Happy New Year!
After spending the holidays cherishing my family time and with more than a full week of 2016 under our belts, I am back to posting here at Far From Family. Join me as I share my stories, thoughts, advice and more on living far from family. The more I share my own stories, the more I am interested in hearing yours! Learn more about sharing your story!
While living far from family can often mean living a long-distance from our family members, it can also be living life together under the same roof but struggling to find the time for joy and love with the those whom we share our home.
This week, a recent article at Motherlode over at the New Your Times was especially poignant. I shared on Facebook last week how the lack of downtime, playtime and family time for my children and my family was weighing heavily on my heart and mind.
I’m going to be honest here. The two weeks of Christmas break was wonderful but the three months leading up to the holidays weren’t great for me. Truthfully, they were far from great.
Life was stressful. It moved too fast with too little family time. Too little time to honor the season we were in. Too little time to share joy and love with those I share a home with.
In the last two years, life for us has changed a lot. We didn’t welcome a new family member or lose one. But we did uproot and move to Spain for the last school year, return and spend 42 days displaced, settle back into our home with my husband returning to work and our children enrolling in public school – for the first time.
It’s nothing remarkable. Except for me, life had changed significantly.
Eight years ago when my oldest was 1 year old, I found a way to transition my then-current position into a flexible schedule with less hours and more time at home. Five years ago after my last child was born, my position changed and required going back to a fixed, full-time schedule. So I found a new job. A part-time evening job.
Five years ago when it was time for my oldest to go to school, we didn’t send her. Instead, I began homeschooling the kids during my day and then heading off to work part-time in the evenings. (Read more about my homeschooling life with a then 5, 3 & 1 year old).
Fifteen months ago, we moved to Spain for the ten-month school year. And if I’m being honest, I had little desire to move overseas but working evenings for nearly five years had taken a toll on our marriage. When my husband wanted to make a change and go on an adventure, my desire to have a happy, healthy and long-lasting marriage outweighed my desire to not live in a foreign country.
I LOVED homeschooling my kids. I thoroughly enjoyed learning and living, together, with my children. I appreciated being able to honor where we were at and the season we were living in. It warmed my heart to see them have time for playing and creating. I thrived on taking field trips and experiencing the world around us, together.
I LOVED our time in Spain for the hours of family time and family experiences it provided us. (Read my review of Living Abroad) We lived in a small town without a car, insulated from the constant feel of running errands in heavy traffic. Daily life involved lots of walking, together. School for the kids started late and had a two hour lunch in the middle of the day. We didn’t have extra-curricular activities. What we did have lots of adventures to new places together and new collective experience. We even spent last winter hibernating together; which we do look back fondly on.
And I reflect fondly on our 42 days of being displaced this summer. It taught me a lot and gave me much to reflect upon. We lived with the bare essentials, we had to be even more flexible and we spent a lot of time outdoors together.
“I don’t know how you do it. I never could.” Is something I heard frequently while I was homeschooling. But I loved it. I actually couldn’t imagine how other people got their kids up and out the door to school day after day and then manage to fit in family life along with homework and activities into the remaining hours.
But now, this is where I am. Struggling to find a balance between the daily schedules and having time for playtime, downtime and family time.
The lack of balance has reduced me to tears on several occasions.
I am in desperate need for something to change. Due to the time parameters I was attributing to school, I have made many strong declarations of my dislike for school. The lack of time for us and my children to have playtime, downtime and family time has weighed heavily on my heart and mind.
It breaks my heart for my children to not have enough time to for free creative play or for me to read buckets full of books to them.
It weighs heavily on my mind that I often have to chose whether they complete their homework or help with family chores or similarly, if they complete their homework or get a full night’s sleep.
During Christmas break, I shared my thoughts and tears with my husband. My need for something to change. My unhappiness with how our family life has unfolded since September.
Between the hours and hours of family time during Christmas break, my husband and I brainstormed ideas and systems to improve family life and hopefully, find more time when we returned to our normal schedule after Christmas break.
I have no doubt that countless other families struggle with these same challenges and I have no doubt that many other families already have a system or rhythm that I am in desperate need of.
Or maybe my desperate need is to move to away from the hustle and bustle of the busy, suburban life. My husband “suggested” we make a few smaller changes before we move to a tiny house in the forest.
I already work to protect our weekends by not over-scheduling activities and leaving plenty of time in the calendar for spontaneous play and family time. During the week-days the kids have few, if any, extra-curricular activities. I even go as far as turning down weekend Birthday invitations for my youngest, in favor of hours of unstructured time at home together. (Shhhh…don’t tell her).
And I forgo the optional homework for my kindergartener, the optional Geography program for my second grader and the optional academic challenge for my fourth grader. I have been reticent to admit my seemingly lack of commitment to the full academic experience for my children but giving my children and my family the permission to forgo these extras allows us to focus on our family, our experiences together and the inherent learning that occurs when a family plays, learns and lives together.
So I am beginning the New Year with a strong desire to find and protect more of our family time together. We have implemented new systems into our daily lives to make my desire a reality. With one week under our belt of our new systems, I am feeling hopeful that our family will have more happiness in our home throughout the week. Not just on weekends and holidays!
Stay tuned as I share the changes we’ve made and how they are working!