My friend Jane (not her real name) has three children (7, 5, and 2). When Jane was pregnant with her third child, she and her husband made a decision to restrict their children’s involvement in non-family activities, things like music lessons and sports.
“We’re not a taxi service,” Jane explained to me. “We like spending time with our family, we don’t like constantly running around town to lessons and practices. After two years of the kids being involved in every program you can name, we’d had enough.”
Jane and her husband decided that each child can be involved in one non-family activity. This means that this year her oldest daughter in second grade had to choose between being in Brownies or gymnastics (she chose gymnastics). Her kindergarten-age son had to choose between t-ball and karate (he chose karate).
Once a week, Jane’s mother comes to the house and gives the oldest two children piano and violin lessons. Everyone in the family sits in the same room and reads or does something quietly during the lessons so that they can even spend that time together.
Jane told me that when her children reach high school age that they might increase the number of activities the children can join. But, she said that decision will be a family decision and it won’t be just up to her and her husband. At that point, her children will have developed time management skills and be able to weigh in on the decision.
“People think we’re weird,” she confided in me. “I don’t particularly like people thinking I’m weird, but this is the best choice for our family.”
At the top of Jane’s list of what matters most are her marriage and her children. As a result, she and her family spend evenings doing things like playing games, watching movies, and riding bikes together. On weekends, they go to museums and zoos and have friends over for dinner.
By saying “no” to the things that don’t matter to them, they have the ability to say “yes” to what does.
I’m not suggesting that the way Jane and her husband choose to restrict their children’s activities is the only way or the best way for families to do things. Rather, I mention this story because I think it is a terrific example of how one family clears time clutter to make way for what matters most to them.
It’s easy to talk about focusing on what matters most, but actually doing it can be difficult — it’s different and it’s not what everyone else is doing. Are there things that you can say “no” to so that you have the ability to say “yes” to what matters to you? I’m interested in reading about your experiences and reactions in the comments.