Every aspect of suburban life in America tries to drive families apart.
I don’t know how we got here. I’m no historian, ethnographer or financial expert. I’m sure there are people in stuffy academic offices that can explain how all this came to be.
I suspect that it can be summed up in words like “greed”.
Words like “control”.
Everyone Wants a Share
Family life in America is a ripe clump of grapes. The picking is good and every aspect of our culture wants a share.
Your job, the school system, your house, your church and even your car all have their fingers reaching in to pluck your family life away.
As the owner of the vineyard what are you left with to enjoy?
Work is necessary. Work is good.
Americans work longer hours and take less time off than other countries.
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Where does our work life leave time for family?
Per week our kids spend (approximately, on average)
- 33 hours in school (for 180 days a year)
- 17.5 hours on homework
- 5 hours in organized after-school activities
Our school kids have 55 hours of…stuff…every week?
And weekends? Back to the school campus for soccer, track, or debate practice. Or out to volunteer in the community not because you want to “give back” but rather to fill in the blanks on a college application.
Two cars with a parent and kids in each. Communicating by cell phone. Is this the “quality time” you dreamt of when you decided to have a family?
Think you can take your kids out of school for a vacation to get a break from all that?
If your kids exceed the allowed “unexcused absences” at school you may find yourself in ankle shackles talking to a judge.
The public school system is intent on providing the entire agenda for the American family for any given week.
Even worse? We have allowed our school systems to usurp our rights as parents.
So you manage to be off work, have the homework done, and not be on the hook for attending another game.
What do you get to do?
Mow the lawn. Clean out the garage. Paint a bedroom. Landscape the yard.
Home ownership - part of the American Dream, right? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? Why is home ownership so…dreamy?
Could be it that government and banks wanted your money so developed marketing materials to reinforce that “Home Ownership is the American Dream” message?
We have a word for that - it’s called propaganda.
Look around your house. Think about the time you have spent working on it. Was that a ‘stay at home’ vacation you just took to finish the landscaping? Adults spend an extra 9-17 hours per week doing housework.
And the money. Oh the money.
Not just the mortgage. The insurance. The taxes. But also the new furnace, roof, hot water heater, front door lock, carpet, p-traps, toilets, windows, garage door, mailbox, bathroom fan, kitchen lights or any other piece or part you’ve replaced.
Have you ever dreamt about family life without the demands of a house?
I see those raised eyebrows. Surely church is “family-friendly” ?
Yes - church can teach foundational aspects of good personal and family relationships.
But have you ever considered how you make an effort to get to church as a family only to arrive and go in six different directions?
- Children get taken out of the main service for “kids church”.
- After the service you check your kids into an “age-appropriate” Sunday School class.
- Teens go off to attend a Youth Group.
- You go to a room filled with other adults.
- Like a family creating an emergency plan you have to define a “gathering point” so you can all find each other when it’s time to go home.
Now factor in time spent volunteering - sound crew, making coffee, deacon, elder, cleanup.
How much time did you spend together as a family at church this week?
How much time were you able to be the church as a family this week?
Well - at least you were all in the car together coming and going. That’s sacred family time, right?
Not any more.
Technology has invaded this space. In-car wifi is now a thing. DVD players have been factory options for years.
Time spent in a moving vehicle is seen as a void which needs filling. We can’t count the number of vehicles that pass us with passengers staring at a screen.
Self-driving cars are seen as a way to recover some of that “wasted time”.
Own Your Days
What to do?
Choose yourself. Choose to own your days. Choose to say no to overly-demanding jobs. Take your children back from public school systems. Wake up from the “dream” of home ownership. Find ways to live as Christians without the demands of institutional church.
Be a family. Together.
We call it “Ditching Suburbia”.
We’ve done it. Other families are doing it. They are a lot like you.