This post is a follow up to the excellent article Damien wrote, One Day a Week, about setting aside one day a week to be outdoors as a family. Damien shared the things he believes are most important to making this happen and now it's my turn.
A couple years ago when Damien first suggested that we set aside one whole weekend day to pursue outdoor activities together as a family, preferably in the mountains an hour or so drive from our home, I was not entirely enthusiastic. I liked hiking and all but every weekend? Not to mention Damien wanted us to be out for longer durations (making it a whole day adventure), building up our endurance and climbing higher peaks.
I was less than gung-ho. I remember the anxiety I felt about giving up "my" weekend to follow my husband on this path. I wondered, what about my goals? Hiking every weekend with my family was not one of them.
I'm so happy to say this is not where I'm at today. It hasn't all been easy (obviously) and we reached a critical point last summer where we very briefly (for about 5 seconds) discussed going separate ways on weekends so we could each do our "own thing". Thankfully, we know the folly of that thinking. I can honestly say there was a noticeable shift in my heart and head in the weeks following that watershed conversation.
What started a couple years ago as choosing to follow my husband's lead in this area of our family life (out of respect and also because Damien's an awesome dad and I wanted to support him in spending time with our children) has evolved into a beautiful partnership as we walk together on this path.
Like I said earlier, it wasn't always this way and I have felt the tension between home and adventure through the years. I am a homemaker who gardens and I am very content to spend day after day in this little realm of mine. I love nothing more than to spend a whole Saturday puttering in my garden, listening to my husband mow the lawn and upgrade some part of our house.
But this is not my husband's idea of a dream day, plus the kids would get antsy. He loves the out-of-doors beyond our backyard and I love him. This man rocks my world and I would go anywhere with him (and that scares me sometimes). Besides, I really do love nature and have grown to appreciate our weekly day "away from it all" in the woods.
This love of home, husband and nature are big parts of who I am and it is from this perspective that I am sharing how to make one day a week outdoors a priority for your family.
Although what I'm sharing is coming from an outdoorsy perspective it is not limited to that. Your family may decide to do inner city volunteering every week, work on a farm or do theater together. Whatever your "thing" is, setting time aside to pursue that, together as a family is an important endeavor. These tips I believe will help you regardless.
But let me just say I think hiking together is fabulous. It's a physical activity, in nature, that builds relationship with each other and our creator. It is also very accessible and presents unlimited opportunity for growth and challenge.
The Eager Partner or Parent
Firstly I wish to address those of you who are the "let's get out there and do this" partner in the family. As you can probably tell that wasn't me to start. I am definitely raring to get out the door now but I wasn't always.
If you are wanting to move your family in this direction but have reluctant family members you need to make it as easy as possible for your partner and children to join in. Damien does a fabulous job of this and I will share a few of his techniques that have worked for our family.
Make it easy and worthwhile for your family. If you want your partner and children to enjoy the experience and hopefully embrace it you will probably have to spoon feed them to start. Pick the most spectacular hike you can within their abilities. Do all the planning in advance and be able to give specific directions to your family for what to wear and pack. Someday we plan to publish a book with detailed lists to help guide families in this regard.
Have a great attitude. Depending on your family's background it may not be easy to get your group interested in being outdoors together. An upbeat attitude makes the world of difference. Damien is fun to be with in the outdoors because he loves it and his passion is contagious.
Listen to your family's needs. When Damien said he wanted to hike one day a week I asked, "when will we work on the house?" (We have an older home that we are slowly updating). So we came up with a plan to have both work days and hike days. In addition, over the years we've had issues related to gear and clothing comfort. Be prepared to deal with those problems and let your family know you will figure it out together and will not make them "suffer through it". This has made the world of difference for me and the kids in joining Damien in his goals for our family.
Taking a Day of Rest
When we decided to set aside one day a week for our family we also choose to make that our sabbath; our break from daily work, our time to focus on each other and the beauty of creation. Yes, a weekend hike is bodily work but it's not mentally tiring. Rather, it's refreshing and gets you away from everything distracting in our modern lives. Here's a few things we've done to make this break day possible.
Make it a priority. Damien talked about this already but it bears repeating. Activities we prioritize are the ones that get done. Time with your family is no different. Get ready...this will mean saying no to other activities.
Don't plan housework for this day. I mean all forms of housework. No laundry, minimal meal prep (see next point), no "honey can you fix the leaky faucet". Nada. The only housework we do on this day typically is to cook breakfast, clean up the packs when we get home (though not always) and maybe make an easy supper. Schedule the rest of your week to accommodate for this day-off.
Easy meals. I'm so blessed to have a husband who believes this should be an easy meal day. I cook beans and rice ahead of time (if I remember) and he uses those to prepare our hiking lunch the night before. In winter we eat Green Tea Rice and in warmer months we eat cold beans, rice and salsa. Easy peasy. For supper we either eat out (we have a few inexpensive non-fast food places to choose from) or make an easy pizza at home. Easy pizza recipe: pita or gluten-free bun base, chopped veggies and a sprinkle of cheese. Save your easy and fun family meals for this night. Make this day special and fun even for mom!
Plan in advance. Don't expect to get up Saturday or Sunday morning with no plan and say "ok family, let's spend the day together". It's fun to look forward to the day and it's important to structure the week to get our work done (laundry, bills) and plan the activity so we can make it happen.
Letting the house slide just a wee bit. Our family's goal is to build relationship, not house. I've learned to lower my expectations for what we accomplish in our home in terms of renovations and instead view the weekends as mostly family time and part work time. We still designate time for house maintenance and upgrades but these do not supersede one day a week.
The things that have helped me most as a homemaker in getting out the door each weekend are:
- having a supportive husband who really leads these adventures
- making the conscious choice to go along with that
- learning to embrace the beauty this adds to our family's life
- structuring our weeks to make it happen
- lowering some of my household expectations
When it comes right down to it my goal as a homemaker is to build a loving family, which is the real meaning of home. So in the end time spent together in the woods is still home-making.