When school starts life can, and often does, get crazy. Before I had any children who were school aged I used to think the hardest years of my life would be the ones where I was raising babies. Man was I wrong! If only I knew then, what I know now I would have enjoyed the baby stage with my older ones so much more. Once kids start school there is way more potential for schedules to be filled with activities. It can happen when they are little too, it just didn't for us. Once they start school they talk to the other kids and realize what the world has to offer them!
Early on Ben and I made a decision for our family that we would not over-schedule ourselves That was so much easier to do when they were little. One thing that a family with several children has to consider is how many different directions can two people possible go in and do we want to be going in opposite directions all the time? When you have seven children there is the potential for us to be going in seven different directions and if you do the math, that's just not possible for two people. We have been doing the "school thing" for 6 years now. That doesn't make us pros but it has given us some experience in setting limits for our schedule. I thought I would share some things we've learned along the way to help you in this very busy season of life. These are just things that have worked for us, they are not hard and fast rules. Every family has to do what works for them. This is what works for us.
1.Pray! And then pray some more. Never stop praying for wisdom to know what to say yes to and what to say no to. God will give you guidance and peace about the decisions you make and you need to listen! Just because something is good doesn't mean it is good for your family. Before we take on anything whether its sports, a club or something at church, we pray and make sure that it is Gods will for us to set time aside for that activity.
2.Be willing to say no! There will come a day when you will have to say no to your children and the sooner you start practicing, the easier it will be! There are so many activities out there that kids can
do. They all require your time and most cost money. We made a decision early on that we would be a one sport family until the kids are in Jr. High & High School. All of our school aged kids are in elementary school and we still have 3 little ones at home. It makes life hectic enough as it is with our family only being involved in one sport, I can't imagine how we'd manage if half our family was going to one field and the other half going to another...every night of the week. Each family has to do what is best for them, but for us what is best is limiting the activities our kids are involved in for a season.
3.Set your priorities! This is something we did even before we had children. Be purposeful in your parenting! Decide what the priorities are in your family and stick to it. For our family God is the number one priority. So what does that look like? Well that means that any sport or activity that practices, has a game, or meets on a Sunday is not an option for us. We go to church on Sunday and we set that day aside to worship God and rest. This has meant that we have had to tell the kids no to some things they have been interested in. Because this is the standard we have set from the beginning and have never wavered on, the kids understand. Having time for a date with each other is also a priority so Ben and I make it a point to set that time aside early on in the month, before the calendar fills up! Whatever the priorities are in your family, it is important to remember them and make sure you keep those things your priorities. Don't compromise because you will regret it!
4. Don't over-fill your calendar! If you are finding yourself in a situation where you don't have any free days, nights, weekends then it might be time to reevaluate your schedule and see if you should be doing all of those things that are filling up your calendar. I had a friend tell me one time that when she did her calendar for that month she had one child who didn't have a free day the whole month. The child was committed to something every. single. day. And that was only one child, that didn't include the rest of the family members. I give her a lot of credit for keeping up with that kind of hectic schedule because I think I would lose my mind. Ben and I have found that for our family, what works best is to not over fill our calendar. That means that we leave days open and say no to things that come up if doing it means that we don't get one day that week to breathe. I encourage the idea of husbands and wives sitting down and talking about what is reasonable for your family to take on. It's important to both be on the same page and then once you are, sit down and explain to your kids what your family can reasonably take on and go from there. It might mean eliminating an activity or two but if it means more family time and saving your sanity then it is worth it!
Something I had to learn was that no activity or sport will ever be better for MY kids then time spent at home with their family. I tend to feel guilty sometimes, wishing I had it in me to do more for my kids in the way of offering them all the activities they want to do. That guilt doesn't last long arguing, babies crying for their food, someone needing to be told for the 100th time to SIT IN THEIR CHAIR...you get the picture. The point is we are all together and in those rare moments when I can get a word in I can use that opportunity to connect with my kids. If every night of the week and every weekend is filled up with some activity that I am rushing my kid to then I'm not really spending time with them and I have very little opportunity to influence them in these very formative years. I read a quote on Focus on the Family that read:
"Parental influence is strongest during the early stages of their children’s lives, up to the age of 13, during which time children are facing relentless
cultural influences and competing worldviews."
cultural influences and competing worldviews."
My children are still in the "early stages" of their childhood and I don't want to miss the opportunities to help them understand these "cultural influences and competing worldviews" that they face because I am too busy running from one activity to the next. I'm also not a very good mom when I am so overbooked that I don't have time to breathe and since I am the only mom these kids have I think it's important that I give them the best of myself ...with Gods grace and strength of course!
I don't say any of this to criticize how another family is doing things. I am simply sharing my heart on the subject because for a while I really found myself struggling with finding the right balance. I'm very thankful that with Gods help we were able to find what works for our family and I hope that you are equally as happy with the way your schedule is! If you're not maybe my journey will help you get to a place where you can be happy! And as always, I love learning from you so if you have found ways that have helped you in this particular season of life please share!