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Simplify life so you are actually spending quality time with family

I am going to help you figure out how you can slow down and simplify life so you can actually get quality time with family.

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau
mother and son sitting in chair spending time together

Basically, you are doing too much, we are ALL doing too much…its time to stop! This may be un unpopular opinion, but most families today are too busy. Too many activities and expectations are pulling families away from each other. When we became parents our lives changed and we changed with it. Innumerable things got added into our lives along with a mile-long list of things we thought we expected of us to do. Its time to do less so we can actually spend quality time with family and create a strong family bond.

quote "simplify life: quality time and connection happens in the slow moments" on blue background with leaves in corner
family quotes

Life is busy

Well, you may have noticed but life is BUSY. As a parent, there’s always a to-do list a mile long. Sometimes, it’s actually hard to keep it all straight! What was I supposed to be doing? Which kid is supposed to be going where? Were there after-school activities today? And what on earth is for dinner tonight??

Mother with son on shoulders and daughter behind her bouncing on toy donkey very busy life
I am not even sure whats happening here, life with toddlers is crazy

Kids take time, they need help to do most activities, and can’t do things like clean as quickly or effectively as an adult. Plus, as their brains develop they have a plethora of emotional needs that we have to figure out (good luck to us!). So, in our busy days we rush through things for them instead of doing things WITH them. As we rush through activities, we are also rushing past our kids (or rushing them along). Do we see them? Are they feeling valued? Do we connect in those fast moments or do we just wish they would put their shoes on faster?

There are seasons of life that are naturally busier than others and that’s ok. The problem is when there is no season of slowing down and simplifying life because quality time and connection happens in the slow moments. We do not get the same quality of time as we rush.

There’s good news: You can connect more

Quality time and connecting with your family is not about the big adventures and the one week of family holiday a year. Those times are beautiful and wonderful. They celebrate family and make memories, but they are not what builds lasting connection.

Real connection happens in the day to day, just doing life together. Those simple moments need to be captured and redeemed. Let’s stop teaching our kids that rushing and business is what’s important. All the rushing builds anxiety! We need to create space in our daily schedule so our children are a part of our life. Children’s biggest desire is to be seen and valued by their caregivers (YOU). And no one can substitute for you.

Importance of Quality Time

Playtime and fun activities are wonderful and a great time for connection, but, I would like to argue that the most effective ways cement your child’s value is when you do real life. The most important thing to our kids is strong family relationships…that means strong bonds with the people in their own home. they crave your undivided attention. Kids are smart and know you have a to-do list, if they can help with that, they feel powerful. It creates a sense of belonging to the family. But, their help takes time and training to build new skills. For younger kids it’s a group effort so we need to start by making enough time to teach them. (See my post on doing life with toddlers for details on that here)

mom with daughter and son sitting on the counter spending quality time together
Doing life together, kids on the counter ready to “help”

How to make time for quality time with family:

How are you going to fit space into your already busy schedules? Do LESS. Decide your house is going to be a mess today and you are not going to care about it. Decide the laundry is going to stay in a big pile and you aren’t folding it (there is currently a large blue bag of clean laundry in my kitchen that I have been treating like a permanent piece of furniture).

mom sitting on floor with kids in a messy house
Real life right here, house is a mess and we don’t care

Take it a step further: do NOT volunteer to bring snack, host an event, or even attend an event (even good events) that isn’t going to bring your family closer. Holiday addition: you do NOT need to make holiday cards, teacher gifts, or fancy cookies. DO LESS.

Stay away from too many lessons and sports for young children. Such activites can take over the life of a family, robbing important time. Anything that needs to be learned from these will be learned better and faster when they are older and ready. The goal is to adjust your family focus so that everybody’s favorite thing is a day spending family time together. So do less of everything else. Do not let your stress keep you from enjoying your family.

quote: do less connect more

On a personal note

I have felt the busy and overwhelmed feelings; I felt them take my joy out of my family life. So I paused everything. Almost every commitment I had, I paused and took a breath to evaluate if my life goals and my life focus matched. You can do this too. It might be scary to try. I had some big things going on too, and I was able to either pause or slow them down (I am talking full career, and graduate school for a nurse practitioner degree type of big things). It wasn’t easy to stop, and many people didn’t understand. But, for me, when I paused I realized I wanted to spend all the quality time with my family. I wanted to spend my time building the strongest, healthiest family I could. So, I made some radical changes. You can too.

Some of the changes you will read about in the steps below require sacrifice and are a family decision, others you can do more easily. I needed to make career changes, meaning I needed to work less to build in time to create a peaceful family. Financial sacrifices may be the toughest to consider. I promise the payoff will be greater! Happy, connected, joyful kids are worth the cut in the budget. Honestly, kids are so much more fun when we aren’t rushing!

mother holding son in a simple slow moment while he looks out the window
This is where you want to be

The simple ways to promote quality time with family

Step 1

Stop doing as many things as you can. I am serious, stop ALL THE THINGS. This process can take time. If you are in school or working then it may take time to coordinate a slow down or a temporary break. It took me months to coordinate slowing down to one day a week at work (some of this was financial, some logistics, and some was my own guilt). So take some time and stop as much as you can. 

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Do we really need this lesson right now?
  • Does soccer really need to start at 3 years old?
  • How can these errands be more efficient so I can have a stay at home day (Instacart helps me with this on tough days!)
  • Can I step back from this volunteer position for a period
  • What things am I doing that I feel pressured or expected to do but aren’t bringing joy (or used to bring joy but stopped in the midst of too many other things). For example: decorating your house for the seasons

step 2

In this new space you have created, take a breath. Add NO things back. It’s tempting, but resist the urge! Keep saying NO! I added no things back for almost a year. That’s how much recovery time I needed! Give yourself the time to find you again and think about your goals and priorities. This time for reflection and regrouping is invaluable!

Tips for this phase:

  • Nourish your body
  • Get extra rest where you can
  • If you are struggling with mental health ( anxiety, depression ect.) let this be the time you focus on finding strategies to help. Find a quality therapist in your area that you can connect with (CBT or EMDR are both research backed effective forms of therapy)
  • Have quiet times where you can actually think (usually during naps or once the kids go to bed because there is no quiet time during awake time!)
  • Understand that if you are a new parent with young kids you might have changed a little. Be ready to recognize and embrace new parts of you
women sitting in chair smiling
say to your self “hello old friend, you’ve changed a bit, lets get to know each other again”

Step 3

 See what you want to add back in, if anything. I realized I liked being with my family so much (when I had time to breathe) that I decided to stay home with them (except for my 1 day a week at work). It was a game changer for my son who struggles with emotional regulation and anxiety. The positive changes are night and day. Do not fall into the trap of just adding all things back in! Be very purposeful in this step. And if you add too many things back in, then go back to step 1!

Tips for this phase:

  • Think about each item before you add it back in, is this something that brings you closer to your family, that adds quality time, or that brings you personal joy
  • Is this a good thing but that adds stress to your life in your current season? Maybe consider waiting to add it in until you’re in a different season
  • Is this something you did because you felt forced or expected to do…do NOT add it back in. 
  • If you aren’t sure then add it in and see how it feels, you can always take it out again. 
  • Don’t be afraid to change things up, do things differently that work better for who you are and how your family functions. Think outside the box.

Some fun ways to create special time for your family

  • Family game night: plan a night that your whole family gets together without mobile phones and you play together. This is wonderful for all ages. Board games are great for toddlers right up through the teenage years.
  • A morning routine that includes family time. Create a time that you can give your kids your undivided attention. Even if it’s 10 minutes of reading or playing. This one is MAGIC. You will see a positive impact on your kids’ behavior and stronger family bonds just by starting your day with this.
  • Get outside in nature together: not only is this great for the whole family’s physical health but it is great for mental health too!
  • Sit down and have family dinners together at least a few nights a week. Sit around that dinner table and talk to each other, really see each other. Put away the cell phone here folks!
  • Start some family traditions: something that is just unique to you. A family cheer, a family birthday celebration. Something fun the whole family can participate in

The end game: more quality family time

The picture at the end of this is: a family that enjoys a daily routine where connection and quality time are the focus. At the end of the day, we all need stronger bonds with the people in our own home. Where there is less to do outside the family so the things inside can be done slowly and together. Now you have time to celebrate the little accomplishment like putting shoes on!

Let me tell you, it feels nice on this side! The next step will be adding meaningful things into this new time. I have a different post on creating a daily rhythm for your family (check it out here) and an example of our current daily rhythm here. I also have a post on how to do chores and regular life with toddlers (Series coming soon! Sign up for fam mail to get the updates!). But for now, make the space, give yourself a break and see where you land. 

**Special note to my friends that feel bored: I have met a few people that feel the opposite. They sit at home all day with their kids and don’t know what to do with themselves. For you, start doing more with your kids! Don’t add things that pull you apart or add more business or more to-dos. Go on nature adventures, perhaps do a little preschool program that is flexible and fun for both of you! Check out my posts on nature adventures (here) and hiking (coming soon: here) for ideas. Also, setting up a daily rhythm can help even a simple day feel more purposeful (here). 

Share your progress with me and ask your question! What phase are you in??

Post Disclaimer

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice.  Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs.  The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual

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  1. I really love these tips! We do not have many out-of-the-house activities but I do lots of things to keep up our home. I know I could pull a few things off the list and would have more time with my boys. I will be examing this and making some shifts in how I do the things that must get done.

    1. Thanks so much Julie! It is always hard to find the balance between doing what needs to be done, but also, finding the space to slow down and enjoy this time with our kids.

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