Several years ago I wrote a post titled reclaiming family. The post had pictures of my kids at the local orchard, among pumpkins, dried corn, cute sure you can pet them animals, and old grumbly tractors that moved throughout the apple tree groves. I wrote words about being busy and how I just wanted to reclaim our family – more family times, less time driving, less doing things that took away from time together.
Yet, for two more years I kept being that busy.
Racing, really. From here to there and there to here and here to there and sometimes somewhere in between. Family dinners were smooshed inbetween the busy – and the activities while they were good – they were also busy and they kept us, as a family, busy all the time.
I was exhausted.
My children were exhausted.
I could see it. They lived in this hurry up hurry hurry hurry we’re going to be late let’s get going come on come on get in the car let’s leave now type of life.
So we decided to stop.
And that decision – to say no to the extracurriculars for a season – was one of the hardest decisions that we’ve made. It was saying no to really great things – ballet and taekwondo and extra classes and all of that – but we said no so that we could sit around the table as a family over dinner and just be.
We wanted to learn how to breathe again.
And so here we are – three months into this reclaiming family space – and we are relearning and readjusting our rhythm of life. Dinners are slower. My children have relaxed – I see it – they are calmer, less stressed, and much more optimistic. Who would have thought the busy would pull at their optimism? And yet, it had.
I see joy trickling back in our home.
It’s still hard. I fight the thoughts of we need to do this everyone is involved in extracurriculars what if my kids are missing out and all of that. I’ve just had to turn away those worries and instead look at my entire family gathered around the table in my kitchen and remember that these days are limited. I want to guard them and live intentional – making the best use of my time and guarding my children’s hearts. My Hannah? She’s got less than two years till she graduates – it’s either now or it’s never – she’ll be grown and gone and I would have raced through it all.
It’s about rediscovering family.
And ultimately when I am old and rocking in my white rocking chair on my front porch with begonias blooming in pots and ferns in a basket I know I will look back on those days when my kids were young and I know that I would rather remember dinner on the table with all seven of my children gathered around versus the racing frenetic life that was before.
We decided to look at culture’s norm of being busy and for a season say no.
I don’t know how long we’ll choose to live this way, but for now, I’m embracing the everyday and am truly trying to etch in my brain this time as a family together.
It’s our one year off.
And we’re finding joy again.
It’s been so intriguing watching my children learn to re-adapt to a slower pace of life. In that intentional stillness they’ve rediscovered interests and talents that had been pushed to the side by the constant busy life and racing to catch up. Do I think the activities are bad? Absolutely not. In fact, I am so blessed that my children have had these opportunities in their life. For our family, during this season, it was about being very intentional and stepping back and slowing down.
I plan on sharing more of our one year off journey as the year progresses. To receive finding joy via email simply click subscribe to finding joy.
A wise choice that will reap immense benefits!!
i’m all about this. i cringe when i hear mom’s say they “have” to run here and there and everywhere because suzy has soccer, joe has swimming, bill has football, etc. it’s just not healthy. and also? focusing on family rather than things saves money! : )
Loved reading this first thing in the morning. I had gone to bed reading a book called Simplicity Parenting that talks about slowing down, simplifying your stuff, activities, changing the rythm in your families life. I’m just starting out with family, I have a 3 1/2yr old and almost 2yr old. And this is what I am aiming to do with our family. Thanks for sharing! Sounds like you will look back on this and be happy with your decision.
Yes, yes and yes. Love your heart. We quit extracurricular activities a few years ago when we thought we were moving overseas. The move didn’t happen, we didn’t restart the extras and it’s been a blessing! We’re considering Tae Kwon Do for Bram but that’s a maybe.
This year due to vehicle issues (we don’t have one big enough for all of us and can’t afford to buy one right now) we had to back out of co-op and another Friday activity. At first I was really upset, but I see God’s wisdom in this and boy has it been a blessing.
We did that year before last, shortly after my grandmother died. It was the best year ever… And it was absolutely what my soul needed.
How do you read my mind?
I’ve been thinking about this for a while… with us it’s even deeper, because my husband and I are the ones so crazy busy. I’m feeling sincerely depressed lately and I am beginning to discover it’s because we don’t have time to even breathe. It goes back to saying no and learning that I cannot be all things to all people.
Love this! Kids (and parents) need time to just be. I hate it when stress bleeds into their lives. A great idea and I commend you for it!
What wise parents you are – especially in this day that we live in, there are so many, many things to pull us here and there. And we must be intentional to guard what is most important. Thanks for your example for other families.
This is wonderful. I’ve always been a mom that didn’t like the hustle and bustle of all the extra curricular activities. Until this year my children didn’t really participate in anything after school… but this year they started and I don’t like it one bit. We are always rushing around, missing a lot of our family dinner times and just busy, busy, busy…
You inspire me! Thank you!
Good for you! We are not of this world, but somehow it keeps encroaching in!
Good for you guys! Our kids are still quite young…not even school age…but we want to stay off that crazy cycle of busy, too! I remember being pretty stressed at times growing up because we were too busy with activities and I know my parents had the best intentions in that, but it was too much at times!
I just said to my husband how much I crave time with us. Us Walpole’s. I miss family dinner and we are only 5 weeks into school. I am starting to pray God would move our hearts to be more intentional.
I LOVE this!! It is so, so true–we did the same thing…didn’t want our kids to miss out and I was running, exhausted, we were all rushed and harried. Although when we made the decision to slow down we were criticized by our friends who kept their kids busy and we worried our kids missed out, we realized that what we gained was important to our family health. When we went back in, it was with caveats: JUST the things we truly LOVED, so we still had time for the things that mattered.
awesome… and I totally agree. We don’t do many things outside of church because that keeps us busy enough. To have the family time we need, we must say no to what society says my children should have like soccer or other activities. sometimes saying no is a really good thing!
How do your girls feel about taking the year off of ballet? I would imagine that might be very difficult for them to give up?
We don’t do more than 1 activity and currently that is only 45 minutes of ballet for my 3 year old. My two oldest, who are boys, are just enjoying being kids.
I think it is a wonderful decision for your family and it appears it is paying off 🙂
We are just now entering the world of extra curriculars and we are trying to keep them very limited……. time will tell.
I really really needed this today. Just this weekend we made a choice to take our oldest child out of an activity which she dearly loves. There were lots of tears from both her and myself. But it had reached a point where were were losing her to “stuff” and it was too much. We need to reclaim our relationship and our family. In the end even she said she knows it’s the right choice but it hurts.
Thanks for your post.
Great thought, I’m glad to see we’re not alone! We have a piano lesson once a week, 5 minutes drive from our house. That’s it. Other than that I don’t want to get involved in anything else because frankly I enjoy our slow pace of life, much slower than most Americans. The only time spent out of the house is outdoors or visiting family (of course my husband works too, but I work from home).
Wonderful post. Sharing!
I’m going to be a little contrary here I guess. I think that it’s fine not to have activities and I certainly don’t think people all need to rush all.the.time. BUT, I think it’s important to place some value on extracurriculars. I don’t think kids need them, or are owed them, but sometimes they really get a lot out of them, even if you don’t. And if you are running to three kids’ activities (like me) that is because YOU chose to have more kids, your child did not choose it. So my kids each get one activity if they want and we can make it work financially. And we still have family dinner, even if it’s pb&j in the car on the way 🙂
Laurie – thanks for your comment – I really appreciate hearing your viewpoint. We’re not doing nothing, we’re just stepping back from activities that were taking a tremendous amount of time – 20+hours a week – 5 nights a week and all day Saturday. My kids loved them, we valued them, but it was about stepping back and reassessing where we wanted to spend our energy. I, too, think that all these extra activities are important – the teach great things such as discipline, motivation, and cultivate relationships. We value that. I loved being involved and was very involved in all activities – so it was not really about me getting a break. It truly was instead about assessing what was needed during this season and choosing for a time to step back for a bit and perhaps discovering new areas of interest since our lives had been so focused on specific areas.
Again, thank you for sharing your opinion – I completely agree with your view on the value of extracurricular activities. And, grin, we’ve done the pbj’s in the car – with gluten free bread, of course.
Thirty years ago we were in your place. We got rid of the TV. We limited out boys to one or two sports per year. Not sorry at all!
Good for you! I, too, try to be very careful what activities I get myself and the kids involved with. My theme thought since starting school a couple weeks ago(I homeschool too) is: “STAY HOME as much as possible! Don’t do too much, only what you can handle. This year is about OUR family, not getting together with everyone else’s families. MomsClub has to go, I’m afraid. Only one day of outside extracurricular activities that enhance homeschooling. That’s it. ENJOY my children!” So, way to go!
I think it is wonderful. We did that last year and I called it my sabbatical. Though my kids are still quite young it was needed and I think God knew what he was talking about when he talked about the sabbath, letting the fields lay fallow to rest, taking a day after a busy week, going to the garden to pray. Blessings on your family. May you find peace and joy.
I think it’s funny that you think you’re going to have time to rock when you “get old.” Yeah…right!
Lifting up prayers to the Only One who can hear!
Psalms 34:4, 6-7 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. (6-7) This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
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I think this is such a marvelous idea. When everything else is stripped away, family is what’s still there. It’s tragic that in many families today they don’t know each other well enough to be okay with that.
I love this idea. I’ve had to do much of the same thing with my super 7, this year but it was but by choice. After 10 years of baby having and rushing my body gave out. Now we rest!! Nice to find your blog.
I think this is wonderful! My kids are not in any extracurricular activities as yet, they may be one day but for now we are trying to get as much family time as we can. We are already busy without more! I think there is just as much to be learned from a slower life as exposure to new activities. Can’t wait to see more of how this year goes for you guys!
Not there yet with my kids but I’ve already debated over this and wondered will my kids be missing out. I watch other moms and their stressful lives of being the taxi driver and wonder is it really worth it?! There’s a season for everything though.
a very nice post, makes me think~
This post really hit me hard. Sometimes I too feel extremely overwhelmed by our family’s schedule. While we work hard to set limits on our kids activities, for a millisecond I considered this option.
Just wanted you to know that this post inspired me so much that I wrote my own post about our extracurricular activities and linked back to yours as a reference. 🙂
For our family – stopping all extracurricular activities isn’t the solution (now!) but, I have to tell you, it is a solution that I had never even considered before reading your post here and I am so glad to have heard about your perspective and how it effected your family! I think that for many – IT IS A VALID AND GREAT OPTION! So glad to share it with others who read my blog 🙂
It’s funny that i came across this blog.
My husband and i do not have children and actually started to feel the same way.
We started feeling like we were constantly running here and there. Ours lives were so busy that we started to feel like roommates. We hardly ate meals together and conversations were short and fast.
There was something missing. We have great family, plenty of friends, beautiful home and careers we enjoy but there was a void.
I kept going over and over in my mind and calender that after this… i would do that and after this i would get to that. It just seemed liked i could never catch up on things or do the things i really wanted to do.
Well … after sleepless nights and amounts of weight gain, i finally had enough.
Recently about a month ago, my husband started a new job. He would go almost 3 months before he would start recieving a regular pay. First it was a little scary but i rem my grandfather one time telling me less is more.
Well, i really never understood what that meant. Now… it couldn’t be any clearer.
I decided to send out a mass letter explaining our decision to slow down. In the letter i explained that our time and resources have become limited. I wasn’t sure how people would react.
Well. …. needless to say one month later and twelve invitations to family & friends gatherings, we are still struggling.
We decided that we will alternate holidays with our families and skip non major ones altogether. We also decided to only go to one gathering a year at each of our friends. For instance …. if there is a birthday, housewarming, shower and wedding for the same friend then we opt to go to the wedding and just send a card for all the other invites.
It’s too hard to make every friend, family, neighbor and co worker’s gatherings. So we also opted to prioritize.
One gathering per weekend. We decided that family first then closest friends followed by social friends. Then neighbors and coworkers would be our last choice.
It is still a work in progress but maybe i will send everyone this article. My husband and i are starting to enjoy more time together and our intimacy is growing. We are doing more projects around our home together and actually got to sleep in and cook together too.
Im loving this !!!! Thank you for your story too!!! I think so many just need to hear that we all are feeling the same way, over busy and tired.
Love and peace ,
I just discovered your blog and LOVE IT! I want the same thing for my family. Sadly, after being with my husband for 17 years, he decided to leave. It’s been awful. And through having to deal with this, I have discovered how much I want to give my children a simpler life full of real meaning. I hate the rush of it all, and want to spend more time teaching my kids how to garden, make food, and enjoy the simple things in life.
Good luck on your journey and I hope I can do the same!