Time

Cheryl was more than happy to transport her two children, six-year-old Kyle and eight-year-old Suzy, to their after-school and evening sports and music lessons, but Kyle needed more time for homework and Suzy needed some tutoring in math. Her solution? Cheryl found a tutor who agreed to meet with Suzy at 6:30 a.m. and because Kyle came along and waited in the car, he had extra time for homework.

Compare her experience to this:

Growing up, Tanya’s dad worked in a busy doctor’s office as a medical technologist. When the doctor expanded his office and clientele, Tanya’s dad went from loving his job to dreading the now 70-hour workweek. When his health took a turn for the worse, Tanya’s parents made a life-altering decision. Her dad took a lower paying job at the local hospital, working seven days, then having seven days off. His attitude toward work changed: he went to work excited again. He could leave at the end of his shift without worrying about what was left undone. He had the time to care for himself and his relationships with loved ones. As he took back his time, his relationships with his wife and children were strengthened, and his life satisfaction was lastingly increased .

Why is family time so important—and so hard to find?
Family time is a cultural symbol that has come to represent an idyllic escape from life’s frenzied pace. But clearly, family time is an increasingly rare commodity. Despite—or perhaps because of—its scarcity, family time is a treasured and vitally important part of life. Time spent together as a family plays a crucial role in teaching children appropriate social behaviors, preventing delinquent behavior among children, creating a family identity, establishing family beliefs, fostering feelings of satisfaction with family life, and strengthening family relationships through interaction.

Why, then, if family time is of such tantamount importance, is it so hard to come by? For one, time in general is hard to come by. This modern-day lack of time has come to be known as time famine, or the “feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it.” Cultural expectations including busy schedules, an increase in the number of working parents, more intense sports activities for children, parental pressure to raise well-rounded children, and the value placed on leading “action-packed lives,” contribute to decreased time for families.

Carving out time for family isn’t a lost cause, but it does require understanding that “questions of time priorities very quickly become questions of values.” What then, is most important to your family: health, lifestyle, material acquisition, work and productivity, leisure, time together? Establishing priorities is the first step toward having more family time.

Try this ranking activity to identify your priorities, or try recording in a journal where you spend your time for a full 24 hours:

  1. How many minutes did all members of your household spend doing something together yesterday?
  2. How many minutes did you spend with your spouse yesterday (if applicable)?
  3. How many minutes did you spend working outside the home?
  4. How many minutes did your spouse spend working outside the home (if applicable)?
  5. How many minutes did you spend engaged in in-home work (i.e., chores, laundry, bill paying, etc.)?
  6. How many minutes did your spouse spend engaged in in-home work (i.e., chores, laundry, bill paying, etc., if applicable)?
  7. How many minutes did you spend with your child yesterday? What was the primary activity (i.e., homework, reading together, etc.)?
  8. How many minutes did your spouse spend with your child yesterday? What was the primary activity (i.e., homework, reading together, etc.)?
  9. How many outside-of-the-home activities are your children involved in (e.g., music lessons, sports leagues, church groups, etc.)?
  10. How many outside-of-the-home activities are you involved in (e.g., music lessons, sports leagues, church groups, etc.)?
  11. How many outside-of-the-home activities is your spouse involved in (e.g., music lessons, sports leagues, church groups, etc.)?

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