When my wife and I were young parents with school-aged kids, we’d often get caught up in conversations with friends who practiced a curious kind of one-upmanship. “I’m busier than you” was a badge of social standing and seemed to be something to strive for. But we are families first—mom and dad call the shots, not unbalanced social expectations. It begs the question: Rather than making the decision to govern your own life, are you governed by other people’s priorities?
Our friends would get breathless explaining their busy lives and we’d stand there with forced smiles, just daring somebody to top their impressive calendar obligations—carting kids to 14 different extracurriculars each week, catching each child’s school’s plays and sports games, and making multiple social commitments every weekend. Then, in private, they’d own up to how stressed they were, how driven by other people’s expectations, how much they longed for a simpler life. Maybe you long to simplify your life, too. Here are 5 reasons you should.
1. Your marriage wants you back.
We all know people who are AWOL from their own relationships. They may not be filing for divorce, but it’s clear that they’re not really 100 percent present. They’re not showing up for their own lives. They are present to anything and everything but the people and commitments that should take top priority. Is that you? If you are disengaged from your marriage (even partially), the first positive step is to acknowledge that you are and to own your need re-engage. Talk with your wife, tell her you want to be more present, and take steps, together, to make it happen. This is probably a good time to talk with a licensed counselor.
2. Your family needs to slow down.
When my kids were school-aged, my wife and I applied a simple formula. We went to church as a family. Each child had to pick two church activities (of many choices) beyond the Sunday worship service. The kids were limited to two more commitments, such as piano lessons, soccer, or scouts. Dinner four times a week as a family was sacrosanct. Yes, this meant compromise. No, not everyone got to do everything all the time. And that’s the point.
3. Quality of life starts at home.Home is the epicenter of family life.
Home is where everything starts. Home is the epicenter of family life. Nothing beats a relaxed family dinner with conversation and games together during the evening. Activities and crazy busyness that take away from a quality experience of home must be questioned and must come second.
4. Time moves too fast.
When we’re overwhelmed with too much life we can become so distracted that time slips by and “rewind” is never an option. Robin Williams’ character in the movie Hook showed up late or not at all for everything important in his children’s lives. “Peter, you’re missing it,” his wife pointed out. Sometimes we’re so distracted by the next moment that we forget to simply enjoy the one we’re in, with our family.
5. The best things in life are free.
Who told you rushing around to all those activities was more important than barbecuing in the backyard with the family? Whose priority is it that relegates time together as a family three places behind travel soccer? What exactly is it that makes a new high-performance car worth the pressure it puts on your family life? The alternatives, the better choices, all turn out to be free. Family time is not just free, but priceless.
Sound off: Does where you spend your time line up with what you want your priorities to be?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your family and ask, “What are our priorities? Does what we are busy doing line up with them?”