As Elizabeth Rees drove her daughter and two of her daughter’s friends to a library reading group recently, the Alexandria mother of three admits that she felt like a chauffeur at first. But she had a change of heart after hearing sounds of laughter.
"They were giggling and so sweet in the back, " said Rees, the associate rector at Saint Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria. "Suddenly that moment of grace turned it all around and I felt privileged to be there. I think that sort of thing happens all the time if only we are paying attention."
What are the keys to paying attention and creating a happier family life? Experts say it’s important to stop trying to do everything 100 percent and make other things a priority. They offer their top tips for creating balance.
"With three young kids, a two-career marriage and way too many activities, I find this balance as hard as everyone else and am absolutely preaching to myself, " said Rees.
EXPERTS SAY living in a competitive area like the Washington, D.C., region can make creating balance even more challenging. "I see children who are stressed to always be the best, " said Dr. Bruce Pfeffer, a Potomac, Md.-based child psychiatrist.
Parents play a critical role in helping children create a healthy balance of work and play, he added, explaining that "parents must serve as rudders to guide their children [toward the] peace of mind that comes with a supportive home environment, emphasis on gaining joy in life, along with appropriate goals and achieving."
Michael Moynihan, head of the Upper School at The Heights School in Potomac, Md., agrees. "The most significant obstacles to harmonious family life today are over scheduling and over connectedness … resulting in families that are pulled in many different directions for activities, and when they have those brief moments together, are often plugged into various electronic devices, " he said.
Make finding uninterrupted family time a priority. "The solution is to schedule family time such as meals together — without electronic devices — and to protect this time from other activities, " said Moynihan.