Back to School or Back to Chaos: How Much Time Does YOUR Family Have for God?

My twins started preschool last week – a big milestone for our family! Even though they are only going two mornings per week, it represents a fairly big change in our schedule. One of the two mornings they go used to be dedicated “mommy time” (I work two days per week, so I’m not necessarily with them every day). Concurrent with preschool starting, Kenna is beginning ballet on Saturday mornings and Nathan is beginning tee-ball at the same time. These Saturday morning activities are replacing what used to be dedicated “family time.”

I was amazed at Kenna’s immediate response when I told her of all these “exciting” changes.

Kenna (age 3): “But mommy, what about family time? That is family time!”

Even at her young age, Kenna cherishes family time (what she knows as time with mommy and daddy). And she immediately called me out on the impending loss of it when I told her the days these new activities would take place.

This prompted me to evaluate – really quantify – how much quality time we have with the kids. When I say quality time, I’m talking about time outside of “life maintenance” activities (sleeping, eating, driving, morning/night rituals, etc.); time that is completely free for us to spend building relationship with each other and with God.

Being the overly analytical person that I am, I created a spreadsheet in Excel that labels and color codes every hour of my kids’ week (can I admit I am so “type A” that I actually enjoyed doing this?). Click here to see a PDF of what I did. I then used my chart to calculate how many hours per week my kids spend engaged in various activities – and how many hours that implicitly leaves each week for family and God time.

This was fascinating to me! If you add up the percentages of things that really aren’t flexible (meals, sleep, nanny while I’m working, etc.), a full 81% of the kids’ time is taken off the week before I can make a decision about the rest. After allocating time for their current activities, we have 19 hours per week that remain for family and God (an average of 2.7 per day).

While that sounds like quite a bit, it’s very unevenly distributed when you look at the PDF schedule – it almost all happens Friday through Sunday. This was one of the biggest insights for me in doing this. You have to look at both time and distribution of time to see what you are really working with. I’m now looking for ways to add quality time Monday through Wednesday. I strongly believe the kids will benefit from more day to day consistency, as opposed to family time being clumped together during the last 3 days of the week.

Here’s my question to you: Whether your life is chaotic or smooth sailing right now, do you know exactly where your time is going so you can make the most of it with your kids? I encourage you to take this challenge and actually map out every hour of your week.

For those with Excel, I’ve posted the original file here, including a blank template to use for your own schedule and a sheet with a calculator to fill in your own times. If you click on that link, the file will automatically download to your computer.

What will you get out of this?

  • If you’re surprised by how much time you actually have, yet don’t feel your family spends the desired time on faith matters, you will be prompted to utilize your time together in a more intentional way. With some forethought, you can turn free time into quality time.
  • If you’re surprised by how little time you actually have, this could be the catalyst you need for making changes. It might be time to limit extracurricular activities, cut down on driving time with other transportation options, better align the kids’ schedule so they are all home at the same time, or any number of other things.

I’d love to hear your results if you take this challenge. How many quality hours per week did you find your family has for each other and God?

6 Comments

  1. Jennifer on September 12, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    This is yet another reason why we homeschool and limit outside activities! 🙂



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on September 12, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      Jenn – You know, I actually thought about homeschooling after looking at all this and wondered how it would be easier or harder with homeschool!

      I can see how it would be easier since you have more flexibility to structure your days. I also think it could be harder because it could be tempting to associate physically seeing your children all the time with an abundance of QUALITY time. Amount of time doesn’t necessarily equal quality time. In other words, although you are physically with your children more when you homeschool, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have more time freely available (you are still schooling them!) or that you are effectively using the free time you do have. (When I say you, I don’t mean you personally, I just mean in general.) I think whether you homeschool or do anything else, the challenge to be intentional in the use of time remains the same!

      As for extra activities, Bryan and I have decided we will not have the kids in more than 2 athletic activities at the same time. That enrichment (and the lessons from it) is important to us, but we have to put a limit on it. Some people might have more flexibility in their schedule to do more than 2 and still have a good amount of time remaining, and others less. Everyone has to manage their God-given hours as a portfolio, which will look different for everyone.



  2. Rosann on September 12, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Oh my goodness, Natasha! I just love you! A girl after my own heart, Lol! I love that you did an Excel Spreadsheet to analyze your time available for God (as a family). Since I’m a stay at home mom and we’ve only allowed my oldest to do cheerleading during the football season and my youngest is in preschool only a short few hours per week, we are still okay on family/God time. But it is taking daily intentional effort and choice to make sure that time available is spent as it should. It’s often too easy to flip the TV on or go have a playdate with friends when there’s a little bit of free time presenting itself.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on September 12, 2012 at 10:36 AM

      Absolutely Rosann! That’s the nature of the comment I just posted above – even if the quantity of time is there, the question has to be, is the quality there? If we have quantity AND quality, that’s the goal! If we have quantity without quality, we have to be more intentional in how we use the time. If we have quality without quantity, we need to find ways to make more time (I just read that several studies have shown it is NOT just about quality, but quantity indeed matters significantly). And if we have no quantity or quality, we are in jeopardy of losing relationship all together.

      I love that you are an Excel woman! I look forward to seeing your spreadsheet. 🙂



  3. jackie on September 12, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    what DO you do during the “family time” is it always dedicated to God? I enjoy taking Eli to a play dated and the park to watch her interactions with other adults and kids but i also find it fun to read at home or just hang out. I dont think i have put much thought into how much of “our time” (mostly mommy and Eli) we spend dedicated to God



  4. Elaine on October 19, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    This is great! I’ve been struggling with how to fit everything in, now that my son is in 3rd grade and has more homework, on top of him being a little behind academically, so it takes him longer than most kids to do the same homework…plus the guitar lessons and athletic practices. It gets really out of hand! I’m going to use this calculator and schedule and build in specific family time. I think for us, it WILL have to be concentrated Fri-Sun, because that’s when he doesn’t have homework, but even then, I feel like many weekends get booked up with friends and events that we don’t get ‘family time’. So it’ll be nice to plan this out and re-prioritize.