Last week we started talking about spending quality time together as a family after a long day or work and school. Work and school can drain parents and kids and leave even the best-intentioned among us staring at a TV and calling it family togetherness. How do you get past the weeknight exhaustion and squeeze a little conversation into your nights?
As usual, the comments were filled with some great ideas.
“What we try to do is save all housework-type things like cleaning up dinner and packing lunches, making formula bottles, etc. for after the kids are in bed. I’ll be completely frank: we make time for the kids, but it leaves us tired and not able to make much time for each other.” - Meg
“We try to have at least a couple of active evenings where we manage to have an early supper and easy cleanup…then it is off to the playground or swimming pool or maybe just running around the apartment.” - MamaLisa
“Board games. My daughter is a natural at parcheesi, who knew? So we’re moving on to other strategy games. And sometimes we drop back to tea party game and candyland because sometimes you just need a game of pure luck.” - Mich
“The kids are at daycare until around 6:30 most nights, and then we usually go somewhere straight from daycare. For dinner, we usually eat a “picnic” or a modest meal at a sandwich shop or the like. For example:
Monday - eat a quick snack, then vision therapy, then McD’s play place (happens to be along the route), then shopping if needed.
Tuesday - go to park (if weather allows) and library.
Wednesday - museums are open until 9pm/10pm. Go to Natural History museum, maybe stop in at the art museum, climb on the “stegasaurus” outdoors for some exercise.
Thursday - go to the rec center, eat a packed dinner (or stop at nearby Panera), go swimming.
Friday - go out to eat with friends, preferably someplace with live music playing nearby.” - SKL
If your head exploded when you read SKL’s weekly schedule, don’t feel bad. I am impressed and EXHAUSTED just thinking about doing that much in one week while maintaining a full time job. And I’m not alone.
“Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but I can’t stand being out of the house almost every night of the week. I prefer to cook dinner together and just hang out.” -Rachel Heath
Rachel hit the nail on the head for me. I’ve found that my weeknight quality family time often centers around making dinner at home. I shut off the TVs, enlist everyone’s help in the kitchen, and we sit around chatting about our days while we prepare and then eat our evening meal. We aren’t doing arts and crafts or practicing our reading skills, but we are communicating with one another. If my kids are doing a lot of nodding, shrugging and “fine” when I try to get them talking, I just start blabbing to them about my day.
The bottom line for me is that our quality time doesn’t need to be centered around a structured activity. We stay connected and involved with each other’s lives just by making a point to unplug and talk. Dinner has always been a perfect time for us to reconnect at the end of the day.
I’ve also found that early morning chats are a great way to stay connected when the evenings get busy. If I’m out of town or working late, I make a point of hanging out with my kids over breakfast or while they brush their teeth. I help them pick out their clothes and pack their backpacks and talk about their upcoming day. You’d be amazed how much you can learn about your children and their daily lives from a 15 minute conversation over socks and shoes.
I realize the title of this post is “Creative ideas for quality family time during the week” and there’s really nothing creative about making dinner and talking in the kitchen or helping your kid find his coat in the morning while you catch up on his social life. But the point is, you don’t need creative ideas to maintain a quality connection with your loved ones. All you need is to make it a priority and take advantage of the little moments here and there to interact with the people you live with.