Evaluating our Schedule and Choosing to Cut Back

Our life is full and busy. Usually it seems the things that keep us on the run are non-negotiable. It feels like being at practices, games, and rehearsals are not choices and are not flexible and we still must persist, even if we are tired. Until someone gets sick.

My husband texted me on his commute home to tell me that he felt very ill. Very dizzy. He was concerned, which was worrisome to me. As I stared at the evening’s agenda, choices became crystal clear. With an impending visit to the emergency room, I knew instantly what things must be canceled or rescheduled and within 10 short minutes, our evening was nearly free. Life is not so non-negotiable after all. 

Recognize over commitment

Once my husband’s health situation was resolved, I found myself wondering why it takes an emergency for me to do what I must for the well-being of our family. Why must someone be sick and scared before we draw a line in the sand and say, “Enough is enough!”? We were over-commited and needed a crisis to prove it. Can we step back without a crisis and still ask what is truly not necessary? 

Strive for balance

During busy seasons, we are pulled in many directions. We feel the pressure of others’ expectations and struggle with the desire to meet expectations. But what if we let others' expectation belong to them? What would this season look like if we sought balance instead? What would our families look like if we circled the wagons before the need arose and tried to make time and space to be together, relaxing, focusing on what really matters?

Assess priorities

There will always be a coach that demands perfect attendance. There will always be rehearsals, practices, and play-dates that seem immovable. But as parents we need to take a breath, step back, look at the big picture, and choose to create a quiet place when our family needs just that.

Some things to consider when choosing to scale back:

  1. How is God being honored by the priorities we are following as a family? Are we seeking first God's kingdom (Matt. 6:33)?
  2.  Are my children so tired in the morning that they cannot wake up for school? Well-rested children often wake naturally before an alarm or parent comes in. If they are too sleepy to wake up easily, your days are likely too long.
  3. Are you pushing through events and checking gatherings off lists without being present with family and friends? Does it make sense to be physically present when your mind and your heart are elsewhere? Sometimes we must turn down some requests to be able to enjoy the ones that matter most.
  4. Have your day-to-day routines fallen away because you are not home to do them? Is this true for your children? Children find great comfort in routines so hold on to those schedules. 
  5. Do you feel that you have choices to make to protect the well-being of your family and yourself? Empower yourself and your children to make wise choices. Find some things to say no to and watch your stress begin to fade.

It is culturally acceptable to be extraordinarily busy, but is it best? When we look into the eyes of our dearly loved family and see exhaustion staring back, it is time to evaluate the schedule we are keeping. Making room for being home, sipping hot chocolate, and being together helps us to create memories that are meaningful for all involved.

Pray for God's guidance

Still feel you cannot choose? Commit yourself to prayer about the fullness of your life. Ask for wisdom in knowing what things you must release and what things can be kept. The choices are huge, the consequences immense.

In our home, we will not wait for another trip to the emergency room to help us see what matters. Having our family home together is a priority to be protected. We need time and space for conversation, faith lessons, laughter, and rest. As we cut back on our schedules, many things will fall away. But the things that are of utmost importance will be honored. Matthew 6:33 says it this way, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

About the author — Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering parents to approach their families with great intentionality and grace.  Nadia and her husband, Mark, are the parents of four children and live in the Chicago area. Nadia also blogs at http://nadiaswearingen-friesen.com/

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