A few weekends ago, I was awoken at 7:30 a.m. by my 13-month-old, who shares a room with us. We then eased into our day of no plans whatsoever — other than, you know, getting coffee brewing as quickly as possible.
My kids and I had a lovely morning filled with scrambled eggs and bacon, and we even watched a family movie cuddled up on the couch — all before lunchtime. Once the movie ended, though, I made what was probably the worst move: I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through Facebook. It was only 11 a.m., and yet so many of my friends had managed to get out and about with their kids already. And, of course, they had posted the most beautiful pictures of them all — doing fun activities out in the world as a family. It’s things like this that really mess with my mom brain.
I sprung off the couch and went into full-on parent-panic mode.
I hadn’t planned anything for that weekend and was pretty sold on the idea of just chilling after a busy week full of transitions, but those other parents’ posts had me questioning my judgment. I started Googling “what to do this weekend with kids” and trying to pull up something that would satisfy all of us, which is no easy feat. After a few minutes, I narrowed down my search and found a few things to present to my family that I thought they could all get excited about. Instead, I was met with resistance.
“Do we have to?” My 9-year-old son asked.
That response jolted me: Was he really saying no to a fun out-of-the-house activity? Meanwhile, my husband had his headphones on and was listening to his music at top volume. I could tell he was content right there on the couch too.
“No, we don’t have to,” I responded. “What do you want to do instead?”
“Nothing,” was my son’s very quick response.
Really? I started thinking more about this whole “doing nothing” thing. The truth is that I am also perfectly content “doing nothing.” The problem wasn’t me or my kids or our hopes for a lazy weekend; it was the pressure that I felt (or imagined I felt?) from other parents — and other parents’ social media accounts — to get out there and be active and get things accomplished. But after an over-scheduled week of work and school and homework and activities and running to the bus stop, I was completely wiped out. I realized my kids were too.
So we started doing things differently on the weekends. And by “doing things” I mean… doing nothing.
Sure, we’ll maybe grab breakfast or wander to the park — but none of it is planned, and it’s all only if we feel like leaving the house. And you know what? We don’t always feel like it. So far, this has liberated my entire family.
I was so used to approaching each weekend with a “pack it all in” attitude that I could see a huge shift in all of us when we embraced doing nothing. With the pressure for an action-packed weekend gone, we are all more relaxed.
Dr. Barbara Greenberg, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, frequently works with over-scheduled kids and their exhausted parents. She often suggests parents choose to keep their weekends calm — and let everyone have unscheduled “chill” time. “I am a fan of this because learning how to use free time is an important skill,” she explains. “Kids need to learn to relax and self-soothe. Unfortunately, the current group of kids coming of age are often lacking this life skill,” Greenberg adds.
In this completely exhausting, overworked, overplanned, overbooked, over-everything world we live in, it honestly never occurred to me that — just like my infant daughter is slowly learning how to self-soothe and relax herself to sleep at night — older kids need to keep strengthening their relaxation skills in their own way. After all, how else will they know how to decompress as adults? By ending the busy week with a “doing nothing” weekend, we aren’t only experiencing stress relief as a family; my kids are also learning how to relax in a healthy way.
So now, weekend after weekend, my family doesn’t schedule anything at all. And if somebody asks me about my plans, I say, “Nothing!” with a huge smile on my face.