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?
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