Why I Loved My Do-Nothing Week With My Family

by Wendy Wisner
family time doing nothing
Wendy Wisner

This past week was the mid-winter break, and we were all home. There were a couple days of snow, temperatures below freezing, and for two days, the car was in the shop. We got out to the movies once and to an indoor play gym, but for most of it, we were stuck at home.

There was probably a bit more TV watching than there should have been.

Wendy Wisner

We did a couple of science experiments, all of which involved cornstarch and dish soap.

Wendy Wisner

And some brownie-making, and brownie-batter-licking.

Wendy Wisner

But if you asked what we did all week, I would have said, “Umm, nothing.”

Can I tell you how much I loved it? This week of nothing, of family time, was one of my favorite “vacations.” On my Facebook feed were pictures of families in tropical places, enjoying the sun and the outdoors, and although I was definitely envious, I really liked being homebound with my family.

A couple of times, I noticed myself feeling critical. I wondered if I should have taken advantage of this rare time we all had together with few obligations and plans. Should we have taken the kids to a museum in the city, a Broadway show? Should we have done more art projects, played more board games, baked a few more batches of brownies? Should I have tried to exercise more? Should I have written more? What could I do to give this precious time together more meaning?

Then, I let those thoughts go. And I let the days go, but I sunk myself into them. The baby playing cars on the floor (he’s currently obsessed), the big boy rereading every book in the house (he’s a certified bookworm). All of us laughing and tickling each other on the bed. My husband and I staying up “late,” catching up on Girls and The Mindy Project.

Wendy Wisner

Seriously, what more is there than this? Being together with the people I love most, that’s all there is in this world, really.

But there is this pressure in our culture right now to do with your kids, to have something to show for your time together. Should we blame Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest? Should we blame the media? The Mommy Wars? Each other? I don’t know. But the pressure is there.

I feel it when my son tells me he doesn’t want to continue with Little League, or basketball, or piano lessons, and when he says he’d like to come home after school each day and just do nothing, and I wonder if I should make him “do something.” I feel the need to say, “Well, that’s fine, but it would be good for you to have something outside of school, a passion, something to try.”

Does he really need to add anything to his schedule of school and home? Does this boy, this 8-year-old child—whose passions range from reading to book-writing to video-game-creating to hula-hoopingdoes he really need to do anything else but be himself?

Let himlet ushave as much goddamn nothing as we want. Let us be ourselves. Let us seek out the other stuff when we want it, when we’re ready. I think we could all use a whole lot less doing, and a whole lot more being.

And faith. Faith that life is full enough on its own and that we have no one to impress. Despite how it feels, no one is watching us as much as we are watching ourselves. No one can tell us what we need or how we should fill our days. Only we can. We have that power. Let’s use it for happiness, for enjoying the most ordinary of our days, for family time. Life is shorter than we realize. It makes no sense to live it any other way than with authenticity and in the simple presence of the ones we love.

So, I give you permission to do nothing, as a parent, as a family, as a person. Just be therewith yourself, with each otherand the rest will come together on its own.

Wendy Wisner