In our hurry-up, time-pressured world, it’s challenging for families to eat dinner together, much less have meaningful conversation around the dinner table. Between parents’ schedules – business travel, dinner meetings, networking events, etc. – and kids’ schedules – soccer practice, dance class, and piano lessons – it takes a Master Scheduler to line up family members’ schedules to share a meal together. Oftentimes dinners are on the run (via the drive-thru at McDonalds) between activities.
Despite the challenge, working moms would be wise to make family meals a priority. Research shows positive effects on children when the family shares at least three family meals together per week. In fact, it’s the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems for school-age children. Also, children are more likely to be in a normal weight range.
Given the importance of family meals, how can you make mealtime more meaningful? Here are four tips to build stronger family bonds at the dinner table.
Turn off electronics. In our techie world, it’s easy to succumb to digital distractions. Instead, turn off the TV and put cell phones and gaming devices away.
Play background music. Background music helps create a convivial dining atmosphere. Let family members take turns making music selections, which helps kids feel involved. The only rule: The music should be calm for dining.
Discuss your day. Have everyone share how their day went – the good, the bad, and the daunting – and offer encouragement and support. Save big problem-solving or disciplinary issues for later.
Make a topic list. A mental list of talking points aids conversation and helps break through silences. Shoot for specific topics. When asked, “How was school today?” you’re likely to get the same one-word answer – “boring”. Instead, ask, “What was the most interesting thing you learned today?”
By making dinnertime conversation the norm early on, you’ll create a habit of table talk that may help even sullen teens speak up later.
On Thursday, April 25, 2013, millions of workplaces, employees, parents and children will celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day program. Take our Daughters and Sons to Work encourages girls and boys across the country to think imaginatively about their family, work and community lives. This program connects what children learn at school with the actual working world. Ultimately, the program helps girls and boys discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life.
The theme for this year’s event is “Work in Progress”. Designed to be more than a career day, the Take our Daughters and Sons to Work program goes beyond the practice of “shadowing” an adult. Exposing girls and boys to what a parent or mentor in their lives does during the work day is important. However, the program also shows children the value of their education, gives them an opportunity to share how they envision the future, and allows them to take steps toward their future goal.
How can you make the most of this year’s event? Here are some tips.
- Find out if your workplace is hosting a special program for Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. If so, take advantage of it.
- Invite your daughter and/or son to participate.
- Download the Activity Guide from the Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation website. The activities help your children envision their future work and home lives.
- Allow your daughter/son to “shadow” you on the job. Get her/him involved in age-appropriate tasks to assist you on the job – for example, making photocopies, assembling print materials, etc.
- If your daughter/son is interested in a career other than yours, connect them with someone in their field of interest to arrange a job shadow.
For more information on Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, visit www.daughtersandsonstowork.org.
Sandy Boller-Bilbrey, Director at Scripps Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program, was named one of four 2011 Working Mothers of the Year by Working Mother magazine. What’s unique about Sandy is that after raising seven children, she adopted four more! I couldn’t imagine that! Hopefully, this will provide inspiration to those of you who struggle with working full-time while raising children. Here’s her story (excerpted from Working Mother magazine, November 2011 issue).
After raising seven children of their own, Sandra and her husband, Chris, felt that coming home to an empty house every day was “boring and uninspiring.” So last March, the couple made a life-changing decision to adopt four children. Now their lives are filled with constant chaos – and they love it.
The Bilbreys decided to adopt four sisters – Ana, 15; Karla, 13; Vanessa, 10; and Yessenia, 9 – after seeing them photographed with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in a calendar put out by San Diego County Adoptions.
Early on in the 18-month adoption process, Sandra shared her decision to adopt the girls with her supervisors and colleagues and was thrilled with the abundance of support she received. The organization offered up an array of services, including a $2,000 adoption credit, extended leave and an adoption support group.
Importantly, the 25-year employee was given the flexibility she needed with her job as the director of the Scripps alcohol and drug treatment program to juggle her new family commitments. “Everyone I worked with at Scripps was incredibly supportive and excited for us. It felt like Scripps had adopted the girls, too,” recalls Sandra.
In addition to working a full-time job, Sandra’s days are now filled with softball practices, homework and trips to the pediatrician, dentist and orthodontist.
Sandra credits her success as a working mom to her husband and her extended family. “We have gotten really good at handoffs and communicating daily activities to each other,” she says. “Now I have forty extra fingers to help me around the house, and I get extra goodnight kisses every night.”
To read about other inspiring stories of how women balance work and family, read Passport to Priorities: Your Road Map to Balanced Living.
Do you struggle with balancing work and family? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey from the Center for American Progress, 90 percent of American mothers report work-family conflict. At times our work can feel overwhelming and become all-consuming.
So why do you work so hard? If you’re like most Americans, family is one of the biggest reasons. You want to provide a good life for your loved ones. Isn’t it ironic? Working long hours keeps us away from our family … the very people we’re working so hard to provide for. It’s a vicious cycle.
More important than money or a nice lifestyle, your family needs your time. Time is the most important thing you can give your loved ones. So how can we spend more time with family when we’re consumed with work? Here are some tips to help you focus on family.
- Schedule family time on your calendar. Just as you schedule important meetings, block out time on your calendar to spend with family. If you don’t make it a priority and plan for it, the time will get sucked up in other activities.
- Focus fully on your family during family time. Turn off your electronic devices, including your computer, PDA, and cell phone. Enjoy the time with your family without distractions.
- Enjoy eating dinner together a few times a week. Make it a priority to sit down to a family meal all together (and turn off the TV and cell phones). Dinner time is a great time to catch up with family members at the end of a busy day.
- Rearrange your work schedule. Take advantage of flex-time if your company offers it. If you want to see your kids off to school, come in to work a little later than normal. Or if you’d prefer to spend time with your kids after school, start your work day early in the morning, so you can leave work by 3:00 p.m.
- Hire household help. Rather than spend your weekends doing household chores and yard work, hire someone else to do it. That frees you up to spend leisure time with your family.
- Combine business travel with vacation. When possible, bring your spouse and kids along when you travel for work, especially if you’re traveling to a fun destination. They can enjoy time exploring the city while you work, and you can all have fun together once you’re off work.
Try out these tips in order to give your family what they need most – your time. You’ll all benefit from richer family relationships.
To learn more about how to balance work and family, read Passport to Priorities: Your Road Map to Balanced Living.
Do you long for quality family time in the evenings — time to share a meal together, bedtime stories with the kids, and one-on-one time with your husband? As busy working mothers, we’re often involved in lots of activities that can take us away from family. Some women have demanding jobs that involve evening meetings or overnight travel. Others are involved in outside activities, such as professional associations, church or volunteer activities. All of these activities are good, except that they can pull us away from time spent with family.
So how can you balance your outside activities with family? Here are five tips to balance evening commitments with family life.
- Review the calendar at the beginning of the week. Sit down with your spouse to review schedules for the upcoming week; including meetings, night school, your kids’ activities, and any other special events. This allows you to coordinate schedules, car pools, and family time.
- Only attend what you must attend. Do you really need to attend four events this week? You may think you need to be involved in everything, but instead do a careful review. How important is each activity? And how do they align with your core values? Maybe it’s not necessary to attend Bunko this week when you already have a work and a church commitment this week.
- Practice the Two-Night rule. The two-night rule says that you won’t attend more than two evening commitments in a given week. If you are gone two nights a week and your spouse is gone two nights a week, then that gives you three nights together. I found that if I was gone more than two nights a week, it put added pressure on my husband and the kids would miss me.
- Schedule a family night. Every Sunday we schedule family time. We may all be going in different directions during the week, but Sundays are family time. We take turns choosing the activity; such as going out to dinner, playing games, watching a movie, or any number of other activities. We always look forward to this time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
- Reward yourself and your family. If you have a week where you absolutely must attend several evening events, reward your family with a fun outing or just some relaxing “hang-out” time together on the weekend. Forget the household chores, and just enjoy your time together. Having that to look forward to will help you get through a grueling week.
How do you balance evening commitments with family life? Please share with other readers.