Tiny Commitments: A Daily Dad Schedule

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been noticing the tendency in myself to easily make time for a quick phone call or email during my day if it’s work related, but a reluctance to be able to fit in some of the more important things every day, such as really connecting with my wife and children one-on-one.

It might be a guy thing, or maybe it’s just me, but I can often devote an hour to reading something of interest to me professionally, but have a hard time stopping to get down on the ground and rough-house with the kids.

My priorities needed to change – sure, work is important, but if I’m not close to my family, it’s for nothing, as I truly see my family as the greatest value in my life.

Our family has been working on the idea of ‘family dates’, where my oldest daughter will go somewhere just with mama, and our younger will do something with me, or the other way around. That’s been good, but they haven’t happened often enough to be a regular thing. I’d like to make connecting with each member of my family a regular daily item.

We’re good at making bigger plans – next week we go to this event, or next month we’ll do this family activity, but those types of plans don’t happen frequently enough for us, or we think that we’ll get some good family when it happens and we don’t focus on it in the mean-time.

Making Tiny Commitments

I realize that it’s so easy for me to be schedule-oriented when it comes to work commitments, so I am beginning to actually schedule some tiny daily commitments to my favorite people, so that it happens. I’m making a note on my daily scheduler (Google Calendar) for each of my kids and for my wife, with a reminder to do something meaningful with them each day. It doesn’t have to be a regularly scheduled time each day, as my day is flexible, but it may evolve into that.

The types of things we do together can be whatever they may want to do with me – as long as I’m dedicated to spending that time with them, we can do just about anything, so that they are really in control of the time with me.

My tiny commitments are separate from any of my other regular household commitments, such as washing clothes or dishes, and I’m starting small – 15 minutes. It’s only a quarter of an hour, but it is a quarter of an hour when I am completely present with them – no phone, no interruptions, no thinking about the rest of my day. And I’m finding that I need it as much as they do – it fills me up so that I can go on with my day with a light heart.

Keep it Simple and Spontaneous

Recently I spent some great one-on-one time with my 4YO, and she led the whole thing. We got down close to the ground and spent a long time just examining all the different dried seed pods and flowers that grew in a tiny area. We then stuck them like velcro onto my wool sweater, and talked about the seed connection between animals and plants, and how seeds will hitchhike with us. I know that I learned as much from her as she did from me, and came away with a whole new appreciation for things that I take for granted – the seeds of native plants and weeds in my neighborhood. And our whole ‘date’ was under a half hour long.

If you know that you often go a week without spending any really dedicated time with your kids or your wife, make some tiny daily commitments to them.

You’ll not only make them happy, but your life will get recharged by them as well.

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

8 thoughts on “Tiny Commitments: A Daily Dad Schedule

  • Great post Derek. One wonderful thing is that a good 15 minutes with a young child can be a ‘long’ time for their attention span. I’d not try a 15 minute date with a partner though…

    • Derek Markham

      Haha – yeah, 15 minutes isn’t much for an adult, but it’s a starting point for me. We really have to work for it to have ‘mama and papa only’ time, with 3 kids in the family.

  • Derek,

    I just found your blog – and this is an awesome post. I work out of the house, while raising my 4 boys! Too often I find myself caught up in the work and not enough in the adventures happening all around me.

    I find that when I follow the advice from David Allen (Author: Getting Things Done) and Tim Ferris (Author: 4-Hour Work Week) of NOT starting my day with email, then I am not only more centered and balanced, but more able to focus on my family instead of just work.

    Thanks for the reminder. I am going to go and play with my kids now.
    .-= Will´s last blog ..BPA Free Bottles – Why It Is Important To Use BPA Free Bottles =-.

    • Derek Markham

      Will –

      Thanks for your kind words! You’re absolutely right on the email – for me it’s a ‘black hole’ experience, and hard to get back to actual productive work once I’ve opened my mail.


  • Yes, yes, BTDT with the challenge of mama and papa time. It does get easier as they grow, but you still have to make a date in the schedule – life is busy. There’s always something else needing done, but what’s the point if we don’t have time to enjoy the people who matter to us?

  • Working from home makes it so easy to mistake being near the family with being with the family. My 4YO woke up a little groggy this morning and spent about 20 minutes snuggling with me while I was on a phone call. It was a beautiful experience, and far better than phone calls I ever made while working in an office. But you are right, it’s not the same as being present and attentive and it’s so important to remember to have the dedicated time too. It fills us both up and makes the days that much more joyful. Thanks for the post and insight into how you’re trying to work it in.


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