One of the most difficult parts about living in survival mode is that, typically, the family life is not thriving as much as preferred. With Dave in nursing school, our time at home and our focused time together is more limited than our ideal. I so sympathize with those families who are in even more intense seasons of survival because those ones? They are rock stars.
When we began the life overhaul, George was a few months old and in the throws of colic, and we were in the midst of the worst semester of nursing school we’ve seen. Dave was gone for school or work most of the day while I had George; when Dave got home, he would eat quickly, then take George for a bath while I ate and began working. Once Dave put George down for bed, he would start studying. We would both be behind screens until the early hours of the next morning.
I know, it’s no sob story. The only reason I’m filling you in on the nitty gritty is so that you can have a good idea about how drastically we switched things up, and to offer some hope for those who may find themselves in a similar situation.
Just because we are in survival mode doesn’t mean we cannot have quality time as family, and lots of it. Focusing on our prayer life was a wonderful catalyst to more down time together. Quiet time spent with the Lord led to good conversations. Focusing on our health enabled us to feel much better, and therefore, we had more energy and were able to give more to each other.
You see where I’m going with this?
It’s all connected.
Just by tweaking some things in the first two areas we chatted about, our family life improved in small yet significant ways. Because I felt better, I was more patient with George and the sometimes seemingly endless days of colic-crying. Because I was beginning my mornings by focusing on my Source of life and love, I was able to serve Dave better.
Because there are only so many hours in the day, I wanted to focus on enhancing the quality of our time spent together, since the process of adding more hours to the day is something I have not yet discovered. There were two simple things I wanted us to work on: eating dinner together and less screen time.
Like I mentioned above, we had not been eating a good dinner together since our awesome meal train ended (we were so so spoiled by the amazing people in our community after George was born – seriously treated like royalty. I love it here.). Most days, I was more focused on efficiency than the good of our family. So, in my brain, it made more sense to divide and conquer with dinner/bathing George/getting him to sleep/working/studying. And it certainly was efficient. But we were not thriving.
One thing that really helped us sit down and enjoy a meal together was the change in the way we were eating. Because I was spending a little more time making more nutritious meals, it felt natural to sit down together and enjoy it. We settled on just passing George back and forth while we ate until he was old enough to discover the beauty of the bouncy seat (all glory and praise to our God who created bouncy seats).
And the benefits we’ve seen are a no-brainer, right? More conversation, more focus on our little family unit, less stress. Even better, this new system is actually more efficient when it comes to our evening work/study because it is not broken up into sections or interrupted by the tiny night tasks that we were previously “diving and conquering”. Plus, we have been more productive in our evening work because we have taken the time to breathe, relax, and enjoy ourselves. Happier people = more productive people.
Less Screen Time
This was our major catch-22. Screens are a huge part of our jobs/school. We can’t ditch them. We can’t even go on fasts from them. They are essential to our livelihood. So how could we have less screen time when the screens are necessary? I’ll detail some of what we did here; and be on the lookout for a separate post covering this topic in the new year 😉
First, we banned screens when they weren’t necessary. In the morning, we only used a phone for an alarm, and then we didn’t allow ourselves to get on our phones until after breakfast. We really want to move away from even using our phones as alarms and are looking into purchasing a wake up light. That way, we can just put our phones out of our room entirely. Anyway, for now it works. Now, this detachment from the phones in the morning is hard for me, a chronic email checker. For some reason I have this notion that 1,000 people email me for work in the middle of the night and that if I don’t answer them first thing, the world will implode. And that’s never the case. Ever. So it took (and still takes!) a lot of self-control for me to not check email first thing in the morning. But it is so fruitful! We aren’t bothered by the outside world and the goings on of Facebook upon waking but are given the opportunity to just enjoy one another in the quiet of our little home.
Second, we banned screens at certain times during the night. Our phones were off-limits during dinnertime and our nighttime routine with George (books, prayers, bath, etc.). Dave and I enjoy watching a show together in the evenings; it’s a great way to unwind together before a night of work and it doesn’t require much energy (except right now when we are watching Grey’s Anatomy and are super invested). During our show time, we banned phones and computers. One screen at a time, amiright?
Finally, we banned screens while in the car together. It’s so easy to check Instagram at stop lights or scroll through Facebook on a drive to the store (not while driving, obvi.). But the car can breed such great conversation, and we didn’t want to stifle that.
Bonus: Going to Bed Together
This is an area we are still working on and are still failing miserably at. In our ideal world, Dave and I would go to bed at the same time every night. There is something so special about turning in together that breeds that good pillow talk and other intimacies. so we’ve been working on trying to time our work properly so that we can get to bed at the same time.
We are so imperfect in these areas and are major works in progress. But we have seen monumental improvements in our life by making these few adjustments.
Ok, I’ve written enough! Shut me up! Your turn. How do you spend quality time as a family in the midst of survival mode?