We are learning a lot about the health of our family these days. I thought I would take a minute to share, and also invite you, the reader, to share your ideas with us.
I know the reality of "family health" will be ever evolving as we walk through various stages of life. The two most obvious factors for us to consider currently are our marriage, and having young children. The best marriage advice I've received is this: Marriage is a living organism. It must be nurtured in order to survive/thrive. I'm most interested in my marriage thriving.
Our transition to a new culture, new jobs, new child on the way, etc. has lead to a few changes in our regular routines. Eric and I are certainly not experts, but we are faithfully and prayerfully trying. One of our biggest adjustments (as I imagine would be the biggest adjustment for any family in a big move) has been learning the rhythms and patterns of a new job. And in our case, one of us (me) not having a job for the first time ever. Eric's job as a barista has planned, scheduled hours. This is easy to work with. But our jobs as missionaries are different. As a little side note, we see our missionary work as team work. We are both committed, we keep each other informed, we brainstorm and pray together. We value one another's opinions, viewpoints, and perception of this world. But on a very practical level, Eric does a lot more "work" than I do. During this stage of life, I'm home with Justice. Eric schedules meetings in the community nearly every day, and the bulk of what society perceives as "work" falls on Eric's shoulders to carry out.
This balance of work (as missionary) and home is a new one for us to navigate. How do we remain faithful both to our work, and to our family when we don't have scheduled "hours." And when community events and church celebrations often fall on Saturdays and Sundays. If we forget to make our family just as much a priority as our work, this balance is very easily tipped. It's easy to work 7 days/week. When Eric is scheduling meetings with community leaders, he schedules them during daytime hours. But when he's attending public meetings like those for Habitat of Humanity, they are in the evening. If we're not paying attention, our schedules are full. I imagine you can live like this for awhile. After all, we're doing Kingdom work, right? Isn't "God's work" most important?
We believe our marriage, and our family, are also God's work. Even more, we believe our marriage and our family are no less important than "professional work." In fact, modeling for those around us what it means to be healthy as a family is an intricate part of our work in the community. When we sit down to collaborate our calendars each week, we schedule family time. Most of the time, it's scheduling a trip to the beach because we know our girl will love it. If possible, before we schedule the week's meetings and appointments, we block out a chunk of family time. Because of the barista job, this isn't on a consistent day. It's unfortunate, but it's doable. We also have created a standing date-night for the two of us. Sometimes the days are long and the weeks are longer. Sometimes I just want to sleep. But our date nights are important. Oh, so incredibly important.
One other thing I haven't mentioned yet is the necessity for individual time. Ironic, because I'm using mine right now :) We know that for our individual health we need a few minutes each week to be alone. It looks different for each of us. Sometimes I want to go for a long walk. Today, I want to sit at a coffee shop with my computer and a journal. Eric often times wants a book and music. Or sometimes he wants to surf. Because we understand how renewing this time is for ourselves, we are generous in creating that time for the other.
So how does this all come together? I guess I've outlined three things we do every week to create a healthy balance for us. Family fun, date nights, and individual time. God doesn't want us to burn out, and we don't want to either! I'm curious to know what others are doing? What boundaries are particularly helpful for your family to remain healthy? What activities have made your "top 5" list? As our girl grows, and as our family grows numerically, what others will become necessities? One I foresee in the not-too-distant-future are date-times with our daughter. As Justice becomes a big sister, and also as she grows as a person, she will need these times too. She will need family fun time, she will need Daddy-Justice time, and she will need Mama-Justice time. I don't know what that will look like, but I know it will be important. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!