Imagine an entire afternoon and evening to do anything you want: nap on the living room floor, read a good book, or take a bath. Sounds reminiscent of college days, right? Now throw kids into the mix. Kind of makes your heart palpitate just a little, doesn’t it?
It seems with the influx of sports-crammed schedules, homework for Kindergartners, multi-vocational parents, and a toddler social schedule that would make your head spin, families are finding themselves short-fused and worn down. Trending, though, is the addition of yet one more thing to the docket: unplugging.
Unplugging may be the best new family golden nugget in today’s stress-filled society. Typically, unplugging is used in context of removing electronics and social media for the day. The Liljeros family of Sanford takes a different approach to the concept, reserving the day as a day with no plans. After Becky, Hank and their four children, ages three through 12, attend church on Sunday, the family unplugs. The Liljeros parents schedule a no-schedule day, creating a day with no agenda for themselves or their kids.
Years ago, Becky and Hank decided they would use their Sundays to focus on family. Sunday for the Liljeros is about relationships; first with immediate family and second with friends. It’s not to say they don’t do anything on Sunday. It’s simply that the family has no pre-set plans, which “opens us to build relationships. If someone invites us to an impromptu lunch after church … we can do that,” Becky explains.
They unplug from career, school and house work for the day. “If someone wants to read a book in the middle of the living room floor and falls asleep for the afternoon, she can do that. If we’re gardening and it takes one of the kids 30 minutes to dig a hole, that’s fine. We have no agenda,” says Becky.
With the week full of private home schooling for Becky and the four kids and computer engineering for Hank, it’s easy for any family to get inundated with stress and stuff to get done. Giving them an unplugged day also reconnects and re-energizes the Liljeros. In a society where there is an ongoing need to decompress, unplugged Sundays allow for a much-needed break. Becky notes a clear sense of renewal in all of her family members. “I (also) think it helps everyone with a better aligned attitude coming into the new week,” she says.
Sometimes the couple will pick a small project to do during that day. But Becky stresses, these are projects that they both enjoy and that are not seen as a task. If it’s a task then they don’t do it. When it becomes a chore, they walk away. The kids have gotten so accustomed to the unplugged day that they have no qualms about calling their parents out when fun projects begin to creep toward the task category. The entire family protects the day.
Adding to the enjoyment of family relationships, Hank’s mom lives with the Liljeros. Each Sunday the kids rotate having a little one-on-one time with their grandmother before rejoining the family at some point in the afternoon, and certainly by dinnertime. Because the family focuses on other avenues during the week to be together, the parents don’t feel compelled to create forced-family time on Sunday. This gives the parents a sense of being off the hook and being available for whatever pops up.
Planning the Non-Schedule
Activities organically come together. Whether it’s Christ-centered discussions with Dad, game time as a family, or snuggling up with a good book, the Liljeros kids have come to expect and appreciate the consistency of this day and the family time it brings. Becky reflects that Sunday unplugged probably helps with the natural easy-goingness of her children, noting the apparent sense of safeness the kids have along with the general lack of tension in the household.
Taking one day out from the hustle and bustle and rigidity of scheduled life takes effort and intentionality. “I’m more accountable with my choices on how I spend my free time,” says Becky. The couple strives to check everything off their to-do list by the end of Saturday so there aren’t any unfinished tasks looming over their heads as they start their new week. The kids complete homework before Sunday as well. The entire family knows there are no expectations to have to do any work on Sunday.
It seems adding one more objective to a chock-full family list of priorities may be the one objective that makes every other priority easier and more enjoyable as we journey through life, opening our days to be filled more completely for relationship and renewal.