Since coming back from Panama, Jennifer and I have been amazed at how quickly life has hit us! It seems there is no end to the distractions that take us away from our family, and our focus on what’s most important.
The first few days at home were wonderful, and we still had what we feel was a healthier mindset. We were still productive, we were happy, and we loved being together. We adored our kids, and always had time for them. We didn’t realize what we had been missing all along until we experienced this – it’s hard to describe how much closer we became being together in Panama. But after a week or two (10 days now) of being home, we feel an immense pull from all our commitments, and with so many distractions, we have found it very difficult to stay in that mindset.
Even though I work from home, it doesn’t seem that we’re spending much time together, and when we are, we don’t feel as close – like we’re too busy with things we “have to do” that we forget what’s really important. We have even become short-tempered and impatient with our kids again – emotions that we just didn’t have much on our trip. Interesting, isn’t it?
An Onslaught of Commitments
We had virtually no responsibilities or commitments while we were on our trip. I still had to run my business, but I could do that on my own time, and I made sure I limited myself to just a few hours a day. Since coming back, however, I’ve had a lot more going on – much of which has been very good, but it’s kept me busy.
For example, in the past ten days, I’ve had two lunch appointments (one for business, one with an old friend), several scheduled business phone calls, tai chi classes, Toastmasters meetings, church meetings (including a fun talent show that I performed in, and responsibilities with my calling), Oratorio Society of Utah rehearsals (which required a lot of piano practice since I accompanied this week), house maintenance (see my last post), a lot of e-mails to answer, programmers’ code to review, and I migrated my music teacher website to a new server to meet growing demands for performance.
The girls have had preschool and dance classes. Jen has been busy taking care of things at home, cooking, cleaning (a bigger deal when you have a bigger place), laundry, entertaining visitors, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, visiting teaching, babysitting other people’s kids and babies, and a lot more.
With all of these things going on (and I’m sure this list looks mild compared to some families), we have found it difficult to find time to spend together or with our kids. For example, we have been wanting to go to the “Frog” exhibit that just opened at the Natural History museum, but so far, haven’t found a single day free to go do it! We finally had a couple hours open Saturday, so took the girls to the park, which was fun. But it’s just not enough to keep the feeling of unity and love as strong as it was on our trip.
Is All This Really Necessary?
I’ve started to wonder which of the above commitments are truly necessary. Of course there are many of the above commitments we wouldn’t want to give up, especially ones relating to people we love. And of course there’s joy to be found in the self-improvement, service, and work-related commitments. But as I look at the list of what we’re busy doing, I wonder why so much of it has to occur outside of the family. Isn’t the purpose of family to teach us “self-improvement, service, and work”, and to make us better people? Are we neglecting our most important and rewarding responsibilities by bringing so much else into our lives? I’m starting to feel like some of these things are just distractions, taking me away from what I value most.
Is it really a requirement to do so much all the time, in so many different areas of life? Does it really take going to another country, away from everything, to experience a strong feeling of family unity? Is it really unrealistic to have that kind of feeling in our fast-paced society? Can I really avoid getting sucked in to all that’s going on around me? I experienced a special feeling with my family in Panama (and even a bit after we returned), and I want it back again.
I wonder what life was like in the days of Adam and Eve, when there were no governments, schools, law, or even churches – when family and the law of God was all there was. We’re told that the main reason Jesus Christ even established a church was to help fathers and mothers teach and take care of their families. Families truly are central to God’s plan for His children. (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Are families central in our lives?
The Power of Less
A few days ago, I checked out a book at the library called “The Power of LESS” by Leo Babauta, author of the popular Zen Habits blog – one of my favorite blogs. I have hardly been able to put the book down, and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to simplify their life or get more done (especially important things). The basic idea of the book is that you can be happier and more productive by eliminating the non-essential from your life, and doing/keeping only the essential. Yeah, a simple idea – but very profound when applied.
I certainly found this true in Panama. When we focused on what was most important (our family), and let almost everything else go out the window, we were much, much happier. I’m not saying that we should take our families and go and live like hermits, shutting out anything but each other. But there has to be a better balance than what I’m currently experiencing.
Finding the Balance
How do I find this balance again? Should I take my family on another 6 week trip? Or how about a year or more? Or maybe I should just start to cut some of the clutter out of my life as it is now, making sure I reserve time every day and every week for my family. Maybe we can have a “Family Day” a few times a week, and try to keep out other appointments and commitments on those days. Maybe I can allot specific hours of every day to spend with my kids, and make sure I leave my computer off during those times. But then I think, “How can I possibly get everything done if I do that?” Then again, do I really need to get “everything” done? What’s truly essential?
How do you find time to be with your family among all the pressures of life? And do you feel like it’s enough time? Do you feel as close in your family as you want to be? I’d love to hear your thoughts.