My Theory on Time: Work & Leisure
One of the best quotes I heard was from Kevin Miller, a Covey respresentative. He said, "You cannot manage time, you can only manage yourselves." That was an ah-ha moment for me! Unlike money, we all have the same exact amount of minutes to use. Similar to money, however, we have the power over how we use those minutes. How we choose to fill those minutes is within our power. I think the toughest part of managing ourselves with the limited time we have is balancing work with leisure, both being as important as the other.
Value of Work
After Adam and Eve were sent out of the Garden of Eden, the Lord's instruction to them was this, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread (Gen. 3:19)." The Lord also told them that "the ground shall be cursed for thy sake," and in Timothy we read that "they shall be saved in childbearing." One implication of these verses is that the Lord knew only through hard work could Adam and Eve (and therefore us as well) truly obtain the blessings of eternal life without the sacred responsibilities of work given them (see Strengthening Our Families, Dollahite, p. 178).
In a work of "quick fixes" our modern society has begun to see work more as a curse than a blessing. Many of us seek the Garden-like atmosphere rather than putting our efforts into the tasks placed before us. Family work is sacred work. Believe me, there have been many times in my life when I have wondered if this really was true. Was there sacredness in my girls arguing every morning when cleaning their room? Is there sacredness in the mountains of laundry that need to be done weekly, sometimes even daily? Lately I have been able to see the sacred nature of such experiences and tasks. There was complete sacredness in the creation of the earth and as I pattern my home after the work of the Lord's plan, I too can find sacredness in my work. As I catch that vision, I can pass the joy onto my children.
How do we do this? That is the real question! I have come to discover three vital ways of teaching my children the value of work.
1) Delayed gratification. I was just talking to a friend about how letter writing has become a lost art. She said something I'd never thought of. I'll paraphrase, "With everything being instant these days, I want my kids to have that sense of having to wait for something." You remember when you were a kid, just waiting for the mail to arrive hoping there would be a letter from your penpal or grandma or someone! Randy Pausch has said, "Hard work is like compounded interest in the bank. The rewards build faster." Teach the children about delayed gratification.
2) Family work. There will be another post soon about family work, so I won't say much here. Oh how I remember the hours of yard work done by my father's side (or at least by his instruction!). My dad loves and understands the value of getting your hands dirty. Because of this love and understanding, he can create an oasis out of desert. Our kids can learn the value of hard work best by working by our sides.
3) Challenges within their grasp. Don't do for your children what they can do for themselves. Give them the confidence that they can do anything! Just the other day I asked my son (10yo) to change the lighbulb of our family room light. At first he exclaimed, "I don't know how!" My response was, "You've seen Dad do it. I bet you can figure it out." And guess what, he did. Just today my 2yo wanted me to put some flippers on. I told him, "You put them on, if you can't do it, you don't wear them." Well, he figured out how to put them on and wore them with pride! Giving our kids challenges within their reach gives them confidence that they can do anything, thus learning the value of work.
Value of Leisure
Kathy Hirsch-Pasek & Roberta Michnick, authors of Einstein Didn't Use Flashcards believe that, "the concept of downtime seems to be a kind of heresy in the current cult of acheivement." Do we value leisure time as much as work for our children? One of the greatest realizations I've had is that leisure is not the opposite of work. It is work combined with leisure that leads to the good life. Aristotle once said that the ultimate purpose of leisure is "thinking or using our minds (Strengthening Our Families, p. 194)." Thus when our children are young, playing is using their minds as they are capable and know how. As we get older, our minds mature and we need to be inspired to think and use them accordingly. Aristotle continues that there are four types of "ethical leisure:" intellectual activity, creative activity, meaningful activity, and moral behavior. Planning our "free time" with these four categories in mind, our time can be better spent.
Again, here are a couple of things I've observed in my own little family on how to better value our leisure time:
1) Schedule and Plan for leisure time. We need to make blocks of time in our days where our children are free to think and use their minds. It is important to put it on the schedule just as a lesson or doctor appointment would be. If your children aren't used to this kind of time, let them be bored. Eventually, they'll catch on that Mom isn't going to schedule anything for them, they're on their own! This is scary because we think if they're bored they'll turn into bums later on in life. After a lot of turmoil on this myself, I have come to realize what a fallacy is that thought. We still need to provide the tools or the boundaries during that time, but it is in that "free time" that their minds can blossom and grow into who they really are to become.
2) Plan wholesome recreational activities with the family. Try not to fall back on the "family movie night" every week. Go outside. Talk together. Cook together. Take a hike or a walk. Dump out all the legos and build stuff together. Play a game. Read together. I think adults need to allow themselves a chance to step into the child's shoes for a day. I had a friend who told me that she had played legos with her son all day. This was in my more naive years of motherhood and I remember thinking,"What a waste of time," but for that son, it was probably one of the best days of his young life.
3) Don't overschedule the family. It is so common and easy to fall into the pattern of signing our kids up for multiple activities. Or signing up for too much ourselves!! One report says that "Among many measures of this disturbing trend [of overscheduling] are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent (see here, footnote 2). Whether our goal be to get them ahead of the pack, keep them busy, or to create well-rounded children, we need to be careful to balance those seemingly worthy goals with that all-too-important time alone and with family.
In conclusion, a quote from one of my favorite books, "People are so foolish, they waste their time even though they have so little of it (Search for Delicious, Babbit)." Let's fill our time with leisure and work, both serving an equally valuable purpose.
** To read another great article on this topic, see "The Joys of Doing Nothing."