Time?

traffic morguefileFollowing up on the last post suggesting we “underachieve” so that we have time to achieve with our family, you might ask whether not putting most of your energies into career and financial achievement might end up reducing your happiness in the long run. In other words, won’t you be less happy with less money and/or career advancement?

It seems justifiable that we need to work enough to provide a comfortable home and to care for our family. However, many of us become competitive and want to be “the best” and to earn as much as our talent and opportunities will allow. We also decide as a family that we “need” more and more, requiring more money to satisfy these demands. Spending more time working usually means less time for your marriage and family. And if those bonds are strained, the stress will certainly mean less happiness for you.

A new study reported in CNN called “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton finds that we often get so much in the habit of working and earning that we don’t stop to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Even wealthy people spend too much time overworking and doing things they don’t enjoy, such as driving long commutes to work. Researchers say we should use some of that money to “buy happier time.”

While we’re at it, we should ask ourselves before spending money how the purchase will affect our time. For example, buying a nicer car may seem like a great reward, but not if you have to work more hours to pay for it. Drivers get no more pleasure from commuting in an expensive car than in a cheap one. And the average American spends two hours a day just working to afford his car.

Another bad investment is an improved home entertainment system, according to researchers, who say watching TV is a clear happiness drain. On the other hand, they say investing in a dog pays off in happiness dividends, encouraging you to take daily walks and socialize with other dog owners.

I can relate to the research. Before starting my own business in 1998, I put in long hours at work, only to feel I could never get ahead of the work load. I think many Americans feel they don’t have a choice but to participate in this rat race, particularly with the weak economy.

So a focus on smarter spending of time and money on things that will improve your happiness and your family’s happiness is key. Our family enjoys time in nature, trips to the library and cooking at home. My husband has always been one to make time to enjoy life and encourages as much time together as a family as possible. If you think about your happiest memories, they probably weren’t the most expensive days of your life.

Think about ways you can spend enjoyable time with your spouse, friends, and family without spending a lot of money. Brainstorm things you’d like to do together this summer and keep the list handy. You might also want to keep a list of books or movies you’d like to enjoy together.

Do you feel like this is a difficult tradeoff for your family? Do you and your spouse agree on how to spend time and money? Feel free to share any tips you have.

For newer readers here, I’ve written lots of research articles on happiness. If you’re interested in learning more about creating a happier life and happier marriage, search the archives.

I hope you have an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Take time with friends and family to enjoy life and give thanks to the service men and women who helped to make our freedoms possible.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Don’t be Afraid to Underachieve in Life to Better Achieve in Your Family Life: Lessons from a former Indpls Colt

smith-hunter-01Last week, I attended a talk in Indianapolis given by former NFL punter Hunter Smith and his wife, Jen. One of his biggest messages was this headline. The former Colt advises those who want to be good spouses and parents to not be afraid to underachieve by the world’s standards, in order to make the time to succeed in your family life.

“I’m never going to be all I could be, and I don’t want to be. In America that’s counter-cultural,” says the former Indianapolis Colt. “Achieve in your marriage and with your children, and not in what the world expects of you.”

Other pieces of advice from their talk at Better Together included:

  1. Keep good company—trusted friends who will help keep you from making wrong decisions.
  2. Be who you say you are—live your life well.
  3. Understand that men have the tendency to be lustful and passive, while women have the tendency to be controlling. As men, don’t abdicate leadership in the home.
  4. Be willing to show your true self to your spouse.
  5. Be willing to share each of your needs honestly with one another.
  6. Place your spouse’s needs above yours. If you both practice giving, you will both receive more.

Hunter and Jen have four children, and they aren’t afraid to “miss opportunities” for their kids to develop in sports or other areas. Instead, they focus on the priorities of their family and their faith life.

Hunter shared openly about life in the NFL both with the Colts and with the Washington Redskins. He also expressed how much impact one person can have, using the example of Tony Dungy changing the culture of the Indianapolis Colts team by calling all the players to be authentic men full of strong character.

You can read here in an Indianapolis Star article about how Hunter calls the life of NFL athletes “tragic” with false images and frequent divorces and bankruptcy following the end of their football career. Hunter took a different path and retired to follow his interest in music and singing. His wife shares his love of singing.

Is his advice to underachieve difficult to hear, especially from someone who at one time made a multi-million dollar annual salary and who has a Super Bowl ring? My opinion is that he seems genuinely interested in using his platform to share the lessons he has learned. What are your thoughts on the other suggestions?

My next post will be about how earning more money does not usually make us happier. Instead, working more takes time away from activities that would probably give us more happiness.

Photo credit: Indianolis Colts

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Simple Solutions for Busy Families Part II—Saving Even More Hours Each Day!

Earlier this week, I wrote about simple solutions for busy families. If you haven’t read that post, check it out here. Hopefully, through that one tip alone you have saved yourselves hours each day that you can enjoy with your spouse, kids, or friends.

There are plenty of other areas in which Americans can get back the time that seems to be slipping through our fingers. Curbing online time is another huge potential area for time savings. This is certainly an area in which I could improve. My time wasters include checking CNN, Facebook, Twitter and email too frequently.

How do we spend time online?

For most Americans, online time is dominated by social networking and gaming, according to this Nielsen report.

A Forrester survey (Dec. 2010) says that Americans spend an average of 13 hours per week online. The vast majority of this time was spent on social networking, playing games or videos, and tiny percentage actually caught up on the news. Americans spent a total of 53.5 billion minutes logged onto Facebook in May of 2011, according to Nielsen. This makes it the most popular website in the U.S. Some age groups spend as much or more time online as they do watching TV. Mobile devices that are connected to the Internet are adding to the growth of time spent online. Mashable Tech has more info on these trends.

For younger Americans, the changes may be more dramatic. According to this New York Times article from 2010, “the average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.” The article says kids aged 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours a day with their various devices, 1.5 additional hours texting, and a half hour talking on their cellphones. (The article has lots of interesting info on kids and media use if you’re interested.)

6 ways to save time online

Technology is nearly ubiquitous, but I’m not giving away my iPhone anytime soon. Most of us find it helpful, entertaining, and/or addictive. You can make small changes that will add up to a lot of time saved.

  1. Consider whether keeping Twitter and Facebook on your home computer not on your mobile device could save you many interruptions during your day for not-so-crucial updates. You might even consider, like my husband, not participating in social media–egads! Or, pick one or two brief times a day to scan and post updates.
  2. Ditto for email. After checking one email, I’ve read it takes several minutes to refocus on a task. So, processing a large group of email is more efficient than doing so all day long. And don’t do it first thing in the morning when you could be most productive on an important task.
  3. Don’t be afraid to set family guidelines for online time and/or device time. Learn how to tune out the world and focus on each other. Turn phones off for dinner, dates or other special times.
  4. Place time limits on social networking and game time (or Pinterest, etc.). Consider “rewarding” yourself only after you’ve done something higher up on your priority list like taking a family walk.
  5. Keep computers and laptops out of the bedrooms. A computer screen isn’t conducive to sleep and hinders intimacy. And for kids, it prevents good sleep habits and encourages more time spent online.
  6. Give yourselves a deadline where you’ll both be offline and able to connect with each other at the end of the day. Many nights, we’ve both been on the computer waiting for the other person to be done, not communicating that we weren’t doing anything important.

What online tips do you have for saving time? Do you consider your computer and Internet-connected devices helpful or harmful to your family?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by jscreationzs courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

How Does Food Affect Your Marriage?

A new study is analyzing the impact of fatty foods on marital stress, hypothesizing that following a fatty meal, your marital interactions may be more stressful.

That got me to thinking about food in general and its impact on our daily lives. While I do think we need to be thinking about eating more healthfully, in my marriage, I think more arguments occur due to being hungry, and thus cranky, than for the type of meal that is prepared. (If my blood sugar gets too low, I’m not very pleasant!) Conflict can occur more easily when our basic needs aren’t being met.

At times, one of us is displeased because we expected the other to have dinner ready, but we didn’t communicate those expectations. Living in a two-cook home has many positives, but one downside is that we need to discuss meal plans and not assume the other person has it covered. Since he travels often, meals are usually my responsibility during the week. When he is home, especially on weekends, he enjoys cooking.

As a whole, I think my family celebrates and appreciates food as the gift it can be. For example, my kids have great appreciation for different cheeses, herbs, fruits and veggies. Dumpling soup and seaweed salad are favorites.  Others refer to them as little “foodies”, and according to this survey, they meet the criteria. The challenge is providing new and unique flavors daily.

Planning helps prevent grumbling and conflict

One of the most helpful things I have found to keep our day from crashing between after-school activities and bedtime is to have ingredients on hand for a healthy dinner and at least a rough idea of how and when it will come together. In addition, having some decent snacks around helps bridge the gap before meals.

My favorite go-to recipe sites are simplyrecipes.com and epicurious.com. One of my family’s favorite recipes is this meatloaf recipe from Alton Brown. (Triple the sauce!) The crock pot and rice cooker are also a big help when you won’t be home to cook and will need a quick meal. Crockpot recipes online are plentiful.

Whether we are having grilled cheese sandwiches and soup or something a little more fancy like the pictured fish en croute we made at a recent cooking club (WOW for presentation!) having food in our bellies puts us in a happier place. Often the best meals are thrown together with ingredients we have already on hand, like the pineapple chicken rice I made last night.

Compared with grabbing a pizza or take-out, cooking a quick meal with healthier ingredients shows love and concern. And having control over meal times diffuses a good deal of stress. Our family meal times are an important time for all of us to connect.

Researchers will soon reveal whether fatty meals or low-fat meals impact our marital stress. In the mean time, keep the hunger pangs away to avoid certain disaster. What is your sweetie’s favorite meal, snack or dessert? Can you work it into your grocery list and plans for the week? It’s just another way of communicating your love.

Note: Thanks for your patience with my break in blog posts. I took a wonderful trip to The Netherlands to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I’m now back in the good old USA, where bathrooms are always free. ;-)

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com

Photo by Lori Lowe.

This Fall, Evaluate Your Family’s Commitments

Those first few cool mornings, the smell of decomposing leaves in the air, the sight of yellow school buses. Yep, it’s fall. Whether or not you have school-aged children, fall tends to be a time of fresh starts. For many it marks the end of summer vacations and a gearing up at work.

Fall is my favorite season, but it’s usually accompanied by anxiety with some excitement. There’s a feeling of so much to be done, a race of to-do lists that culminates around Christmas.

This fall feels different because my husband and I decided to redesign our lives to meet our preferences. We didn’t have to make major changes, because our jobs already offer enough flexibility for our family. But we had been lamenting the loss of our family dinners and the running from one extracurricular activity to the next, rushing to help our kids with homework or lessons during short breaks between planned activities. We missed our family walks and our weekend getaways. We weren’t making enough time for fitness.

While many families thrive on participation in children’s sports, ours seemed to be increasingly stressed by the time demands. With one sport requiring a five day a week commitment, we took a harder look at our reasons for participating. We talked with our kids about how they really wanted to spend their time. It turns out we weren’t the only ones wishing for a little more free time and a little less commitment.

A few tweaks are making a big difference for us. Travel soccer and swimming are now out. Instead, we’ve opted for a new sport (tennis) that our whole family is participating in. We’ve maintained weekly music lessons, because we feel that’s important. I took a short break on one volunteer responsibility so that I could focus on some important goals. The result is several more nights free per week, plus weekends free to do as we please. It’s created a new feeling of freedom around here. We’ve already enjoying bike rides and family walks and family dinners, and we’re all less stressed.

I’m not suggesting our decisions are right for anyone else. I know lots of families that find camaraderie in team sports and other activities truly benefits their family.  It’s a matter of personal preference for how you wish to spend your time. I do think we were slipping into a lifestyle that we hadn’t meant to; we weren’t being intentional about our how we used our time. As our children grow, they may decide to dedicate more time to a sport or activity, but for now they have time to enjoy childhood.

We’ve found that when we’re less stressed as parents, we’re better spouses to each other. Also, when we’re not overcommitted with responsibilities, we don’t feel guilty about going out on a date night. It’s beneficial for our kids see us putting our relationship as a higher priority to other activities.

I’m certain we will need to continue to make adjustments, but I’d recommend at least once or twice a year taking a hard look at all your commitments. If you’ve always wanted to volunteer or travel as a couple or as a family, maybe this is the year to find the time. Ask your friends to brainstorm ideas on solving obstacles. Be intentional about how you spend each day, and find time to make great memories together.

Do you feel like your family has enough time to achieve your goals and have family fun? Are there things you’d like to remove or add to your calendar? How have you handled these decisions in your family?

Related Link:
Putting Kids First in Marriage Harms Children

Celebrate Each Day in Your Own Way

Happy New Year! Although I frequently avoid New Year’s resolutions, I’m resolving in 2011 to savor small pleasures of life and to create more small moments of celebration. I’ll admit I’m not one for large parties, and even our New Year’s celebration is low key. But I read a book called Love by the Glass, which has inspired me to be more intentional and romantic in small, yet meaningful ways.

Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher co-wrote the book—part memoir, part wine tutorial—which is about celebrating and creating romance in everyday life. What struck me most is not how much they know about wine (they know a lot), but how they created rituals, such as a special toast they always did (“to your face”/”to your bottom”), or the moments they created after work, or when the sun was setting on vacation, or after their kids were in bed, that just happened to be around wine.

While I don’t intend to significantly increase my wine consumption this year, it made me realize that savoring good food and drink, buying flowers or lighting a relaxing candle, or indulging in a favorite dessert are all ways I can create moments of celebration, especially with my sweetheart. Whether your ritual is great coffee or great wine, creating fun rituals that surround what you enjoy can be uplifting. I’ve had to fight my rather practical nature in this regard, as these items are “unnecessary” in our daily lives. However, upon reflection, I think special gestures and things that stimulate the senses are indeed necessary for inspiring an extraordinary life.

Last week, I shopped for new candles, bought dark chocolate covered tart cherries, flowers, and wine and incorporated these items into our regular day along with good music. Basically, I created an atmosphere that appealed more to my senses. I read some good books to stimulate my mind and allowed time for relaxation. I believe the positive energy was good for the entire family, and it helped me think more clearly.

Part of creating moments of celebration is also realizing how much we have to celebrate—a clean bill of health after your checkup, another year of gainful employment, a loving spouse by your side, a bonus or raise, a robust child. As Gaiter and Brecher share in their book, “Great wine experiences don’t compare with great life experiences. Relax and enjoy it.”

One of their WSJ columns (Tastings) was themed “Open That Bottle Night.” It was centered on the idea that we often save special items for a future special time, and that time never comes. Many wine lovers have a special bottle they are waiting for the right moment to enjoy. Others save lingerie for a special night, or never light the candles because they are saving them for who-knows-what. Gaiter and Bucher proposed planning that night right now, creating a special menu and evening, then opening the bottle and savoring it with those you love. They received an outpouring of letters from readers who did just that and shared their stories. Is there something you are waiting for? Memories in 2012 will be what we create this year; hopefully we will be intentional about them. Use the china. Eat in the dining room. Wear the nice dress or the good underwear. Buy her favorite flowers.

What I enjoyed most about the book was the life story, how the co-authors, a white Jewish man and an outgoing southern African-American women with an afro, fell in love at first sight in the newsroom on their first day of work. I enjoyed following their travels, particularly the train trips when they just stared out the window watching the world go by while drinking champagne and eating meals in bed. I was touched by their struggle with infertility and their eventual success at having two young girls, only to be told that “Dottie” had a terminal illness and would live only four months. The doctors were wrong about the diagnosis, but they lived those four months believing they would be her last. I’m not sure if that’s a gift or a curse, but I think it’s one of the reasons they became even more intentional about celebrating every moment of life.

What is something you can celebrate today, or next month? What is a small element you can add to your home or bedroom that would stimulate your senses? How about planning a favorite meal of your spouse, or making dinner reservations if you don’t like to cook? How about coming up with a thoughtful toast, or a ritual toast that is just between you two? Consider placing a weekly or monthly reminder on your calendar to remind yourself to create and find special moments in which to celebrate. Small gestures are fine, or go big and plan a weekend away or renewal of your wedding vows. Best wishes in the New Year for opportunities to savor life to its fullest.

Photo credit: PhotoXpress.com