Building a family takes a deliberate effort. It’s easy to neglect family a little here and there until you realize what you are losing. It is important to include family time in your measure of life balance.
While the actual meaning of life balance can and must vary among us, all can understand the need to step back from the busy-ness of our lives to check whether we are giving each area of life the time and nurturing it needs. Balance doesn’t mean that you give exactly equal time to an exact number of life areas to be covered. It just means that you continually strive for the mix that brings you the greatest happiness and wellbeing.
Family Is Essential for Life Balance
In my experience, a new family—a family that includes a newly married couple or young children—is the least able to make major contributions of time to their community, and yet we are often most in demand. Young families should be especially careful to protect family time. We are modeling what life balance will mean for our children into their future. We are creating the foundation they will need to build their own balanced lives. They need that deep, enriching sense of family.
Family isn’t automatic. You need to define what family means for young children and nurture your intentions with activities and love.
Learn to say “No”
At some point, as I tried to figure out the chaos around me, I realized that this young family period of one’s life is the busiest and most difficult to protect. When you have babies, you might not realize how much time you will need to spend with your children as they grow. Before you realize what is happening, you are in charge of the co-op delivery, you are singing in the choir, you are arranging three different play groups, and you’ve started a home business. Then you wonder why your children tell you that they miss you as soon as they can talk. It is OK to turn down many, even most, opportunities for outside commitments. Prioritize, and just choose one or two activities that mean the most to you.
Plan Family Time
I’m with my children all day because we homeschool, but that isn’t the same as planned family time. We need time together when everyone is free from stress. We need all four of us. So, we protect our Saturday night. We camp out and watch movies every Saturday night. Other times, we read a book together (1001 Arabian Nights and Lord of the Rings took more than a year each), play board games, or invite a neighbor over for dinner. What we do is far less important than doing something deliberate together at least once a week. Put that time on your calender, and don’t bring your phone. Schedule it, mix it up, ask for ideas from everyone, and find your groove.
Recognize the Moments
Pull yourself into consciousness of those beautiful moments with your family. When my children were very small, I remember distinctly that my favorite time in every day was falling asleep with them, laying in bed with an arm wrapped around each child. I could hear them breathing softly as they fell asleep, and my happiness was profound. Stop at those moments. Recognize and gather them.
Keeping family time in balance doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of time. I adore the TED talk by Nigel Marsh on work-life balance. Be sure to listen until the end to hear how he recognized one of those beautiful moments with his son after a simple day together.
“Being balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life.”
Nigel Marsh, “How to Make Work-Life Balance Work”