Breaking Free From Busyness
About the Guest
Remember time-outs? Have you ever wished there were time-outs for families-time away from all the to-do lists generated by our culture and more freedom to do what you really want? Recovering too-busy mom Joanne Kraft recalls the day when she and her husband decided their family was going to take a year off from all sports and extracurricular activities to spend more time together. Find out how they benefitted from a slower pace of life, and how you can do the same.
Joanne KraftJoanne Kraft is a mom of four and the author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids and Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. Joanne has been a guest on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, CBN and her articles have been published in Today’s Christian Woman, P31 Woman, In Touch, Thriving Family, Parentlife and more. Joanne and her husband, Paul, took a God-sized leap of faith and moved their family from Ca...more
Recovering too-busy mom Joanne Kraft recalls the day when she and her husband decided their family was going to take a year off from all extracurricular activities to spend more time together.
Breaking Free From Busyness
Bob: —in the center of the table. [Laughter]
Dennis: —all the stuff that fell off onto the floor, and grind up all the goods, and dump it out!
Bob: Well, we did timeouts, occasionally, as well. There were times you needed just to take a break, but I don’t know that we ever got as fully into it as our guest today did.
Dennis: I think Joanne Kraft has moved the concept of timeout to a whole new level.
Bob: Whole new level, yes.
Dennis: Joanne, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Joanne: Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
Dennis: Joanne is a self-confessed recovering too-busy mom of four, along with a slightly overweight beagle. [Laughter] She and her husband Paul live in Nashville, Tennessee, now. She has written a book called Just Too Busy; but listen to the subtitle: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. So, the timeout you’re talking about is an extended timeout.
Bob: And the idea for this takes you back to New Year’s Eve. Is that right?
Joanne: Well, actually, it goes back a few months before that. Like every good parent—we love our children passionately. I have four children. They were involved in some activities like dancing, and soccer, and baseball—whatever the season was. I realized when I was backing my car out of the garage for what felt like the 50th time that day, I thought, “Boy, are my neighbors watching this?”
So, it was New Year’s Eve; and I was at my girlfriend’s house. We’d been invited over to our friend’s house; and they had four kids, too. I thought, “Well heck, yeah, I’ll go mess up your house. That works for me.” [Laughter] We went over; and the kids ran off together to play, and our husbands went and watched a basketball game, and my girlfriend and I started playing a game that I call “Busy Mom Poker”. What that is—is we start sharing all that we’re doing, and we start one-upping each other. [Laughter]
Bob: “I can trump you on that;” yes.
Joanne: I won, by the way. [Laughter] She said, offhandedly—she said, “What if we took a year off this year and did nothing?” I said, “What if we did take a year off and did nothing?” About that time, our husbands came into the room. As wives do sometimes, we sabotaged ours with some questions. My girlfriend, Kim, said to her husband, “Hey, what if we took a year off and did nothing?”
He said, “The kids are involved in this and that. I just don’t think that’s a good idea.” I told my husband, “Hey, what do you think about us taking a year off?” I said, “I feel kind of like a third-world taxi driver; you know?” My husband said, “When do we start?” I thought, “Uh-oh.” My girlfriend looked at me like, “Here we go. You opened your mouth.” I said, “Okay, we start tomorrow. It’s New Year’s Day.”
Dennis: Did your girlfriend also take a year?
Joanne: No, she did not. She watched me take a year. [Laughter]
Bob: So, without talking with the kids, without any forethought, really, on your part, it was just, “Let’s dive into the deep end of the pool and see if we can swim.”
Joanne: Yes, that’s exactly what it was. Well, as we drove home that night, I kind of prayed that unprayer, where you kind of pray that everybody forgot what you just said. [Laughter] The next morning, when we got up—New Year’s Day, in our home, as a family—it’s a little more special. We try and make it a little more special. We have a family devotion, and we really kind of talk about our goals for the year. We have a big breakfast. That’s when we sprung it on the kids.
Dennis: Now, you have to give us a definition of “nothing” because doing nothing could mean all kinds of things to moms who are listening in right now. How would you define that?
Joanne: Well, how we defined it was—my husband and I discussed this. How we defined it was, “Anything that I had to drive my kids to—
Joanne: —we didn’t do;” right.
Dennis: So, anything around the home—
Bob: Now wait. Did they go to school?
Joanne: [Laughter] They did go to school, but we were close enough they could walk.
Bob: Okay. [Laughter]
Joanne: But anything—really, any outside activity that would take Mom out of the home/the kids out of the home—we decided to take a break from.
Bob: So, school-related extracurricular activities were okay or not?
Joanne: Well, these were the rules we made in our home. Grace was in choir at school, and her practices were after school. We allowed that to stay because I didn’t have to drive her there, and she had friends.
Dennis: Right, right.
Joanne: But anything that drew me away—anything that took Mom and the kids out of the house—three times a week, or whatever it was—we decided to take a 12-month timeout.
Bob: So when you sat down on New Year’s Day and said, “Hey kids! We came up with a great idea!” Tell me how that went over.
Joanne: Well, this is where, sometimes, not being a very good follow-through parent worked—the only time, in my favor—because they thought, “Oh, Mom’s lost her mind. We don’t believe you.”
Bob: Yes, “She’ll never do this.”
Dennis: Well, I read the letter that hopefully we’ll get a chance to share a little later on from your oldest daughter. She just thought you were going through a phase, “Mom’s just going through a phase. She’ll get over it.”
Joanne: Yes, that’s exactly true. We weren’t, and we didn’t. We stuck to it.
Bob: Why do you think you stuck to it?
Joanne: Well, you know, I think just understanding that life is short. My mom had passed away a few years before. It really got me to thinking, “What are those important things that I want my children—what valuable, eternal things—what is going to last? What mark is my family making together?” I wanted our relationships to grow, and I wasn’t seeing that a lot of the distractions were drawing us closer.
I love watching my kids in sports. I’m not trying to demonize activities—not at all. I find huge value in kids in sports, in dancing, and that kind of thing. I definitely do.
Bob: Sure. Sure.
Joanne: But when it starts to take away from family, when I’m spending more time driving from function to function—and not spending time around that table, at night—well then, something has to change.
When I was out of the home so much in the evenings—even, for a good thing—good is the enemy of the best, really. When I was out of the home, I was realizing, “Oh, this isn’t good. I’m buying fast food. I’m firing cheeseburgers in the back seat instead of having lasagna or having a family meal.”
Dennis: So what was the number one takeaway at the end of the year? Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 12 months later. What was the essence of what your family gained from that year?
Joanne: We drew closer. Our relationships are deeper. We fight for time together now. We see it differently.
Dennis: So the sabbatical is over now.
Joanne: The sabbatical is over.
Dennis: Will you ever do it again?
Joanne: If it ever gets to the point where I think it’s drawing me away from my family, where life is taking me away from my family, yes.
Bob: In Chapter Three of your book, you list what were the ten tell-tale signs. Go ahead and open that because I think you ought to read, to our listeners, how you could look and tell them—
Dennis: —if you’re too busy.
Bob: “This is how I knew I was too busy”; alright? —kind of a Jeff Foxworthy—[Speaking with Jeff’s accent] “You might be too busy if...” —that kind of thing.
Joanne: My ten tell-tale signs were: First one—I go down from ten to one. So, number 10 was: “It was official. I was a marathon runner.” I don’t run. [Laughter] Unless a bear is chasing me, I don’t run. I realized my kids were runners. They were running, right alongside me. I didn’t want that. It started from the morning—I got up, making sandwiches—and some of it is just life—and I understand that.
Joanne: But I added to that. It became, now, really, like bondage. It was bondage of busyness.
Bob: There was no Selah in your day—no rest—no moment to just gather your thoughts.
Dennis: I think it can be an addiction. You’re kind of referring to it as that. It can be an activity addiction that people get—where it’s easy to be busy and not have to deal with the relationships and go deeper with your children, with your spouse, and as a family.
Joanne: That’s exactly right. I read an article from—it was, actually, an addiction specialist.
I put the quote in the book because I was floored when he said that, “Stress is a reward to the brain.” Busyness is stressful; stress is a part of busyness—it really is, and that’s addictive. I thought, “Wow! Well, am I addicted to this chaos—am I—is that— because am I finding my value there, as a mom?”
We speak in the language of busy. I realize—when I go to the grocery store, and I see women—they come up to me and we start talking—girlfriends—and immediately we start talking about how busy we are. It has become a universal epidemic, and we don’t even realize it because we start sharing what we’re doing, doing, doing.
Bob: So you recognized, first of all, that you were, you said, a marathon runner. You were on the go from the time you got up until the time you went to bed, every day.
Joanne: It felt like that.
Bob: What else?
Joanne: Number nine, I have: “Mykids thought all meals came with a side of fries.” [Laughter]
Joanne: Because the more you’re away from home—it’s just the nature of how it is. You don’t have time.
Dennis: In the drive-through.
Joanne: In the drive-through. You are there. It was easier for me to speak into a clown’s head and get a bag of food. [Laughter]
Bob: Family dinner wasn’t happening at your house. Is that right?
Joanne: It was not.
Dennis: Number eight.
Joanne: Number eight would be: “My minivan was running on fumes.” I was tired. I was really tired. I mean, it’s tiring enough to raise a family. Any good parent is tired, but I was really tired. When you start to go, “Well, I’m so tired I don’t even want to get up the next morning,” —when you start to dread those days—or when I start to look at my calendar and say, “I’m wishing away time.” I’m looking at the calendar and going, “Hey, Sweetie,” —I’m telling my husband, “If we can just get through next Thursday. If we can just get through....” That’s not how we should live. God gave us that eternal—time is His gift to us, and I didn’t want to waste it.
Bob: Okay, that’s number eight. Number seven?
Joanne: —would be: “Something unspeakable was growing in my shower.” [Laughter]
Bob: There were some basic tasks around the house that weren’t getting attended to.
Joanne: Not at all! No, unfortunately. House chores were definitely falling to the wayside. If mine were falling to the wayside, the kids weren’t getting theirs done. It wasn’t a sweet sanctuary spot for my husband to come home to. It wasn’t.
Dennis: Yes, we get that.
Joanne: Number six would be: “Be afraid. Be very afraid because, when Momma was stressed, Momma was not nice all the time.”
Dennis: When Momma ain’t happy—
Bob: —ain’t nobody happy.
Joanne: —ain’t nobody happy.
Dennis: —ain’t nobody happy, in this family.
Joanne: That’s exactly it. Number five, I have: “Chopsticks on our back deck was a romantic night out for us.” What I mean by that was—my daughter, Grace—practicing the saxophone or something—that was like our date night. We weren’t taking time for ourselves.
Bob: Oh, you weren’t talking about Chinese food, out on the back deck. That was sounding okay to me. You were talking about the kids playing piano. You were not getting any husband-time.
Joanne: No, no, because the kids were—your calendar was so packed. There wasn’t time.
Dennis: For Barbara and me—a date night on Sunday night. I’m convinced—if we hadn’t had that, once a week—we didn’t hit all four out of four in a month;
but we’d hit four out of five, or three out of four in a month—it was what kept us on the same page—raising our kids, and in our marriage, and staying up-to-date in each other’s lives. It’s easy to allow the kids’ schedules to crowd out those date nights and not pay attention to your marriage.
Joanne: That’s exactly right. I think any good man—any good godly man—is not going to say to his wife, “Hey, you know what? Don’t take the kids there today,” or, “We’re not going to take little Johnny here.” Any good, godly man is going to put the kids first. So, now, you have both of them—both the husband and the wife—putting children first. We did the same thing.
Bob: When that happens, the home becomes a child-centered home. That’s not good for anybody.
Joanne: No. And number four I have: “Parent guilt—my wallet’s worst nightmare.”
Dennis: Uh-huh. Oh, yes. We can all fill in the blank for that.
Dennis: Feeling guilty for not doing this, not doing that—so you overdose or indulge them with another activity or going to Chuck E Cheese®.
Joanne: That’s right. I felt bad. I felt bad about not having—oh, maybe, I don’t feel good about not having dinner around my table—so, “Okay, sure. I’ll get you this.” I joke in here, when I go to the store, it’s like, “Oh, you want a Barbie? Sure.” —“Large farm animal? Alright, I’ll bring it. Sure.”
Bob: This is how Samuel got the TV in his room now; right?
Joanne: Oh, this was a guilt trip! I’ll tell you. Oh, wow!
Dennis: No, you have to stop and tell us about this. We were together, before we came into the studio, and your older kids were—they were whining!
Joanne: Here’s a lesson: “Don’t bring your children to a FamilyLife interview.” [Laughter] That’s my biggest tip. [Laughter]
Joanne: I’ll tell you. This is what happened. I am a huge proponent—you don’t have a TV in your kids’ room, period. You just don’t. What he has there is—he has the ability to play videos on a television that I got from Goodwill. It’s not like he has access to—
Bob: He’s got a second-class TV.
Joanne: Yes. He’s not watching Jimmy Kimmel; okay?
Dennis: You feel strongly about this because you’ve only pounded the table ten times.
Joanne: Well, yes. It’s nice to have your kids come share your Mom-guilt, and expose it.
Bob: Number three.
Joanne: Number three would be: “Chaos was my closest friend.” I think that kind of gets tied up with our stress. I had a girlfriend once who called me; and she said, “Hey, my husband isn’t coming home a lot at night.” He was a good man. I said, “Why is he working so much?” I went over to talk to her, at her house. We started talking. I stepped one foot in her house, and the chaos in that home was incredible.
It was incredible! You could feel it. It was clutter and chaos. We cleaned up the house. We started talking about some things. Once there was less chaos in her home, guess who came home more often? Her husband did. Chaos became my closest friend because you get used to the drama. We all have friends like that. We’re like, “Oh, gosh, there’s so much drama!”
Joanne: You get used to living like that. I didn’t want that. That was another one on my list.
Dennis: That becomes the norm, so when you don’t have chaos, it’s like, “Let’s create some.”
Dennis: It’s easy to do that in this culture today.
Joanne: And you find value in it because you think, “Look how busy and chaotic my life is. Surely, I’m...”People get confused, I think. I think parents are confused in thinking this is almost something that is a benefit, and it’s not.
Then, I had number two, which was: “Humming Jesus, Take the Wheel, on the way to a Girl Scout meeting, counted as my Bible time in the morning.” [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s creative.
Joanne: Yes. That doesn’t count.
Bob: All you had time for, right, was a little Carrie Underwood?
Dennis: That’s your Quiet Time, huh?
Joanne: Yes, and just for the record—that is not Quiet Time.
Dennis: No, it’s not.
Bob: You had to be in a place where there was just some spiritual dryness because of what you weren’t carving out time for.
Joanne: That’s right. You make excuses for it because you say, “Surely God gave me these children. He understands.” He does, but you know what? You need that time. You need that oxygen. You need the Word. You need to be in the Word. When your life is like this, you’re not; and then you have these excuses. Women will pat each other on the back and go, “That’s a good excuse. I understand.”
That’s not a good excuse. I can take it one step further. I was humming, Jesus, Take the Wheel. That was mine. [Laughter]
Dennis: Is number one the most important of these ten?
Joanne: Oh, most definitely. Number one can make me cry because number one was: “I blinked, and my daughter was 17. Our kids grow up. I can’t tell you how tired I was, when my kids were little, of hearing people come up to me and say, “Oh, enjoy this. They grow up so fast.” I thought, “Oh, put a sock in it, lady! I smell like spit-up.” You know? [Laughter]
But when my daughter walked out her bedroom door, with her keys—really? It goes so fast! It goes so fast. That was another reason I thought, “We’ve got to take this time. We have to. There’s not even an option here. We have to.”
Dennis: Yes. Whether you’re a mom or a dad—we’re following right in this, with you. We raised six.
It was over in a blink. It’s like, “Really?” We lived right where you lived. We had a lot going on in our kids’ lives, our lives—our family. A passage of Scripture really was, I think, used by God, in our lives, on a number of occasions to kind of create a schedule alignment and a spiritual wheel alignment at the same time.
Paul wrote in Ephesians, Chapter 5, verse 15—he said, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” I think it was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
I think an unexamined schedule—in a family that’s raising a brood of kids—can easily fall off into the ditch and become a real problem.
This is where Mom and Dad, husband and wife, lovers and friends, have to get together on a date and have to say, “Enough, already. How do we bring this chaos under some degree of direction, and control, and boundaries in our lives?” because if you don’t, as parents, the kids will.
Bob: Your time is just like your money, in one regard; that is, you’re deciding how you’re going to invest it and what the return is going to be.
Dennis: And you invest your money and your time in what’s valuable. So, your schedule—as you look at your calendar—is a statement of your values. Now, place your bets. Do you want—and I don’t think you have to pit them against each other necessarily—but you can’t sacrifice relationships on the altar of activities, and sports, and achievement, and constantly being on the go.
Personally, I’m a little concerned for this generation of young families that are growing up today because I believe the comparison that they have with one another is forcing them to new levels of performance. If they’re not careful, they’re not just going to run the wheels off on their cars, they’re going to run the wheels off on their family, their marriage, and have a true disaster.
Bob: It may not be that everybody, who is listening today, is going to do what you did, Joanne, and call a year-long timeout for the family and cut out all of the extracurriculars. I think the point is—you need to look at what you are spending your time on because time is one of the assets that you have. It’s a limited asset, and you want to make sure that it’s prioritized properly: “Where is your relationship with God in how you spend your time? Where is your relationship together, as a family, in how you spend your time? What kinds of values are we promoting by the choices we’re making with our time?”
I think it would be helpful for moms to read a copy of your book, Just Too Busy—and read about what you guys did, and why you did it, and then do some evaluation—have some conversation together, as a husband and wife, about, “How we are doing in this area?” We have copies of the book, Just Too Busy in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how you can get a copy of the book. Again, it’s called Just Too Busy. The website is: FamilyLifeToday.com.
If you decide to take a timeout from some of the extracurriculars you have going on, you might want to look at some of the resources we have to promote family time—like the Just Add Family resource that Kurt and Olivia Bruner put together for us. It has family nights you can do together to emphasize spiritual truths in your family.
Or look at the collection of devotionals that Barbara Rainey has written to be read aloud, as a family: the devotional on gratitude—the one on truth—there’s one on forgiveness—and one on courage.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for information, not only about Joanne’s book, but about these other resources as well. Or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, our goal, here at FamilyLife Today, is to try to engage you, each day, in the kinds of conversations that get all of us thinking about our priorities—about what’s most important in our lives, about how we can love and serve one another in our families—but all of that in the broader context of how we can honor and glorify God in all that we do. In fact, our mission statement is: “To effectively develop godly marriages and families, who change the world, one home at a time.” We’re grateful for those of you who share this burden with us.
You agree with us that marriage and family relationships are at the center of God’s plan for us, as His creatures; and we need to be as committed to marriage and family as God is.
I just want to take a minute and say, “Thank you,” to those of you who show your support for all that we’re doing, here at FamilyLife Today,through your financial giving. More than 65 percent of the funds we need to operate this ministry come from folks, like you. You help cover the costs of producing and syndicating this daily radio program as it’s distributed on our network of stations, all around the country, and in other parts of the world as well. And of course, it’s available online and via our mobile apps.
Thank you for helping to make all of that possible through your support of FamilyLife Today. You can make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Just click the link in the upper right-hand corner of our home page that says, “I CARE.” Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone.
And if you’d like to mail in your donation, our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. And we’re grateful, again, for your financial support of this ministry.
And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to hear from Joanne Kraft about some of the family field trips that the Kraft family took during their year-long radical sabbatical. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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