For most people, “spending more time with family” is one of the first things on the New Year’s resolution list – and is one of the first to drop off.
I’ve got two kids – a 7-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son – plus a husband with a demanding job in HR. After being in the corporate world, I decided to start my own business. After two failures, the third one stuck: I run a boutique social media/public relations/special events firm in South Florida.
In theory, being the boss means that you can make your own hours. So you can sit at those soccer matches and attend all the functions at school. The reality is that, just like a parent is always thinking about their kids, a business owner (or any executive) is always thinking about the business.
Therein lies the problem. My brilliant plan about being all things to all people might look great on paper, but it is totally unrealistic.
Am I really supporting my kids by texting clients the entire time I am “watching” their game? Do my husband and I stay connected if I am scouring the internet for blog ideas when we are supposed to be watching a movie together?
The answer is a resounding, decisive NO.
So how do you find family time when everything conspires to keep it just out of reach?
Here are my “six fixes” for keeping that resolution:
1) Put family time on the schedule, just like you would a business meeting.
It’s about a million times harder to delete something in “ink” than to simply not do the plans that were in your head.
2) Don’t just write down “family time” and leave it at that.
Include a picture of your kids on each calendar post to guilt-trip yourself out of cancelling. Also, be sure to write in specifically what you will do so that you start mentally planning. Once you’ve put some time into organizing game night, a hike, or a trip to the zoo, it’s harder to boot it off the calendar in favor of work.
3) Be sure to share the plan with your spouse.
And if they are old enough, put a calendar app on your kids’ phones so that they see it, too.
4) Consider your family’s other plans.
Remember to take into consideration “milestones” that you might not care about, but your kids/spouse definitely do. Some obvious examples? Do NOT plan something when a big game is on, during any music award shows, or at the exact time that all the kids normally congregate at the mall.
5) Don’t over-schedule.
In our house, expectation management is the key to happiness. Don’t over-schedule. Remember that quality family time can crop up at unexpected moments. So that your “planned” time will probably not be the only time you do things together.
6) Be creative.
Turn things that are going to be happening anyway, such as watching the local team play on TV, into “family time.” This can be as simple as getting logo shirts for everyone, making food in the team colors and having a “betting pool” on things, like how many times the announcer will say a certain word. Take pictures, post on social media, and voila! You’ve turned regular time into a family event that (hopefully!) they will remember.
On Scheduling Quality Family Time
Remember that you also need to cut yourself some slack, and your family does, too. Every action provokes an equal and opposite reaction, including being a working parent.
I’m working hard to bring in the bacon in a way that gives me more flexibility to be with my young kids – there’s a trade-off between the type of job that you switch off at 5pm, but doesn’t let you attend to your kids during the day. One like mine that offers flexibility, but the “open” sign is always hanging on the front door.
So I make deals with myself. For example: at a sports event, I’ll work on my phone when my kids are on the bench, and put it down when they are actively playing. I never take or make work calls when we are in the car for two reasons.
The first is that it sets a bad example for soon-to-be drivers, even with Bluetooth. The second is that I find this “trapped” environment is when I get the most info out of my kids. For some reason they seem to open up when we are all facing forward. If we’re not talking, then we’re singing at the top of our lungs to the radio together. Both of these count as family time in my book.
It’s impossible to have it all. But with planning, tenacity, flexibility and creativity, you can definitely have meaningful, memorable, fun time with your family.