|by Melinda J. Hill
Do you ever feel as though there's not enough hours in the day to accomplish the things we "have to" and "should do" let alone the things we "want to"? Spending time together as family is something we desire to increase, but the hands on the clock move very quickly and make it difficult to accomplish.
How do we make the most of our time at home together?
Strong families make it a priority to spend time together. Whether it is working on household chores, running errands, or playing a game, they show commitment to each other. When you or your partner spend many hours of the week away from home, it is often more difficult to enjoy time at home because of the pressure to accomplish everything that didn't get done during the week.
We need to ask ourselves several questions:
As individuals and as a part of the family, we will have times when things seem to go smoothly and times when the "apple cart" upsets. As we talk about what is important to us, hopefully we can identify the times in life when certain issues need attention and prioritize our actions. When we are together we can manage that time so others don't infringe on it, and we can make a concerted effort to accomplish the "chores" along with the "treasured times."
- Why are we so busy?
- Are the activities or involvements helping to strengthen our family, or are they causing us to spend more time apart?
- Is this lifestyle really worth it? What are my choices? Why am I making this decision?
- How can I best manage my time?
Here are a few tips from truck drivers and their spouses who spend weeks apart and yet find ways to look forward to coming home and making the most of their time at home.
If separations are expected, have a designated schedule of things to accomplish during the time together. Treat each other to a special event or a tradition to look forward to. Quality family time does not have to be a special or planned activity. It does need to be time that is approached with a positive attitude to share and to "pull the family back together" after the events of the week and work have stretched it beyond its limits.
- Use a monthly calendar that shows when others will be home.
- During this time try not to schedule outside commitments. Spend it doing things together as a family. If your schedule is subject to change, try to retain flexibility in routine schedules. Plan things that can be done on the spur of the moment. Don't overlook special opportunities because of housework or laundry.
- Rotate or take turns, with "overlap" time - time when most people are home - for everyone to get to do something special. For example, dad gets to choose the activity every fourth month, etc
- Be realistic with your expectations. If it has been a really tough week, tell family members. Be honest about what you can and cannot do. Also remember not to make promises you can't keep; make every effort to uphold your word.
- Try to accomplish routine/regular chores before or after "family time.
- Maximize time together by having a list of items to discuss.
- Value the time of conversation. Relate the ups and downs of the week. Show appreciation for the jobs each have done to make it through another week. Examine family goals, evaluate what is working, or what alternatives might be acceptable.
- Share with family members, through pictures or postcards, what differences and similarities from home you experienced during the past week. Share the favorite place you traveled and why, favorite food, and more.
- Maintain a positive attitude. If the partner at home is managing OK, then the family as a whole will cope better. If the attitude isn't positive, what will need to change ? How long can you continue? Is it really worth it?
- Remember, with each separation each person in the family adapts to this lifestyle in their own way. Keep common goals in line to target why this job or lifestyle is important.
- Children will grow and adapt too. Re-enter slowly with expected changes. Remember to ask questions that can't be answered with "yes" or "no" to stimulate conversation. For example, "What book did you read today?" or "Show me how you did that."
Try to establish something your whole family enjoys doing together. A hobby, a collection, a form of exercise (hiking or biking), a unique feature that will serve as a point of conversation and give an easy way to "re-enter" family life again. Choose one or two things to work on each month and make some gradual changes so that you and your family will enjoy and benefit from the time at home.
Black, W. (1993). Military induced family separations: A stress reduction intervention. Social Work, 38 (3), 273-280.
Hill, M., Hudson, N., Lantz, B., and Griffin, G. (1997). Commercial Vehicle Driver Associate Family Issues Assessment. Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, Publication Number 115.
Riggs, B. (1990). Routine work-related absence: The effects on families. Marriage & Family Review, 15(3-4), 147-160.
Williams, T. Quality Family Time. HYG 5285-95. Ohio State University Extension.
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet - HYG-5188-98
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