SEVERAL YEARS AGO a movement was started encouraging everyone to “do more with less”. This new way of thinking revolutionized much of the way we move through our daily routine.
Some of the changes were economically and environmentally sound. Re-purposing items such as turning old newspapers into paper pots for seedlings, or reusing a water bottle by filling it with another drink are a few examples. Have you ever saved a jar or aluminum can to collect nails, buttons, or money?
Then came the time-saving ideas. Some things were really pretty neat, like no iron/wrinkle free clothes. Microwave ovens started being used to cook meals instead of just heating up food and making popcorn. Oh! And if you do many things at the same time, that would give you more time to do something else!
Running short on time getting ready for work? Just use your battery-powered electric razor to shave while driving to work. Or ladies, finish your makeup in the car. Cell phones make it possible to take care of a lot of business while doing just about anything else. Some things have become second nature such as reading mail while eating, or skipping lunch to run errands.
We have become a society conditioned to believe that we need to constantly be doing more.
This used to primarily be a problem with middle-aged adults, and those people were labeled “workaholics”. Parents who were workaholics spent little time with their spouse and kids; this, of course had a negative impact on the familial relationships.
Then we started seeing the trend in younger adults, and they were labeled “overachievers”. This seemed to be more socially acceptable, as it was less likely that these overachievers had started a family.
But eventually, those overachievers did get married and started having kids. After several generations being told to do more with less, find the shortcut method, and multitask so that you can have a lot of the same ‘benefits’ of an overachiever, this kind of mentality has trickled down to our kids.
Kids today are busier than most adults were 50 years ago.
There are so many things available now to kids that grab their attention. It comes at them from all directions, with the most powerful influences being from where they spend most of their time, such as school, TV, and the internet.
Many of the ideas and opportunities that come from school are truly beneficial, such as music, sports, and UIL (University Interscholastic League).
But as adults, we have started applying the socially acceptable over-achiever mentality to kids, and we have told them that they can do it all. Especially in the last two decades, kids are being told that they can and should be always doing something structured, at a younger and younger age.
While structure is what children need, they also need time to just be themselves. They need time to get inside their own head and find out if what they are doing is really benefiting them, or just taking up time. They also need a time and a space to verbalize what they are thinking to the people who care most about them, their parents.
Because kids think like kids, and not adults, they need help analyzing their experiences and setting priorities in a relaxed and safe environment.
Evening time is usually the time that the family is most likely to be together. If you have kids in school, chances are they are involved in some sort of activity such as sports, choir, or band. With so many opportunities for young people to explore new ideas and talents, it can be challenging to keep them focused on schoolwork. For adults, the daily routine can become the daily grind.
It is all too easy to lose focus on why we do what we do.
What is our driving motivation? Why do we work so hard?
Most would agree that in the back of our minds we have set goals for living the perfect life; a life that includes a significant other—a spouse. Kids, perhaps, are part of that goal. Everyone wants to feel connected to others in some meaningful way. We work hard to provide money, food, and opportunities for our self and our family. Unfortunately, we get caught up in the process and fail to fully realize that being so busy is compromising the connectedness that we seek.
Living life at full speed 24/7 leads to burnout for both adults and kids.
One simple thing that we can do to realize and increase the connectedness we seek is to take time to eat dinner together.
As a child, what are your memories of dinner with your family? Was there a meal on the table every night that everyone in the family ate together? If there was, you probably didn’t think it was anything extraordinary. Unless, of course, you had friends whose family didn’t eat together.
If your family didn’t share the evening mealtime together, what do you remember most about those evenings? Was there any time of the day that you were able to really connect with your parents/family?
Eating with friends and family provides an opportunity to really connect with one another. Just to all be in one place together talking about what is important to us, sharing experiences and hopes and dreams, strengthens our relationships with those most important to us. These relationships are the foundation for not only our present, but our future as well.
When you take away the things that make up your life – your car, your job, even where you live and all your material possessions – what is left is the foundation of the relationships that you have.
By taking a little time every day to reinforce these relationships, you will keep your foundation strong. And the structure (your life) that you are building will be that much better. The same will be for everyone to whom you are connected.
Studies have shown that families who sit down to dinner together, without distractions such as TV, and truly interact are happier overall. This, in turn, causes productivity to go up, study habits to improve, and grades also improve. This goes for adults and kids alike.
Even if you don’t have kids, or if your kids have already left home, taking the time to enjoy a major meal with those people who mean the most to you will improve your quality of life.
So, herein lies your challenge—carve out a little time every day to spend real quality time with those who are most important to you. Come back to center. Realize that the connectedness you seek is your responsibility to build and keep strong.
Make family dinnertime as important as work, chores, sports, and every other thing that can get in the way. You will get more out of life if you do this one simple thing.