Balancing the Busy

August 2022

by Anna Rogers | photos of the Brown family by Kristin Jean Photographer 

I remember hearing this song as a kid, not really understanding what the hurry was. Looking back, I’m certain that my parents understood, yet somehow, they shielded my siblings and me from the rush of it all and made decisions we didn’t see to balance the busyness of our lives.  

Now I’m a parent myself. The sun is setting on a brief but beautiful summer, and the whirlwind of back-to-school begins. With the start of school comes the start of activities – clubs, sports, after-school programs, music, art, martial arts, and more. Finding balance in the busy is something all families are seeking.  

Find Your Center 

Before examining the specifics of how to balance the busy in everyday life, it’s important to focus in on the core of your family goals. Is the goal to produce a professional musician or athlete, or is the goal togetherness, character building, and community? The end goal should drive the day-to-day. 

Too many activities can steer us away from the center upon which we hope to be grounded. We’re stretched thin and run down, and for what? Rushing, rushing “until life’s no fun” leaves everyone with an empty tank and no purpose.  

Start examining family activities from a purpose-driven perspective. Does this activity align with your goals as a family? Is another activity already serving the same purpose, and can the schedule be pared down? Is this activity causing the family to miss out on more valuable things, even if it’s fun? These are important questions to ask before making commitments. 

Follow True Passions 

In the same way, you examine activities from a purpose-driven perspective, examine the passion that comes with each pursuit. As a parent, it’s easy to confuse our passion with our kids’, and it's hard to admit when something we love isn’t bringing them joy.  

Follow your family’s true passions when choosing activities, and make sure that activities are still a good fit for your kids before you commit to another year or season. Some activities require hard work, dedication, and commitment that don’t always feel like pure fun but cause a child to light up in a special way. These are the ones to sacrifice for and protect – the ones that will be life-giving instead of draining, and the ones that will push kids to new levels of confidence and enjoyment.  

Be ready to see passions ebb and flow or change over time and hold loosely to your plans for your kids. Enjoy the evolution of their own person – watching and supporting as they discover their talents, gifts, and passions. This is where your time is best invested. 

Organize, Loosely 

Staying organized and keeping a schedule are essential to balancing all the activities happening for the family. Shared calendars through email and mobile devices are an easy way for older family members to keep up with the important stuff, but there’s something about a good, old-fashioned calendar in the kitchen that brings simplicity to the chaos of schedules.  

This visible reminder in a shared, communal area of the home gives everyone a picture of what the week ahead will bring.  

  • Try different colors for different family members or for different activities (i.e., social events in orange, school events in blue, work events in pink, and sports events in green).  
  • Write out a month at a time, and if a week looks overly booked, check to see if anything can be moved around or pushed back to prevent conflicts. 

If you’re noticing a consistently tightly booked schedule, it may be time to re-evaluate what can be pared down or cut out. Families need room for spontaneity, time to rest, and blocks of schedule set aside to be together. Just because something can be logistically done and sounds fun doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest for the family. Leave room in the schedule for downtime. A family experiencing burn-out won’t enjoy any of the activities on the schedule after a while and may also battle issues like fighting, sickness, and exhaustion from being stretched too thin.  

The End Is Worth It 

I look back on the nights my parents sat in the stands for three separate sporting events, all within three hours, and feel grateful for the time they sacrificed. I also look back on the way they made me choose my pursuits, even when it was hard, and the way they emphasized family dinners and time together. They sacrificed, but not at the cost of our family unit. I know this wasn’t an effortless task. They faced pushback and social pressure, but the end was worth it. I know it’s worth it for our generation’s families too. 

Advice from Real Billings Families on Balancing the Busy 

the FENNO family

  • Christy – Real Estate Broker/Owner of Meridian Real Estate 
  • David – Vice President/Commercial Loan Officer at First Interstate Bank 
  • Kids: Hailey – Full-time student, Billings West High Varsity Cheerleader, Barista at City Brew 
  • Leah – Full-time student, Billings West High Junior Varsity Cheerleader, Golf Suite Attendant at Back 9 Lounge 

“I’m not quite sure if I could keep our busy lives balanced without making a daily to-do list prioritized in order of scheduled appointments/importance of items. But our (almost) nightly family dinner at home and open communication is at the very top of that daily priority list! FAMILY FIRST, ALWAYS!” - Christy  

the HARTMAN family 

  • Curtis – Process Engineer at Woods  
  • Laura - RN at St. Vincent’s  
  • Kids: Evan (10) Lego master builder, Edison (8) sports fiend, Ella (8) future teacher, Emmaline (1) just trying to keep up! 

“For me, balance means realizing the ebb and flow of how you spend your time and being OK with some things falling by the wayside, knowing you’ll get to it in time. Maybe one week, I worked on a fun project, but the house was a disaster. Next week I got the house clean but didn’t have time to cook balanced meals. It’s ok! There’s always next week!” - Laura 

The ZIEGLER Family 

  • Caitlin – Stay-at-home mom 
  • Justin – Railroad Engineer 
  • Kids: Finley (10), Anderson (7), & Evin (3) – church, jiu-jitsu, seasonal soccer, and swim 

“I try to stay balanced by not signing the family up for too many things. We have a couple year-round activities, so I will only add in one seasonal thing at a time, if that. During the summer, it's easy to want to sign the kids up for everything, but I'll choose 2-3 weeks of different things they want to do and keep the rest open for regular play or rest because the summer tends to get busy on its own.” – Caitlin

Originally printed in the August 2022 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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