You might have noticed I haven't been posting as much the past two weeks. This goes hand in hand with this week's topic: Protecting Family Time. Mamas who work and homeschool have to make decisions about how they spend every hour of every day, every minute really, and they have lasting ramifications. Mamas who get the privilege of staying at home full time may not fully appreciate the opportunities they get for a "do-over" that are quite limited in families where both parents work.
I cannot change the past, neither can you. Once we've made a choice, we live with its consequences, good or bad. What we can choose to do is be selective about how we spend each day God grants us of our future. You MUST protect your family time! When you work and homeschool, family time is scarce. You need to protect it, nurture it, and make the most of it. If someone asks you to do something, anything, you need to take your answer before the filter of God's Word and see if it is something worth giving up family time for. Often, especially when your children are little, the answer is no.
There were many years when our girls were little that we did very little socially besides church, and the occasional homeschooling field trip. It didn't mean we didn't want to have friends, we did, but for Kurt and I, time spent with our friends without the girls was minimal because we understood how precious every hour we had of family time was to us. We did things as a family. If we could not afford for all four of us to go, or of it was an event where children were not welcome, we skipped it. Harsh? Not really. Sitting where we are today, with an 18 year old and a 16 year old, we can all look back on the memories we made as a family. That is worth far more than watching a movie with friends or a dinner out at the local restaurant.
It was worth protecting our family time, and it still is. However your family deems to spend your free time, make sure you are spending most of it together. There will be years when you are working and homeschooling that seem as if there is no free time at all ~ find some, even just a couple pf hours, and go make a memory with it! As Christians, we are called to not forsake the assembling of the saints. Go to church together. Consider the point that if both parents are working, this may not be your season of life to help with all the extras. You may be able to schedule part of a week off of work to help with Vacation Bible School, but you're probably not in a position to teach the children or watch toddlers every week. You may be able to help take food to shuts ins, but not commit to weekly choir practice and singing at every service. This is a conversation you need to have with your spouse! Together you seek God's direction, and ask for His help in planning and protecting your family time. You first ministry IS at home.
So what might family time look like? Every family is different, but I'll give you a glimpse into what we've done in the past.
Games ~ Instead of focusing on organized sports, we chose things we could do together: board games, tennis, climbing around the playground at the park, swimming, creek stomping.
Outings ~ Picnics at the local park, hiking (we've always purchased a State Park pass so we could visit a variety of parks and only had to budget for it once a year.) Baseball games (many pro teams have family packs with discounted children's tickets so its only a couple more dollars for the whole family than it would be just for two.) The State Fair: pack a huge cooler of food, water bottles and sunblock and spend the whole day.
Events ~ Many local communities have free concerts, or places where you can volunteer a few hours in exchange for entrance to an all-day event. Keep an eye on local homeschooling or Mom-based activities groups to search out the details. Don't be afraid to contact the organizers of an event you'd like to attend and ask if they have a volunteer program!
Birthdays ~ when the Grandparents ask what your children want for their birthdays, suggest things you can actually use together as a family: sports equipment or a family membership to your favorite museum.
Library card ~ there is no less expensive way to read, watch movies, and listen to audio books than to utilize your local library! Even if you live outside of a library district and have to pay for a card, it is money well spent for the year!
So what have we been doing recently in our protected family time? Visiting relatives, having a birthday party, going to 4-H meetings, going to a cook out with friends, visiting a historic home. We've been busy creating memories. You'll read about several of those trips soon here on the blog. In the meantime, go find some family time and plan something fun and inexpensive. The more time you spend together as a family, the more you'll come to appreciate it, value it, and protect it.
God placed us in families. Cherish them!