Don’t Leave Your Family the Leftovers
When I first started dating my wife, her family [affectionately] decided I was like the family dog—I ate all the leftovers. I love leftovers. Some foods just taste better as leftovers, like spaghetti or soup. Also, some meals are best prepared with leftovers in mind. It’s easier to make a big roast beef and have leftovers. Although this is a good model for food, it is not a good model for family life. In family life, we do not want to leave our family the leftovers of our life. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to give our families the leftovers of our life? Think about it. We go to work or church and put on a happy face. We meet, greet, and schmooze while out and then come home lethargic, sporting a sour puss face, to sit silently in front of the TV. Or, maybe you have had the experience of laughing and having a good time while eating lunch with friends from work. Then, after work, you come home tired, irritable, and in “no mood for that now” when your wife or daughter tries to tell you a long story. As a counselor, I’ve had times when I put my best energy into other people. I patiently listen and empathize. Then I come home and wish my family would leave me alone. All they got of me was the energy, time, mood, and joy that I had left-over after a grueling day. It really isn’t fair. So what can a person do to give their family the prime rib of their life? How can we give our family the best of our time, energy, mood, and joy? Here are five ideas:
· Look at your day and decide when you feel at your best. Some people are morning people. Some are night owls. Whatever you are, give your family some time during that part of the day. Maybe you will give of your best by sharing breakfast with your family. Other people may give the best of themselves by sharing a midnight snack. Whatever time of day you find yourself at your best, share it with your family if possible.
· Sometimes it is not possible to share the best time of your day with family. In this case, create a transition zone to recoup your energy, time, mood, and joy. Take 10-15 minutes between work and home to relax. Do something that will help you put the day’s stress behind you and rejuvenate you for the rest of the day. This may mean listening to music, taking a 20-minute “power nap,” having a quiet one-on-one with your spouse, practicing yoga, going for a walk…whatever brief activity helps you feel re-energized and able to give your best to your family.
· Give your family the day. Whether you pick one day a week (perhaps the Sabbath) or one day a month, make a habit of giving a whole day to your family on a regular basis. Martin Seligman describes an exercise he calls “A Beautiful Day.” You might enjoy modifying this “Beautiful Day” exercise for your entire family: Imagine a perfect family day. When would you get up? What would each person enjoy doing together? What would you eat so each person could have something they enjoy? What activities would you engage in so each person could share some activity they really like with the whole family? How would you end the day? As a family, take an evening to imagine and brainstorm the perfect family day. Then, look at your schedules and pick a day to enjoy that “Beautiful Day.” Take pictures, laugh, and enjoy one another’s company as you enjoy your “Beautiful Day.” Later in the month, sit down with the pictures and a favorite family snack while you relive your “Beautiful Day.”
· Take a family vacation. Maybe your vacation will last a day…maybe two weeks. Maybe you will travel…maybe you will hang out at home. Either way, a vacation is a wonderful time to escape the stresses inherent in your daily grind and simply enjoy your family. Forget about the chores, the deadlines, the homework, and the daily hassles. Put them all aside and give your time, energy, best mood, and humor to your family. Whether you go camping in your back yard for two nights or take a cruise in the Bahamas, enjoy at least one vacation a year with your family.
· Find a family hobby. Consider some activities that your whole family enjoys and work them into your schedule. These hobbies may include reading, sports, music, visiting museums, hiking, biking, building things, or any number of other activities. Whatever you choose, finding a family hobby allows the whole family to spend time together engaging in an activity that everyone enjoys.
There you go…five ideas to give your family the prime rib of your time, energy, mood, and joy. Give them a try. Sit back and enjoy a full course meal with your family…no leftovers!