Timetables, schedules, diaries – call them what you will, but they can take over your life. I had a moment earlier this week when it felt like I was being assailed by appointments, events and things you are supposed to do – like your child’s school AGM, family day, extramural activities, birthday celebrations… The list goes on and on.

That evening, my husband and I had a discussion about this onslaught of things requiring your attention, things that need to be slotted in and the helpless sense that your time is being slowly eroded by stuff that isn’t exactly what you wanted to do in the first place.

Talking about it helped. We realised that we were blithely saying “yes” to everything, whereas in reality we do have the choice to also say “no”. Overloading your schedule so that there is no time for you or your family members to breathe is not a good thing.

Autumn park benchWhen is there time for just chilling at home, playing ball games in the garden, taking a walk in the park or doing something adventurous like going for a hike? Shouldn’t those things be slotted in, too? Not to mention date nights, which are invaluable for keeping the romance fires kindled in your marriage, but are so easily neglected because poor Mom and Dad are exhausted by the end of the week.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who struggles with this. I call it the Rubik’s Cube Conundrum – remember those toys so popular in the Eighties that you spent hours twisting and turning, trying to figure out how to get the different colours to align? Well, that’s how I find trying to work out a way to fit in all the activites that you’re expected to do. Quite frankly, it’s taking up more and more of my time and I don’t like it.

It reminds me of the film, The Little Prince, in which the protagonist is required to account for every 15 minutes of her life dictated by a gigantic timetable her mother has devised. When she discovers the eccentric man who lives next door, this tight schedule is abandoned in favour of lots of free play, fun and exploration, which makes her feel like her day is a lot longer and fuller than it was before.

socrates_quoteThere has to be a way to turn things around so that what’s important is prioritised first and the other stuff fits around it. Come to think of it, it’s a bit like trying to fit stones into a jar that already has sand in it – impossible. But when you put the stones in first (and here I mean the things that really matter to you), the sand naturally filters in around them – perfecto! That’s what I need to do. The verse that keeps coming to mind is, “Be still and know that I am God.”

It’s time to put some sorely needed boundaries in place. So, dear husband, let’s schedule that long-overdue date. Let’s decide when we’d like to do a family hike together – never mind if there’s a meeting or tennis lesson or whatever else someone has planned for that date. Let’s be a little bit selfish and set aside time for ourselves – first. Then everyone else can wait in line for what’s left.