Learn how to create a sustainable calendar for your family to experience the best this life has to offer without being overwhelmed.
At the beginning of each new season, we are tempted – one activity at a time – to overload our family’s schedule. Phrases like “it would be so good for him to join that” or “that sounds fun” attempt to convince us that this “one more thing” is worth squeezing in.
In our quest to give our kids access to every opportunity (and let’s face it—attempt to quiet that voice inside that tells us we’re “never enough” as a mom), we moms often say yes to too many well-intentioned activities that leave the entire family exhausted, running and overwhelmed. And of course the more kids we have the more tricker (and potentially hectic) it gets to manage the family schedule.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we could keep our priorities on what’s most important, teach our kids how to build healthy, sustainably-paced lifestyles, and maintain our own sanity and peace in the process?
As someone who has gone through several seasons of burnout, I’ve had to learn the importance of boundaries, focus and self-control in order to manage our family’s schedule with purpose. Let’s talk about how we can cultivate a family schedule that makes the most of every opportunity while still honoring life balance.
Why Is A Calmer Family Schedule Important to You?
While I’m still tempted by the siren song of activities (especially during the back to school season), remembering the blessings of a simpler, more intentional schedule keeps me from saying yes to every exciting new opportunity.
This is my motivation to stop, think and pray through family commitments. This is my “why”.
We must consider: “Why is it important for me to take charge of my schedule and be intentional about what I will say yes and no to?”
Our “why” is the reason behind the action and always drives our motivation. We can make all the plans in the world, but if our intention isn’t aligned with those plans we’re not going to be successful. Our “why” is the fuel.
Ultimately, only you can determine your “why”. It must be personal and important to you in order to affect your decision making. To give you some ideas of what your “why” could be for intentionally planning your family’s activities, here are mine in this area:
• I like myself (and our activities) much more when our family is not overextended.
• I refuse to put my and my family member’s mental and physical health at risk, even for well-intentioned, good opportunities.
• My kids are calmer, more focused and more successful overall when I help them not overextend themselves.
Take a minute to discover your “why” by imagining yourself six months in the future. Ask yourself these two questions:
• What would our family be like (our overall demeanor, mental health, physical health and ability to connect) if we said yes to every good opportunity and started filling our schedule?
• What would our family be like (our overall demeanor, mental health, physical health and ability to connect) if we cultivated a schedule that allowed for activity but also allowed for space for replenishment?
Think about past experiences as you consider these questions. What have you learned from previous school years or other hectic seasons about overextending yourself as a family? What did those seasons feel like? Dream a little about different outcomes and what could be possible.
Once you’ve determined why a simpler family schedule is important this year, consider using the following two questions as a grid to determine when to say yes and when to say no this school year.
Question #1: “What does God say about what should be our family’s highest priority this season?”
Check in with the Lord and see what He may have on your family’s agenda during this season. Is this a season of outward service or one of inward healing? Is it a time to cultivate closer family bonds through joined activities; or to encourage individual achievement that the entire family can support? Are there certain character traits that a certain family member (or the entire family) may need to strengthen? Every season has value and purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Remember that our ultimate goal isn’t necessarily to make life easy and carefree but to keep His agenda as our family’s agenda. Sometimes God challenges us to take on more for His purposes; and sometimes He stretches us by asking us to slow down.
While God’s calling typically leads us outside our comfort zones, we must remember that He’s not calling us to overwhelm but to dependence. No matter what His calling is for your family this season, be sure to rely on Him continually through ongoing prayer and daily Bible time so that you can receive from Him the stamina you need to fulfill this plan. Regular rhythms of rest and sabbath are also God’s will, so be sure to include these essential elements so that you can work heartily and avoid burnout.
Question #2: What else is necessary? What must get done?
Obviously, there are important activities and chores that are essential to maintaining a household such as laundry, dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping and meal preparation. Other things such as daily time with God, exercise and adequate sleep are equally important. We can think of these as baseline activities that must get done for our homes to run efficiently.
We can easily fall into the trap that everything is an essential activity. But is it? For example, yes, God is calling us to spend time with Him everyday, but for you, does that also include participation in weekly women’s Bible study or a mom’s group? Maybe God’s calling you to a season of deepening in friendship with other women, so this weekly time is necessary. But maybe He’s wanting you to spend more one-on-one time with your husband this season which requires you to stay home more nights during the week.
Or, in another instance, If you just brought a new family member into the home this may be a season where you depend on ready-made meals and lighten your regular cleaning routine. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone here, but let God’s calling be your guide if you’re on the fence.
Permission Granted to Say Yes, No or Maybe
When we consider these questions we often find that there’s several activities that would be nice to include in our family schedule but may not be one-hundred-percent necessary. These are the things that we can hold loosely (perhaps putting our toe in the water by offering a minimal commitment) or even determine as a future priority for our family. Keep checking in with God to see how He may want you to shift and change things in order to maintain balance.
We have permission to say no to even those exciting or fun activities if they will pull us from God’s truest priority in this season. It’s OK to say “yes” “no” or “maybe later” in order to set healthy boundaries and teach our kids the importance of balance and rest.
Oh friend, this is a learning process, isn’t it? Let’s offer ourselves God’s grace and compassion as we learn how to set healthy priorities and cultivate God-centered boundaries for our families this school year!
Alicia Michelle is a speaker, author, certified NeuroCoach and host of the award-winning Christian Mindset Coach Podcast which can be heard on KHCB’s Uplifted Radio Stream or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Through her coaching, courses and Bible studies, she loves equipping Christian women with practical brain-and-biblically-based tools to overcome anxiety, perfectionism and self-sabotage so that they can cultivate godly confidence and find lasting peace. Get her free training on how to transform your life by transforming your thoughts at VibrantChristianLiving.com/mindset.