The other evening I found myself in what I'm sure is a very common situation for families with 1+ kid: having two kid activities happening at the exact same time. As if knowing the next 1.5 hours of driving and dropping off between activities wasn't exhausting enough, I was simultaneously faced with rallying a trio of troops all with their own feelings on this version of after school fun.
I was suddenly a trial attorney, trying to explain to a pint-sized jury the what, when and why of our evening ahead. I rationalized why the uniform had to be worn. For another, I coaxed off the bean bag with promises of an awesome snack. And for my most upset charge, I explained that they were far too young to be left home alone and why they needed to tag along on this fun-filled car ride with mom.
Through the eye rolls and protests, four-fifths of our household loaded up into the van. And while I drove a literal loop between activities, I found myself wondering if the compromises, the coaxing and, in my case the bored kid in the backseat, was how others spent their coveted Family Time.
How to reclaim "Family time"
Doesn't it often feel like the few precious hours we all have together after work and school involves us doing something for one of the kids but not the other? Our lives are filled with overlapping and competing activities so finding that one peaceful moment when the entire family is engaged in a common activity is often hard to come by. How often can we all find enjoyable activities where everyone can participate together with limited coaxing and compromises involved?!
Because of my family's crazy schedules (and maybe yours too), we don't always make time for the things we should. Because it's literally one more thing to plan and coordinate for, right? Creating space to be engaged as a family in a mutual activity is an art in itself. And that's where getting out and giving back as Family Volunteers can provide us with an awesome opportunity to recharge and reconnect. At the very least, it got all the members of my household heading in the same direction. No bored kid in the backseat required.
Volunteering: How To Check Multiple Boxes In One Feel Good Swoop
There are endless reasons why volunteering is good and positive and makes the world a better place.
However when it comes to achieving the goal of Family Time, these are some of my favorite ways to rationalize why we are adding one more item to the calendar:
"Forced" Family Togetherness Volunteering, whether it's just dad and the kids or the whole family being brought along, can easily fulfill the goal of spending positive, quality time together. With volunteering, you can quickly check multiple boxes in one feel good swoop:
Family togetherness - check A break from fighting over screen-time - check Helping the kids develop a give-back mindset - check Connecting with the kids as you work together on a project - check Having something to talk about in the car ride afterwards - check
But like all things family, be it sit down dinners or Friday night game nights, we must find the time and space to make all this positive stuff happen. Volunteering is an easy way to force encourage calm and low key family togetherness.
Life Isn't All Work or All Play It's all about striking that balance, isn't it? It sure is tempting to sleep in on a Saturday morning or lounge around watching cartoons. And believe me, we all totally deserve to do that from time to time! However, how much better would we all feel if we gave up one Saturday morning a month to give back? Maybe let those weekend chores go undone for a couple of hours and instead help clean up a community garden so that local school kids could learn the value and pride in growing their own produce. That'd be a pretty great feel-good Saturday!
What's The Point? The Value In Family Volunteering
It's Hard to Text and Volunteer Need a minute off from the ongoing screen time battle? It's pretty challenging to surf, text and selfie when your hands are busy writing cards to lonely seniors in a nursing home or sorting through clothes and toys for local foster kids.
An hour or two of engaging in screen-free, face-to-face interactions with others is what's often missing in today's digital world. Getting out and giving back is an awesome reminder that there are so many needs out there, beyond what's happening on our screens.
An Antidote to Anxiety and Worldly Overwhelm Voting, writing letters, logging calls and signing petitions are all great, super important ways to make a difference. But when that doesn't even feel like enough, volunteering is an easy way to feel like you're at least doing something and having an impactful.
Whether it's making Valentine's Day decorations for a homeless shelter or picking up trash on the playground, volunteering is a contribution to bringing more goodness to the world and altering the trajectory. And if we make it fun, our kids begin to see that we really can be the change we want to see.
So what's the point? Well, when the grind of shuffling the household from one afterschool activity to another gets to be too much for me one deep breathing parent to bear, think about volunteering. It's probably one the easiest ways to spend time as a family in a meaningful way. For a short period of time anyways, your familial crew is together, doing something good for someone else in the process. And maybe that's one way to check the box of Family Time in our crazy busy lives!