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Being busy is just a fact of life and at this point, where 80 hour work weeks are the norm for my resident doctor husband, life often feels chaotic. His days off are few, but we do our best to make use of our little time together and to find ways to be intentional in the midst of the chaos. As we near the end of Jordan’s residency, I know that while hopefully, we will see more of him, I know life still won’t slow down, it just doesn’t work that way.
So, even when the schedules are still full, I want to remember what we’ve learned about being intentional together. To be honest, we’ve learned mostly through mistakes, miscommunication, and exhaustion. And we’re still learning and picking up new ways to love one another better. I racked my brain to think of my favorite ways we choose to be intentional with family time when life is busy. Hopefully, these tips will save you a little from learning the hard way like we’ve done most of the time.
how to be intentional when life is busy
1. assess what you need
First things first, there’s no need for pride when it comes to your family and when life is busy. Oftentimes in the past, I wanted to believe that I had it all together even when things are hard. We’re human, we’re very needy people and that’s why we have family and relationships. So, when your spouse spends more time at work than at home, it’s tough, but we can help ourselves out by realizing our own needs and the needs of our family.
Over time I’ve learned that I, myself need and crave time with other adults. While I can talk with other friends, I still need to connect with Jordan. I need Jordan to occasionally write me a love note, bring home flowers, or to take on some of the cleaning at home. We also need time as a family a couple times a week and to slow down.
Over the last few years, I’ve gotten better at voicing my own needs. I’ve even asked Jordan to bring me home flowers on a few tough days. Or to write me a nice note when I’ve been feeling hurt by him. Or deciding to choose a family night in over time with other people, when he needs to rest. And lastly, the one that’s been saving my sanity this fall is registering Ruby for preschool to get a few hours of time for myself.
What are your needs? your family’s needs? What’s missing? What will help you connect better with those you love? What needs really need to be met this week?
2. simple solutions
Jordan often quotes from our favorite comedy, “Michael always says, “K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid.” Great Advice. Hurts my feelings every time.” Life already feels complicated and a little messy when you’re busy, so it’s important to find simple solutions to help things run smoothly. For us, and I know many, when life is busy there’s just not enough time to cook at home most days, so often we eat out. We still crave that homecooked meal and something that’s not deep fried. Our neighborhood market, Schnucks offers a great solution with their lunch and dinner deals.
On this beautiful November day, I picked up a couple lunch combos from Schnucks to bring to Jordan at work. They’re very inexpensive, delicious, and something different from the normal quick lunch options. I grabbed a vegetarian wrap with yummy gouda cheese and veggies, a side, and a Gold Peak® Tea for me. Jordan got an Italian sandwich, chips and a Coca-Cola™. Ruby had lunch beforehand (thanks, Grandma!)
It felt good to be able to love Jordan in this way and to be able to fuel him for the rest of this 28-hour (!!!) call shift. He fully approved of the hearty sandwich, something we never have all the ingredients for at home and a Coca-Cola! I enjoyed that it was really easy and something I can do while at the grocery.
3. quality over quantity – be present
I know you’ve heard this one before, but make sure you read the next tip as well which is a little contradictory. We all know that quality is important, but what does quality mean? For me, it doesn’t mean living up to my ridiculous expectations, it means being present. And fully present. So, put down the cell phone for a bit, engage, ask questions, be quiet if you need to, but take it in, be aware.
Sometimes we get lucky and get a lot of time together, but sometimes we’re not always sure when the next time will be. We’re always soaking in these moments with one another. It’s not always perfect, I often get frantic about making sure to fit in ridiculous things or fully enjoying the moment. Jordan often slows me down and reminds me that just like in the previous tip, that it’s ok if it’s simple, like sharing a Coca-Cola.
Quality doesn’t mean perfect, it means making the most and taking what you can of a moment of time.
4. frequency over duration
Getting to the same point as earlier, amount of time spent is not a great qualifier for a relationship. But, quality and frequency really help to sustain and nurture your connection with someone. Good news for us, where large chunks of time are foreign, but quick stop-ins and hellos are the norm.
On this day when while Jordan was at work all day and night, we could have easily not seen him. But, instead, we brought him a quick lunch. It was a short 15 minutes, but it was enough.
This is kind of the maintenance of a relationship or family. It’s important that we’re checking in even if it’s quick.
5. clean slates
Busyness can cause tension between people. Make sure to remind yourself why you’re grateful and want to spend intentional and quality time with a person. If you don’t have time to work out an issue before your time together, like a date or family time, come to an agreement to work it out later (or before if possible) but, we’ve learned (through many trials) that our quality time together is best without resolving conflicts. Thankfully there aren’t any current conflicts in our household, though we’ve totally been there. If there were, our little 15-minute picnic would not be the time to sort out an argument.
Or, maybe it is, either way, it’s important to, again, assess your needs and to figure out what is needed. Often for us, that means not sorting out an argument, but making sure we know one another is loved and valued. This helps us to better continue on our day and to later sort out a conflict at home. Make sure you each know that and to give one another a pass to enjoy your time together.
Some other tips:
- laughter is always good
- Make a memory – something to hold onto and remember
- do something together
- be thankful – gratitude will soften the hardest heart
- Remind kids if a parent is gone or busy of how much they love them. help them to understand.
Man, life right now is so crazy, almost full-term, Jordan’s in the middle of his impatient month, and we’re all rotating being sick. Even in the midst of this chaos, I really do think we’ve hit our stride. Learning how to be intentional and implementing these few things have helped. We still don’t have it all together, by any means, but we’re navigating how to love each other well.
I didn’t want to overwhelm you with too many tips and words, but these are the main ideas I’ve been pondering over. I’d love to hear what you do as a family when life is busy and keep the conversation going about intentionality within our families.
If you’re looking for some a simple solution and want to check out your neighborhood Schnucks, here’s the photo that I send to Jordan to see what he wanted. You may not have known that you can get lunch at a grocery store or even dinner!
See if you have a Schnucks close by here.
Thanks to my mother-in-law for taking these photos!
Leave your tips in the comments below, I’d love to hear! Especially if you have some little practical things that you do.