Fall is in the air. Gone are the sunny, carefree summer days. Replacing them is the activity-packed, responsibility-filled family schedule.
A dozen or so years ago, I spoke to my friend on the phone, spilling concerns about fall’s packed calendar. I had kids to homeschool, books to write, mentoring responsibilities—not to mention the daily stuff that comes up.
“At least a few times a week my grandma needs a ride into town for errands,” I explained. “And then there are the kids. There is always last-minute stuff: figuring out the right homeschool curriculum, play dates with friends, and church activities.”
My friend listened and then answered with a sigh. “It sounds like you’ve set yourself up for failure. Without a plan, you leave everyone vying for a piece of you. What if your grandma had a set day when you’d take her to town? Do you think she could get everything squeezed into one afternoon?
“What if your kids knew which day was shopping day?” she continued. “Could they come up with a list of their needs? Or better yet, could they help with the shopping? And what about your freelance work—could you schedule days for certain things?”
Her idea was brilliant, and I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it sooner myself. As soon as I got off the phone, I started working on a plan. I started with my grandma first, setting up a weekly date for breakfast and errands. That worked so well, I began scheduling grocery shopping and my kids’ weekly chores, too.
I also decided to take a look at what I was doing and why. Were these things I truly wanted to do, or was I simply trying to meet someone else’s expectations? Oh yes, I also decided to enlist help with the new system.
In the past, I had assumed all household and family responsibilities rested on my shoulders (another way I set myself up for failure). But I’ve since discovered my husband, John, likes the idea of working on our schedule together. In fact, most guys are eager to step up to the plate when given the chance.
As I shared my plan with John, he had great insight when it came to kids, chores, and activities. “Spending time with the family” sometimes means cleaning out the garage or raking fall leaves. But as we remind our kids, “Many hands make light work.” This system also creates space for playtime!
Here are three more ideas we’ve embraced:
Focus on Family
It’s been said that what you spend your days doing will determine what you spend your lifetime doing. There’s a lot of truth in that. And, five years from now, I don’t want to look back and regret not spending enough time with my friends, my children, or my spouse.
I’m often guilty of focusing on the wrong things. I worry what my neighbor thinks about the weeds growing in my flowerbed while completely ignoring the fact that I haven’t had a heart-to-heart conversation with my husband in weeks. I spend an hour decorating cookies for the church bake sale and then tell my family to fend for themselves when it comes to dinner.
“Our choice reveals what we love the most, what we fear, what is of ultimate value to us, and what we think we need in life—in other words, our choices expose the dominant desires of our heart,” writes Leslie Vernick, author of How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong.
Or to put it another way . . . Jesus said, “What does it profit man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Likewise, what does it profit my family if I’m known for the best school lunches, volunteering at the local rest home, or keeping in shape by committing to daily exercise if I don’t spend time with the people I’ve committed to love forever?
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