My twins started preschool last week – a big milestone for our family! Even though they are only going two mornings per week, it represents a fairly big change in our schedule. One of the two mornings they go used to be dedicated “mommy time” (I work two days per week, so I’m not necessarily with them every day). Concurrent with preschool starting, Kenna is beginning ballet on Saturday mornings and Nathan is beginning tee-ball at the same time. These Saturday morning activities are replacing what used to be dedicated “family time.”
I was amazed at Kenna’s immediate response when I told her of all these “exciting” changes.
Kenna (age 3): “But mommy, what about family time? That is family time!”
Even at her young age, Kenna cherishes family time (what she knows as time with mommy and daddy). And she immediately called me out on the impending loss of it when I told her the days these new activities would take place.
This prompted me to evaluate – really quantify – how much quality time we have with the kids. When I say quality time, I’m talking about time outside of “life maintenance” activities (sleeping, eating, driving, morning/night rituals, etc.); time that is completely free for us to spend building relationship with each other and with God.
Being the overly analytical person that I am, I created a spreadsheet in Excel that labels and color codes every hour of my kids’ week (can I admit I am so “type A” that I actually enjoyed doing this?). Click here to see a PDF of what I did. I then used my chart to calculate how many hours per week my kids spend engaged in various activities – and how many hours that implicitly leaves each week for family and God time.
This was fascinating to me! If you add up the percentages of things that really aren’t flexible (meals, sleep, nanny while I’m working, etc.), a full 81% of the kids’ time is taken off the week before I can make a decision about the rest. After allocating time for their current activities, we have 19 hours per week that remain for family and God (an average of 2.7 per day).
While that sounds like quite a bit, it’s very unevenly distributed when you look at the PDF schedule – it almost all happens Friday through Sunday. This was one of the biggest insights for me in doing this. You have to look at both time and distribution of time to see what you are really working with. I’m now looking for ways to add quality time Monday through Wednesday. I strongly believe the kids will benefit from more day to day consistency, as opposed to family time being clumped together during the last 3 days of the week.
Here’s my question to you: Whether your life is chaotic or smooth sailing right now, do you know exactly where your time is going so you can make the most of it with your kids? I encourage you to take this challenge and actually map out every hour of your week.
For those with Excel, I’ve posted the original file here, including a blank template to use for your own schedule and a sheet with a calculator to fill in your own times. If you click on that link, the file will automatically download to your computer.
What will you get out of this?
- If you’re surprised by how much time you actually have, yet don’t feel your family spends the desired time on faith matters, you will be prompted to utilize your time together in a more intentional way. With some forethought, you can turn free time into quality time.
- If you’re surprised by how little time you actually have, this could be the catalyst you need for making changes. It might be time to limit extracurricular activities, cut down on driving time with other transportation options, better align the kids’ schedule so they are all home at the same time, or any number of other things.
I’d love to hear your results if you take this challenge. How many quality hours per week did you find your family has for each other and God?