After a long summer break, shifting headspace from pyjama days and beach hangs to lunchboxes, homework and after-school activities can sound either exciting or terrifying – depending on how ready you are for the holidays to end and routines to resume. And after the drama of 2020, many of us are talking about simplifying life which makes this the perfect time to reflect on the family schedule.
I always have good intentions about slowing down the pace and committing to less, but I’m not always the best at implementation. When I’m over-stretched, however, I get tired and grumpy. Basically, the less attractive side of my personality blossoms. (Flashback to me storming outside to the car one morning while shouting, “Whether you lot are ready or not, I’m not going to be late to work again so I’m leaving right now!”, with said young ‘lot’ screaming for fear of being left behind. Deep breath.) I’m really hoping I’m not alone in this regard.
Decluttering schedules and focusing on what’s really important are trending topics at the moment but it’s more than a fad, I believe. Honestly, I find that life is so much calmer and more satisfying when I’m intentional about doing less, better.
Easier said than done? Here’s a few thoughts around how this might work:
Practise saying ‘No’
Saying “I’ll think about that and get back to you” is a great approach when requested to sign up, volunteer, join a club, or take on the netball team treasurer role. This gives you time to truly reflect on whether the opportunity is the right fit for your schedule and something you really want to give up your spare time for.
Less is more
Be realistic about how many extra-curricular activities your kids can do. Maybe just one extra thing per child, per term is the reasonable (and manageable!) way forward for your family. Our kids can be involved in the decision-making process around what activities or sports to do, so they can practise weighing up options, making wise choices and following through on commitments. Lifelong learning right there!
Stay local, stay together
Look at ways to streamline activities – choosing the local option to reduce travel time or getting your kids to try the same activity at once (I’ve got both my kids at the same athletics programme in our neighbourhood, on the same night with only a 45-minute gap between them – which saves a whole afternoon!).
Put up some fences
Put some boundaries in place to protect family/home time. Unscheduled time at home to simply hang out as a family unit is gold, so consider how much of this you would ideally like to have as the norm for your family this year, and block it out on the calendar. (It will probably be an ideal goal, and not always achievable depending on circumstances, but something to aim for nonetheless!)
Talk about the plan
If busyness has been part of your typical family style for some time, talking about expectations will help prevent disappointment. Talk to your whānau about your new plan, so the kids know they’re not going to be out every day after school, that only one playdate a week will be happening and that sleepovers are a special treat and not a regular fixture, for example.
Enlist the team
Depending on age and stage, think about what extra household chores your kids can take on this year to help take the load off yourself (while also upskilling them and training them to play their part in the family unit). So far my 5- and 9-year-old’s lists include things like unpacking the dishwasher, putting pyjamas away and making beds, prepping their stuff for school the night before, making lunches and vacuuming. My older child is keen to cook and while I’ll admit it’s a LOT easier and faster when I do it myself, I realise that if I don’t give him the opportunity, how will he learn? So far he’s mastered spaghetti and meatballs as well as homemade pizza, so we’ll work to expand the menu this year. Short-term pain, long-term gain, I keep telling myself. (If you can’t already tell, patience isn’t my top virtue).
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