Family Work Day

Our yard was in pretty bad shape. It was to the point that the kids could play safari in our unruly grass without stretching their imaginations too far. The flowerbeds hosted a wide variety of unwanted wild plant life, and my four-year-old daughter was convinced that dandelions were the most beautiful type of flower in the world.

My wife and I set a Saturday aside to put the yard back together. We planned on devoting the whole day to fixing up the place. But our children had other plans. One of our rambunctious sons fell out of a tree, and my wife ended up taking him to the hospital to get stitches. After she left, I discovered a freshly painted masterpiece covering the walls of our entryway, and I spent the rest of the day inside, watching the kids very closely.

That evening we vented some of our frustrations to our new neighbor, Susan. When we had finished recounting all of our childrearing woes, Susan told us about family work days. Once a month, all of the members of her extended family who lived within driving distance would meet at one family's house and help them with a project. Someone would be assigned to watch the kids who weren't old enough to help, while everyone else worked on the project until it was finished. Time with extended family, work without distraction, completed projects in just a few hours? It sounded pretty good to me.

As soon as we got the kids to bed, my wife and I called all of the family we had living nearby. The next week, they flocked to our home with their rakes and shovels. We spent the afternoon attacking my jungle of a yard. When we had finished, I could barely believe that the neat lawn and trim flower beds had been ruthless vegetation a scant four hours earlier.

Since that day, we've had a family work day at a given relative's house every month. We've conquered all sorts of projects together. We have poured concrete, planted gardens, painted houses, laid sod, installed hardwood floors, raked leaves, and hung Christmas lights. If there was ever a time when the family didn't have a particular project, we all pitched in to give their house a good, thorough cleaning.

If you don't have family that lives nearby, try organizing a neighborhood work day instead. Ask around to find out who might be interested. My guess is that there are plenty of people who have projects they’d love to get help with.

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