This year I found myself in the middle of too many things – full time job with late hours, new site, and my existing blog… I often get asked how do I get everything done and I usually have no answer. The truth is, it often takes everything out of me. As much as I love deadline environment, I often find myself waking up at 5 am with my glasses still on and my computer napping next to me. With so much going on I often have no personal time and that certainly takes a toll on my quality of life. Something has to change. I have to find the time to stop and take a long breath.
That’s when I came across this book – Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by Renée Peterson Trudeau. Today I’d like to share a few thoughts from this book with you as I try something new – self-care and unplugging.
So begin with baby steps. Invite in self-compassion. Cultivate a sense of curiosity: What would happen if I became less plugged in? How can I model this for my kids? What are some half measures and partial steps I could try? What fun things could I replace screen time with? When are the most important times when I want my family unplugged (for example, during dinner or on Sundays)?
Take a look at your schedule. How are you using your waking hours? Outside of work and school, how many “free” hours does each person have, and how much time does the family have together? For most families, this may amount to only three to four hours of free time together a day. Many families find that once they’ve identified and scheduled what’s really important to them, there’s not much time left for TV, Internet surfing, and video games.
The first time I shut the lights off in the bathroom to make 10 deep breaths, I felt so weird. I was racing against time trying to get all my breaths in before somebody screams hysterically “MAAM!” some place in the house. 10 breaths later I was irritated, lightheaded, but yet happy that I gave myself a whole minute before giving the rest of the day to everyone else.
- If you watch TV every night, try giving it up for one night a week.
- If your habit is to always have the TV on as background noise, replace this with a classical music station.
- Establish a total number of hours (say, two to five) that your kids can spend however they like from Friday to Sunday.
- Ditch the cable and only use the TV for watching family-friendly movies, either through a subscription service or by checking DVDs out of the library.
- Allow for one hour of educationally oriented screen time a day, and schedule this time for when Mom and Dad need it the most, such as while cooking dinner, replying to emails, and so on.
- Maintain a land line and answering machine at home. This way you can screen phone calls without interrupting precious family time.
- Insist that all cell phones and electronics be turned off during meals and whenever the family is enjoying time together.
- For the parents: abstain from getting online before work in the morning or after work in the evenings. These are natural family-gathering and transition times each day, so make your priority being present for your kids and for each other as a couple. Talk, connect, and share the day’s events.
- Consider making electronics off-limits during everyday car rides around town. Let your child sit quietly and “get bored” looking out the window, or use travel time as an ideal moment for talking about school, friends, and what’s going on in your child’s life.
- Avoid temptation by not getting a smart phone. These gadgets are a slippery slope, and how much do you really need all that they do? Instead, get a regular, basic cell phone with texting.
- Move the TV from the family room, or the center of your house, to an upstairs guest room.
- Make one weekend day entirely, 100 percent unplugged, with no media and no phone calls at all until a certain hour in the evening. Reserve this day for 100 percent family time, and make it fun: go hiking or to museums, make fancy all-day meals, visit friends or relatives, or go swimming. Initially, long stretches of unstructured time may seem hard to fill, but propose this as an experiment and give your family’s collective creativity a chance. Your older kids might continue to complain, but I bet they will secretly like it!
Going through these bullet points I am thinking how difficult it would be to separate my family from everything that keeps them connected. How can my husband survive an hour without checking his email? How can my son not be on YouTube watching his favorite Chuggington cartoons? I probably would prefer the happy rat race just because it is easier, but I also want to enjoy the quality of my life even if that means living for yourself 30 minutes a day. What is 30 minutes? A sitcom episode (including 8 minutes of commercial)? A long phone chat with a girlfriend? I know I am worth at least that much, but committing and actually doing something about it are two different things.
Life balance coach/speaker Renée Peterson Trudeau is the author of the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal.
Excerpted from the new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family ©2013 Renée Peterson Trudeau. Published with permission of New World Library.