The little scene played itself out in our house last week. I may have edited it for length and so as not to bore you to tears, but here is the general gist of the convo:
Me: “James, I’m so glad we figured out a way to recover that thrift store chair in the family room. The fabric looks awesome with the rest of the room. Very blog worthy.”
James: “Yeah. Isn’t it comfortable, too?”
Me: (Thinking) “You know, I don’t think I’ve sat in it since we bought it, and definitely not since we recovered it. But it looks awesome.”
James: “Um, that was about five weeks ago. You haven’t sat down in the family room in five weeks?”
Me: (Thinking) “Well….not in that chair?…”
James: (Looks at me)
Me: (Changing the Subject)
Gulp. I’ve thought about this conversation a lot in the past week, and realized that there is a major downfall of being so laser focused on DIY projects. If I’m looking at everything in my home as a project to be tackled, I very rarely stop to enjoy to the fruits of our work. Instead of seeing our house as a list of to-dos, I need to focus on living in our home, creating memories and becoming closer as a family.
This isn’t about just nice feelings or warm fuzzies. Studies show that families who spend time together have kids who are healthier, perform better at school and have better relationships with their parents. All things I want for our little family, obviously.
According to this article in The Atlantic, “Children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”
While we don’t eat together every single day, I do find that family meals bring us together and bond us in a consistent way. Every day, we check in with each other, talk and reinforce our relationship no matter how crazy the rest of the 23 hours were.
There are more exciting ways to bond as a family, too. Going on vacation (or on our budget, a staycation) is good for the family and its members. Using up vacation days has been shown to reduce depression and increase productivity, offering yet another reason to be sure to carve out family time. Not to mention all of the awesome memories you’ll make as a family, trying new activities and sampling new foods.
Family life and family time has been in the news lately, with President Obama calling a White House Summit on Working Families in June. The group discussed the ideas of a paid family leave to take care of a newborn or a sick family member, more child care options and more flexibility. I can almost see all the other parents nodding their heads on the other side of this computer screen.
One part of his op-ed spoke to what I’d been thinking about this past week, “Nearly half of all working parents surveyed say they’ve chosen to turn down a job not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families. When that many members of our workforce are forced to choose between a job and their family, something’s wrong.”
Parents know we need to spend more time with our families, and some of us have even made huge professional sacrifices to make it happen. It’s like we instinctively know our (metaphorical) butt should be in that chair more often, but all of the other demands, like professional life, smartphones, errands and honey-do lists, can drag us away.
I’ve talked to other moms about the guilt we have about being attached to our iPhones, our work e-mail and any other distractions. And I don’t want my child to see that behavior and mimic it. So maybe I’ll take the advice of Ben Franklin, he was a founding father after all.
He said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” I’m going to renew my commitment to spending quality time with my family, and involve them by helping to come up with ideas for activities, new recipes to try at family meal time and daydreaming together about vacations. I’ve got to stop talking about family time and begin connecting them with our new goal.
By involving everyone and being intentional about our time spent together, we can create a family culture that I can be even more proud of. And the time doesn’t have to be set aside for some glamorous or expensive activity. Sometimes it’s just about my butt being in the chair.