I mentioned in my last book recommendation post how my husband had read a book called 3 Big Questions for Frantic Families, and wanted me to read it to. When I finally did I was completely inspired to apply the principles to our own family life. Chris and I agreed early on in our marriage that we wanted to keep the pace of our life slow, with lots of margin and unscheduled time to spend as a family. But as the start of school looms nearer it seems like opportunities, activities, and special events are starting to multiply. I began to worry that if we didn’t have a specific framework for figuring out what to say yes and what to say no to, our family time was going to be quickly crowded out by other, more urgent (though not necessarily more important) tasks. This books offered a realistic and practical way for Chris and I to not only decide what our priorities and values are but also determine how to live them out in our day to day.I was so excited to sit down and discuss the three questions with Chris, but unfortunately the stomach flu hit us hard and delayed the conversation for several days. Finally one Sunday evening not long ago we took the time (after the girls were in bed) to answer the questions. We did a few of the exercises suggested in the book to help us figure out our best answers, and it sparked a great discussion. I think Chris and I both feel much more confident in our vision for our family, both for the long-term future and how we want to live right now. I’m going to be vulnerable here and share our answers just as an example, but obviously your answers will be completely different and dependent on your own family culture, values, and needs.1. What makes your family unique?
This first question definitely took the longest to answer. We were trying to distill our core values and define our family’s personality in just a few sentences. Our final answer isn’t something I’m going to be stitching on a pillow, but I think it covers the essence of who we are. “We value structure, intentionality, simple living, and time together as a family. Our faith in Christ is the motivation behind our service and activities. We value relationships and experiences over possessions.”
2. What is your family’s rallying cry, your top priority right now?
I’ve definitely heard the concept of a family mission statement before, which is essentially what question one is asking, but I’ve never really thought of defining our family’s top priority before. The most interesting thing is this priority is very time specific, and should be accomplished in two to six months. With our move coming up we were tempted to make our rallying cry something to do with selling/packing/moving, but after looking back at our family’s values we decided there was a more important priority: “Between now and when Charlotte starts kindergarten we will make the most of our time as a family.” We are giving ourselves until the end of July to focus on this priority, and then we may need to change it to getting ready for our move. Maybe. 😉
2b. Defining objectives
This is just a fancy way to say a list of specific activities we’ll do to fulfill our rallying cry. Here our a few things we came up with:
- Go on an outing as a family every weekend
- Plan for play dates and activities throughout the week that Charlotte won’t get to do during school
- Spend time with extended family 1-2 times per month
- Take a short vacation (we had our big family vacay in April)
- Have one-on-one “date nights” with each parent monthly
We also listed our “standard objectives,” the normal things of life that we can’t just drop (housekeeping, healthy eating/exercise, attending church/serving, maintaining general routine/sleep schedules, etc.)
3. How do we talk about and use the answers to these questions?
Chris and I decided to take a few minutes each Sunday evening after the girls are in bed to review our rallying cry and give ourselves a thumbs up/down on each of our defining objectives. We’ll also review the schedule for the upcoming week and decide which outing to do the following weekend.
That’s it. The whole conversation took about an hour and half, and it doesn’t take us more than ten minutes to review each week. Now I realize that most of the “objectives” on my list are things we would have probably done anyway, but I think the difference is they are now the priority over anything else that might come up. When an invitation or opportunity comes open I can quickly ask myself “Will this help us make the most of this summer as a family?” And then say yes or no based on the answer. This process may seem unnecessary or overly complicated. But the culture of busyness is a reality, and studies have shown that stress levels for dads, moms, and worst of all kids, are at all time highs. We as a society need to find ways to cope with all the demands and pressures that are being placed on our families. I think this book gives one option that might really help.If these concepts interest you I highly recommend that you read the book and have your own conversation as a couple (or maybe a journaling session if you’re single) to answer the questions. I can pretty much promise that the experience will be a helpful one.
Do you have a rallying cry this summer? Any tips for how you tame the overwhelm in your family’s schedule? I’d love to hear them!
P.S. It’s kind of sad that I have to write down a list of fun things in order to actually do them, but hey, that’s a weakness I’ll admit to. Spontaneity is not my strong suit, so this is one way I’m working on it. 🙂