Make time for your family

Kathryn and Dean Hodges with children Bayley, 12, Tyben, 9, Coby, 6 and Sabrina, 4.
Kathryn and Dean Hodges with children Bayley, 12, Tyben, 9, Coby, 6 and Sabrina, 4. John McCutcheon

ASK parents what gift they'd like for Christmas and many would answer "more time please".

Despite the fact we have machines to do most of the manual chores our forefathers did themselves, it seems time has become the one commodity our affluent lifestyle cannot afford.

Sunshine Coast relationship counsellor Shirley Cornish said in the past few years she had seen a surge in the number of couples needing counselling purely because of the time factor.

"I predominantly do relationship counselling and lack of time, quality time has become a huge problem," she said.

"Normally only mum and dad come, but the problems are in the whole family unit."

Ms Cornish believes the problem is "our ideal of what makes us happy in life".

"Particularly in Australia, we set high standards for ourselves and our families. We have high ideals and we work hard to maintain those," she said.

"In many families both mum and dad work. Time is taken up providing for what we see as necessities.

"We become tired and stressed and the time we have left over is not dealt with properly."

Thankfully there is a way to master time, instead of letting it master you.

Palmwoods mum Kathryn Hodges has worked out how to have time for husband, Dean and their four children aged under 12 with both parents working full-time.

Mrs Hodges is the principal of Rimmer law firm - a job that would require long-hours from any normal mortal. Hubby Dean runs a busy Jim's Mowing franchise.

Mrs Hodges said she realised she needed to do something to change their lifestyle about two years ago.

"I decided I had to find one word that mattered to me more than everything else," she said.

"Connection was the word for me. I decided to be connected.

"I realised it was okay to drop a few balls now and then, such as if the house was untidy."

The family made its life work by the use of simple strategies like "lots of planning and a whiteboard listing all the rules".

"What everyone's doing goes on the whiteboard," she said.

"On Sunday we do an update for the coming week."

Around Christmas time each year the family also got together to "throw on the things" they'd like to see happen in the new year.

These ideas are laminated and left on the wall for the year to let everyone know they're heading in the same direction.

"This year one of the children said they wanted the dogs to spend more time inside, that went on the list," she said.

They also throw up ideas for weekend activities and then pick one.

"It can be as simple as going as a family to Quota Park," she explained.

"It's been about me consciously listening to cues from my kids. We also try and give space for one-on-one time with each child."

Mrs Hodges reads books, articles and blogs with good ideas on how to raise a family.

Ms Cornish also recommended "prioritising" as the best way to control time.

"You need to prioritise what's important," she said.

"If we've committed to having a family, that should be the number one priority for us."


Five tips to claw time back

  • Always make the family unit a priority
  • Set family goals on a day-to-day basis
  • Set limits around use of technology
  • Keep children's out-of-school activities to a manageable quantity
  • Sit down to one meal a day together

Topics:  christmas family planning time

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