Recently I have had multiple conversations with women who feel overwhelmed in their role as mother and partner, finding very little time or focus to be able to maintain a positive connection with their spouse and be anything more than a taskmaster to their children.
These women express feeling buried in the day-to-day chores and activities of family life. Many don’t feel that they can change these patterns or that there are options/ways out of the sinking and negative feelings they are experiencing. But what are the consequences of staying in these negative patterns?
The consequences are huge, including loss of passion and romance with your partner, disconnection with your kids which can lead to nagging and yelling more often than not, and disconnection to yourself, leading to overall feelings of unhappiness.
Yet there are some simple steps you can take towards feeling more connected in your family relationships. Remember that taking small steps one day at a time will really make a positive difference in the long run and begin to change those “patterns” that feel unchangeable. Below are some basic steps that can help build quality connections.
- Be clear what you value.Figure out what you value in your family life and then find a way to model this intentionally in your daily interactions with your family. Write your values down in a list. Next focus on 2 or 3 items on your list and live by these values as a priority for the rest of the week.
- Let things go.It’s okay to leave a sink with dishes for a night or fold the laundry tomorrow. Sometimes by letting things go you can create a whole afternoon/evening of possibility together!
- Break things down.You don’t have to be “Superparent”. Give yourself credit for the little things you do. If you feel overwhelmed then break things into smaller steps and expectations and give yourself credit for what you are accomplishing!
- Schedule down time.Every moment should not be filled with activities. There needs to be time to relax or allow the “spontaneous” family activity or conversation to occur. Yes, for some this means blocking out hours on your calendar and writing “down time” so nothing else gets scheduled. This also means putting “screens” away so family members can interact with one another!
- Schedule date night with your partner.If you both are feeling happy and connected, then it will trickle down to your children. Date night can be a night on the town or a simple escape to a coffee shop or happy hour. The guidelines are that you do not talk about tasks or stressors or complaints during this time. Have fun together and save those conversations for a specific meeting time to address “family business”.
- Create family traditions.Some families have Friday night movie night or Sunday game day. These are great habits to start early. It’s amazing how teens will want to continue these traditions or even bring their friends over to join in if you have something good going!
- Make it special.Have a special family outing you all enjoy doing together and make time regularly for this.
- Be intentional.Use the time you have over regular daily tasks to foster interaction and conversations. My family has used “conversation cards” at dinner to create a variety of topics for table conversation. This brings up new ideas and offers moments to clarify family values on different topics as well as detracts from any negative behavior at the table AND builds communication skills.
- Make sure to get 1:1 time with your children and spouse.It’s important to make time to be together as a family but also to foster each individual relationship. There are tricks to doing this—for example when you are cooking invite one of your children (or your spouse) to join you. This can end up being great 1:1 time and/or an opportunity to pass on life skills as well. Some other simple ideas are to play a game after dinner together or read a book aloud or take a walk around the neighborhood.
- Take time for you.Get some exercise and/or spend time doing a hobby you enjoy. Taking time for you will help you focus and have more energy throughout your day for others.
What activities do you do with your family that you recommend to keep the fun and love alive?