One More Thing Your Family Needs to Add to its Schedule
Sometimes I feel like Cinderella. Before you revoke my man card, hear me out. Cinderella was held captive by the unrealistic and relentless demands of her evil stepsisters. She was constantly going from here to there trying to meet the needs and expectations of others. It was exhausting, discouraging, and could have even been debilitating.
If I were Cinderella, my "stepsisters" would be all the “important” things on my calendar. Those things that pull me in opposing directions. "Go to work, Cinderella." "Mow the lawn, Cinderella." "Take me there, Cinderella." "Help with my homework, Cinderella." Who (or what) are your "stepsisters?" Work? Volunteering? Home improvements? Church? PTSA? Aren't you getting tired, just thinking of your "evil stepsisters?" So many people get up every morning, look at their schedules and are emotionally drained before they even step out the door. What I have found to be even more discouraging is most advice I’ve received is “simply" eliminate the unimportant stuff from my schedule. But everything seems so important! How do we choose?
I do not fault families who veg out after long days at work and school in front of a TV show, in a book, or on the web instead of engaging with one another. Most of us are spent at the day’s end and often we feel there is nothing meaningful left to give. What if I told you there is one more thing you should add to your schedule? What if that one more thing could change your entire day-to-day experience? What if that one more thing was nothing? I am not speaking metaphorically. Don't just add anything else to your life... Literally, schedule "nothing" into your life. Pull out your device or calendar, find an hour on a weeknight and a couple hours on the weekend and write down the word “nothing.” During this time, I suggest your family does what mine does: turn off the TV, put away phones, tablets, and other distractions. There will be no planned activities, places to be, or chores done.
You may be thinking, “Yeah, right!” And I have to admit, for the first 15-30 minutes you may meet resistance, especially if you have kids. You could hear things like: Why are we doing this? You are so mean! I am so bored! I want a snack! Did I tell you how bored I am right now? Are we becoming Amish? *Side note: Wives don’t be surprised if your husbands try to use this Nothing Time to be "romantic." *wink* Husbands, if your wives try to use this time to be “romantic," I have 3 suggestions: First, thank God! Second, take full advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to you. Third, go out and buy a lottery ticket because you are on a lucky streak and you need to ride this wave as far as it will take you. (Just kidding, but seriously...)
Despite the complaints and resistance, don’t be surprised when nothing becomes something. Nothing can quickly turn into an unplanned family game night, a bike ride or walk around the block, playing in the backyard or a coloring session with your little one. During times of nothing, something takes place; things like great conversation and positive experiences. These moments could be the things on your schedule that actually breathe new life into your family. These moments could be the things on your schedule that reduce stress rather than create emotional drains.
Who knows, nothing might be the moments and the memories your family cherishes for a lifetime. Are you feeling a little like Cinderella, too? Then add one more thing to your already demanding life - nothing.
Freddie Albaugh is the Marriage & Family/Small Groups Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis, Tennessee.