The modern family faces so many scheduling demands: long hours at work, school activities, sports, and chores. It never seems to end, except when the whole family heads out of town in vacation.
Consider these results from a Disney Time Survey, conducted by Kelton.
*96% of Americans would give up the Internet, shopping, sleeping, even coffee for just one more hour with their kids every week.
*Out of 52 weeks a year, on average, parents admit they only have 15 free weekends.
*13% say they don't have ANY free weekends.
That has many families looking to vacations to disconnect from all the distraction and reconnect with each other. Ruth to the Rescue recently checked with a parenting expert who talked about this trend, and how families can still build in quality time, even in the middle of their busy schedules.
The Time Crunch
Like so many families, the Bakers of Grosse Pointe Park struggle to spend enough time together.
"We do find ourselves just running all the time and it’s tough," said mom Allison Baker. She juggles the schedules of her husband and two children. "It's
hugely more busy now, for our generation," she said with a laugh.
Parenting expert Amy McCready told Ruth to Rescue she sees plenty of families with hectic schedules. "I think parents are busier than ever. In part, because we have crazy busy work schedules. Our kids have more activities, more extra-curricular activities than we ever did growing up."
Vacation Brings Relief
For families who can take that annual vacation, McCready says parents notice that time away can really change the family dynamic.
"On vacation everything changes, you know. Of the time they spend with their kids at home, they say about 50% would be considered 'quality time'. On vacation, that number jumps to 82%," she told Ruth to the Rescue.
Allison Baker agrees with those findings. "Getting away on a vacation is really the best way to find time to spend, just the four of us together," she said.
McCready said being on vacation rebuilds family bonds. "They say that they share twice as many meals with their kids on vacation, and in general the family tends to be more relaxed, and excited, affectionate and silly, all those wonderful ways that create that emotional connection and bond."
Avoid Too Much Pressure
Even though the time spent together can be critical, McCready says don't put too much pressure on yourself to fill a vacation with too much activity.
"Certainly, you don't want to put undue pressure on yourself that every moment has to be spectacular," she said.
That's something Baker, and her children, say she does struggle with when they leave town.
"If I'm going someplace, I want to see what that city is all about," admits Allison Baker. Her children realize that means a very busy schedule.
"A lot of times my mom takes us on way too many activities in one day and it’s tiring," said 16 year old Kelsey Baker.
"My mom likes to go on a lot of art museums, and what not," said Alex Baker, a college freshman, "It's kind of boring to me, but other than that it's pretty good."
Still, it's clear both Baker children enjoy the extra family time and appreciate seeing new places.
"I love going on vacations. We always, every other year, we always pick somewhere random and just go! And, I love that. I love doing that," said
If your children are small, McCready says it may be even more important to plan activities that will keep them engaged and also give them a break.
"If you have younger ones, don't try to overdo it. Take a break in the middle of the day, so they can kind of come back to the hotel and recharge and refuel," McCready advised.
Building Moments At Home
If you can't take the family out of town, McCready says look for special moments in the middle of your regular routines.
"So, if you're already running carpool or driving back and forth to soccer practice, use that time to make quality time. Tell jokes, sing songs, be crazy and silly," suggested parenting expert Amy McCready.
Some other ideas she shared: build some one-on-one time with your children into each day or plan weekly family nights, when you can play games, or just do something fun together.
And, whether on vacation or at home, think about disconnecting from all those electronic devices. "Instead of being tuned into our kids, very often we're tuned into our Blackberry or iPhone," said McCready.
Local mom, Allison Baker, says fun family activities could include golf, baseball games, picnics, or whatever is easy for your family to do.
"I think it’s about building memories, you know, and you could do that in lots of ways of you can't get away on a long vacation," said Baker.
Whatever you do, try to schedule some fun time with your family, and enjoy!