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Family Life

Growing up on a farm, we never heard of "quality time," and I don't think back then, anyone would have bought into the idea.  Living, working and playing were all woven together, and generally, they were times spent together as a family.  We laughed, cried, fought, made-up, worried and rejoiced together.  And in the end, it was the collection of all those moments that bound us together and gave us a heritage we will never forget.
Okay, I realize that was a lot of years ago, and things have changed.  Today, most households need two or more  incomes to survive, and few families have the option of working together on a farm or in a family business.  It has become a real struggle just to have time to get the work done, let alone, find a few minutes of "quality time" to spend with family.

At Fieldstone Farms, we believe in the importance of family time, and so we are devoting a portion of our website to ideas that can assist families in spending more time together.  Some of the ideas come from our personal and professional experiences, while others were contributed by friends who also believe in the value of family life.  Periodically, we will update this page with fresh ideas, some of which we hope will come from you.  So, check back often, and feel free to share your ideas with us via email, by clicking on the "Contact Us" button.
Share Household Responsibilities:
In the last twenty-five years, parents have increasingly taken over full responsibility for all the work that goes into running a household.  When a working parent, generally the mother, accepts full responsibility for housework, shopping, chauffeuring, errands and handling the finances, it is a wonder that there is any time for family.  Every person living in the house should be shouldering their own share of the duties -- everyone.  Children as young as three can learn to make their beds, pick up their toys and clothing, and help with dusting, vacuuming and drying dishes.  At an appropriate age, older children can prepare meals, do the laundry, shovel the driveway and cut the grass.  If you start this when children are young, they will actually enjoy the process, while learning valuable life skills.  By all means, don't make them your slaves, instead make them partners and owners in the business of running your home.  And then with the time freed up by their help, reward them with a fun family time event.  And remember, spouses should share equally, even if there is a segregation in the types of duties between partners.

Share a Family Meal:

Family psychologists tell us that eating meals together, as a family, is an important component in building a strong family unit.  But in reality, few families have time to spend making and serving a meal, let along cleaning up afterward.  So here is an idea that worked well for us.  (Many of our friends, who tried it, also found it to be a huge time-saver.)  Prepare several meals at once.  Surprisingly, this doesn't require much more time than preparing one meal, and the work is done for an entire week.  We used to do this early each Saturday morning, but it can be done any time.  We might bake a chicken, a meat loaf and a casserole together in the oven, while cooking several vegetables on top of the stove.  When everything was done, we would either put complete family meals in a casserole dish or in individual microwave plates.  Then throughout the week, meal prep was simple and clean-up was a snap.  We found this to be quicker and easier than going to a fast-food restaurant, and a whole lot cheaper.  Most importantly, we were able to enjoy family meals together, even when our schedules got hectic.

Get Organized:

Cleaning house can be a time-consuming, arduous task, but you can easily simplify the process.  If you are like most Americans you probably spend half of your "cleaning" time picking up stuff and putting it back where it belongs.  (Dusting, vacuuming and cleaning the toilet is really the easy part.)  Why do you leave things laying around?  The answer is simple: you have made it too difficult to put things away.  So, make it simple to put things where they belong.  Purchase and label several plastic totes, and then place them where you can access them easily.  Then, instead of dropping stuff around, drop stuff into totes -- even small children and teenagers can do this.  The totes don't need to be conspicuous, but they do need to be accessible.  Some people think that totes look tacky (and I agree).  But, which do you prefer, tacky or messy?  Remember that hiding a few totes when company visits is a whole lot easier than cleaning the entire house.

Make a Family Activities List:

Is there anything more frustrating to a parent than a teenager, who mopes around the house because "there's nothing to do?"  But when it comes to time together, many families are in the same boat as the bored teenager.  They don't share many family events, because "there's nothing to do."  Wrong.  There are plenty of things that you can do as a family, and you should start right now compiling a list of family events and activities.  Here are some ideas.  Start your list with parks (family parks, recreational parks, amusement parks and athletic parks).  These are great for picnics, nature walks and playing sports.  Then list local museums, landmarks, libraries, theaters and historical sites.  Note on your calendar the dates of public events such as parades, fairs, festivals and concerts.  (Check with the Chamber of Commerce or City website for a complete list.)  Churches, schools, charities, historical societies and civic organizations often hold  public events – call and get a schedule.  Fire stations, Police stations, hospitals, nursing homes, and even public utility companies will occasionally conduct tours of their facilities.  Participate in or attend sporting events, from little league to major league.  If you live near a college, the possibilities are practically endless.  Regardless of where you live, once you start a list, you will discover that it could go on forever.  Remember to keep the items on your list quite close to home, so you don't "waste" a lot of time, traveling to your family event.  And as a bonus, many of the items I have listed above are either free or fairly inexpensive.  So the next time that you trade an hour of television for "family time," go to your list, and have some fun.

Alternative Work Arrangements:
In the last ten years, many employers have responded to employees' need for a better work-life balance by offering alternative work arrangements.  Flex schedules, reduced hours, job-sharing and telecommuting are just a few of the options available in many companies today.  Nontraditional work schedules can reduce day-care hours, commuting time, stress levels and anxiety.  Even a small adjustment can have a big impact on the quantity and quality of family life, and any lost income may be offset by childcare savings and small adjustments to the family budget.  Check with your employer to see if alternative work arrangements are available.  If not, ask that they be considered, and keep this in mind for future jobs.

Some Quick Ideas:

Upstairs-Downstairs Bag:  If you live in a two-story home, and you find yourself constantly returning items to the other floor, hang a canvas bag over the newel posts at the top and bottom of the stairs.  Things that need to go up are dropped in the bag at the foot of the stairs, while things that need to go down, are put in the top bag.  Then, when you have a reason to go upstairs, carry the bag up, empty it, switch it with the full bag upstairs and carry it down.  This can save countless, needless trips up and down the stairs.

Self-Sorting Laundry Hamper:
Either put partitions in your existing hamper or get creative with totes, so that you have a separate compartment for each type of batch (i.e., whites, colors, towels, etc.).  Label the sections, and if you have small children, use pictures.  Because you don't need to empty the entire hamper and sort clothes into piles all over the bathroom, you can quickly throw in one load whenever you walk past the laundry room -- maybe even before your morning shower.

Make a Grocery List: For years I have watched shoppers wander up and down aisles, hoping they will think of everything they need.  This turns a twenty-minute errand into an hour long task.  So, keep a master list on your computer (arranged in the same order as the items are stocked on the store shelves), check or highlight desired items, and then only purchase the items on the list (don't even look at other items).  This alone should cut your shopping time in half and eliminate the need for a second trip to the store to pick up items you forgot the first time.

Consider On-line Services: On-line shopping, banking and auto-pay programs can save a tremendous amount of time at malls, running errands and writing out checks.
Limit Individual Activities: Set realistic limits on the number of after-school activities, as well as time spent in front of the television, on-line, on the phone or playing electronic games.  Parents, these limits should apply to you too.

Remember Your Goal: "Save time, so you can spend it on your family"

Copyright © Fieldstone Farms, Inc., 2008
All rights reserved.


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