Friday, March 31, 2017

Putting Family First: Successful Stragegies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World - William J Doherty, PhD. and Barbara Z. Carlson

Summary: Do you often feel you spend most of each day in transit between soccer practice, swim team, and saxophone lessons?  How many times each week does your family sit down to share a meal and a conversation?  When was the last time you all went on vacation together?  How often do you make time for your marriage?

You may be surprised when you stop to contemplate the answers to these questions -- if so, you aren't alone.  In the past 20 years, children's free time has declined by twelve hours a week; time spent on structured sports activities has doubled; family dinners are down by a third; and the number of families taking vacations together has decreased by 28 percent.  When Bill Doherty and Barbara Carlson perceived this trend in their own families and communities, they helped to start Putting Family First, an organization committed to helping parents reclaim family time and rebuild family connections.  Drawing on their years of hands-on experience as parents and educators, Doherty and Carlson have written a thoughtful and practical guide for finding family balance in a frantic world.

More than a time-management manual, Putting Family First delves into the issues that lie at the heart of all family-related choices, helping us think about the roles our children play in our lives, and the roles we play in theirs.  Their insights reveal innovative ways to set priorities, avoid scheduling conflicts, and create satisfying family rituals.  Offering a new perspective on a fraying institution, Putting Family First restores a sense of fulfillment, fun, and security to family once again.  (Summary from back of book)

My Review:  At the beginning of 2017, I did something that I never do.  Or rather, I didn't do something that I always do.  Whatever.  I skipped goal setting.  Instead, I selected a word to guide me through the year and shape my decisions.  That word was FOCUS.  I wanted to spend my year focusing on what really matters and ridding my life of distractions that pull my attention from where it should be.  For me, this meant focusing on my relationship with God, my family, and my health.  When I came across this book at Goodwill, it was meant to be (in my shopping cart) and I snapped it up.  And let me tell you, I needed to read it.

Putting Family First is a somewhat dry, but worthwhile, read that tackles a growing problem in our country.  We live in a society that values "success" over anything else and encourages competition at a very young age.  Consequently, family time has been pushed by the wayside in favor of numerous after school lessons, sports, and other activities that, while guaranteed to give your five-year-old that extra advantage on college apps, really just leaves children and parents feeling rundown and stressed. Of course, outside activities are not bad in and of themselves, but if not reined in they have the potential to decimate quality family time, which is an essential part of raising emotionally healthy children and creating stable families.

If you're feeling over-scheduled and overwhelmed, Putting Family First will essentially give you "permission" to let go of less important activities in favor of more family time, and even give you some helpful tips on how to do it.  If you (like me) are feeling guilty for not having your children enrolled in every dance, music, and language class known to man, it reminds you that your four year old does not have to speak French en pointe while playing the violin to be a good person.  Putting Family First also recognizes that families come in many forms and has special sections for single-parent families and blended families that give specific details on how to make family time a priority in the trickiest of households.

For me, this book was a welcome relief.   I am a stay at home mother of four girls and that frequently requires some creative budgeting.  I often feel riddled with guilt that they don't get to participate in all the costly activities that so many of their friends seem able to do and I worry that they aren't getting the chance to explore their varied interests and talents.  While I still want to find ways to foster their interests, I now realize, as I didn't before, that there is value in family togetherness that can't be replicated with advanced art classes.  Putting Family First renewed my commitment to family dinners, bed time rituals (like stories and tucking), spending quality time with my kids, carving out time to date my husband, and helped me to let go of the guilt I've been harboring about all the things we aren't able to provide.   I'm so glad that I pushed through the dryness and hope to put much of what I have learned into practice.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is feeling the pressure of the schedule and looking to prioritize.

My Rating:  4 Stars.

For the sensitive reader:  All good.

Sum it up:   A little dry, but worthwhile.  Read it with a glass of water.

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