I was in a client meeting the other day and was asked to talk about myself. So I gave him the usual spiel.
My wife and I blended our families about 4 years ago. Her contributions to the mix were two daughters and a dog that likes to bark incessantly any time someone knocks on the front door. I also brought two daughters to the party, but mine are twins. As of this writing, their ages are 16, 13, 12 and 12.
And they are busy.
Theatre. Band. Orchestra x2. Soccer x3. Not to mention another set of parents and families to schedule around, plus social calendars that would put a New York socialite to shame. Add to this complicated juggling act two full-time jobs and you can imagine our level of exhaustion at the end of an average day. I’m sure many of you can relate.
When I told my client this, he asked how I manage to do all this and still have time to freelance. I told him, my wife and I do things a certain way to ensure that not only do I have time to work, but we also have quality time as both a couple and as a family. Since that meeting, I’ve thought about this and realized that there are really seven things my wife and I have done to maximize our quality time.
Cut the Cord
It might sound sacrilegious but we didn’t watch the Super Bowl this year. Also not watched were the Olympics, the World Series and every single episode of Game of Thrones and This Is Us. Other than Netflix, we don’t have a TV service provider, nor do we want one. This frees up an enormous amount of time that would normally be sucked away by reruns of The Big Bang Theory.
Have Family Dinners
Every chance we get, we sit down to dinner as a family. We’ve banned smartphones, tablets, TV and music while we eat so we can concentrate on conversation, updates and lots of laughter. And there’s bonus points when the kids help cook.
Point Out the Beautiful and the Amazing in the World
From richly-hued sunrises and shooting stars to joyful children and flowers encased in ice, we make it a point to share the beautiful and amazing things we see in this world with our daughters. You know you’ve made an impact when they start pointing these things out to you.
Limit Social Media Exposure
Believe it or not but I don’t have Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat or Instagram, although I do have Facebook and LinkedIn. My daughters each have the ‘Gram and Music.ly but we monitor them and limit their exposure if they’re getting too consumed by it. Being tied to every social media app in the digital ether keeps your attention glued to that little screen in your hand and ignorant to what’s going on around you. So limit your time, be present in the real world and teach your kids the same thing.
Live a Day Without Electronics
A couple of times a month, we ditch our electronics for the day and live like its 1985. We go on hikes, go to a museum or play a board game. Heck, if you really want to be daring and adventurous, find the closest lake, pond or river and go fishing. You’ll enjoy it even if you don’t get a single bite.
Make Your Errands an Adventure
Every other weekend, we go grocery shopping. And my daughters love going with me despite the fact that we go to three different stores. The secret? We make it fun by challenging them to find the items on the shopping list. This gives them the confidence of problem solving plus exploring the store. And of course we sample every food we can lay our hands on.
Turn Extra-Curricular into Extra Time
When one of our daughters has an extra-curricular event, whether it’s a soccer game, theatre performance or orchestra/band concert, everyone goes. No exceptions unless there’s a scheduling conflict. Not only does it show unified family support for each other but gives you extra time to spend with your kids.
We’re not the most perfect family. Not by a long shot. But we try to make every moment have the potential for something better. To quote the great fictional philosopher Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”