This Sunday was declared 'family day'. It was an attempt to put aside at least one day a week where none of us was distracted by other things: no kids' sport lessons/parties or homework were scheduled and no parent keep-fit/yoga/work or socialising was allowed.
That might sound a little draconian to you, easy-going folk. But unless we do that, I find that none of us actually connects properly.
When we were exploring as part of our year-long travel adventure, spending time together was natural. Every day was spent discovering the unknown, exploring new things - we shared each and every experience and had the time to discuss and savour them.
But now that we are back in the UK and firmly ensconced in the rat race, after-school activities, learning to read and write, homework, keeping fit through sport, remaining sane through yoga, working for a living, household chores, staying in touch with friends and family - suddenly there are a million and one demands on each of us. And only slithers of time to lever them all into.
And what suffers the most is what we took for granted when we were away: quality family time.
It either needs to be scheduled in, or it doesn't happen. Because in my case at least (Mama Truth Bomb on its way), I often find an excuse not to connect, because doing something away from the family and just for me, comes so much easier and feels so much more beneficial. At least in the short term.
Yup. I said it.
Pretending that the kids don’t exist and escaping to do something ‘more important' (aka 'more selfish') is a lot less difficult than being entertaining-kind-nurturing-fun mama to three kids under 8 at the same time.
(Particularly as the moment you do set aside the headspace to put on your supermama mask, they start fighting for your attention so that 'connection' time actually becomes angry mama time spent either reprimanding or mediating).
So what do you do with it once you have scheduled in family time?
Well, the Danish concept of hygge hasn’t yet worked for us unless there is a movie or colouring in involved (too many bad losers to play a game and too many itchy feet to just sit and 'talk'), so we decided to go for walk.
I’m a bit of a wild nature fan myself (I find there is nothing better to remind me of the insignificance of my day-to-day anxieties than an untouched landscape), and so we headed for one of our local nature and birdspotting reserves.
Here, surrounded only by plants, trees and animals, suspending the reality of the many to-dos in my life seems relatively effortless and I instantly feel part of something bigger, better and more timeless than myself...
The ‘family connection’ plan went relatively well too: two out of three actually managed to walk the whole distance, no-one was bitten by a horse (unlike last time) and Bobomama didn't have to remove any dog poo from any wellies on our return. Bonus.
We even caught sight of this quaint, upturned boat: broken and derelict but etched with the message “Life is Beautiful”: a cliche of course but none the less poignant.
I did have to spend the rest of the afternoon laboriously checking for nits and Andrew did selfishly sneak off to play squash during the kids' supper/bath/bedtime routine but no-one said anything about life being perfect.
Beautiful - for at least just a couple of hours a week - will have to do; family day may well be here to stay...
How do you balance me-time and family time? Does hygge work for you?