Pat Russel and daughter Winnie dance the polka at the St. Stanislaus Polish Festival in 2018. Finding time for family can be a challenge. “Family — that’s our first vocation. That’s what our focus is supposed to be,” said Kristin Burgher, a parishioner at Holy Family Parish in Southeast Portland. “It should all be serving our family and growing our family, growing our relationships, getting our kids to heaven and getting each other to heaven.” (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Pat Russel and daughter Winnie dance the polka at the St. Stanislaus Polish Festival in 2018. Finding time for family can be a challenge. “Family — that’s our first vocation. That’s what our focus is supposed to be,” said Kristin Burgher, a parishioner at Holy Family Parish in Southeast Portland. “It should all be serving our family and growing our family, growing our relationships, getting our kids to heaven and getting each other to heaven.” (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)

With four kids spreading the educational spectrum and two working parents, carving out time for each other can be difficult for the Burgher family.

“It’s been a real challenge, but it’s very important to us,” said Kristin, a physician and mom with kids at Holy Family School in Southeast Portland.

Kristin and her husband, Kirston, have four children ages 4 to 14. They joined Holy Family Parish in 2007.

“Family — that’s our first vocation. That’s what our focus is supposed to be. It should all be serving our family and growing our family, growing our relationships, getting our kids to heaven and getting each other to heaven,” she said.

The family’s daily schedule isn’t necessarily consistent. For example, there are evenings when Kristin is home for dinner and others when she is working. But the family strives to have family meals together as often as they can.

Sundays are often the only day of the week that everyone in the family is home. The day revolves around Mass. Other occasional church and family commitments are included on the day but the Burghers try not to schedule too much.

Kristin credits not having a television for limiting additional competing claims on family time.

“Too often it’s there without us assenting to it,” she said. Instead, the family is able intentionally to choose to watch a movie together rather than just having the television always around.

The Burghers try to have a bedtime story that will be appealing to multiple-aged kids each night or they listen to an audio book together as a family.

Carving out family time is difficult, especially for a family like the Burghers who have such different schedules. But they make a choice to prioritize it.

Kristin says she almost never commits to things in the evenings because she feels she already spends too many evenings away.

The Burgher family tries to add in new family practices during the church’s liturgical seasons. During Advent, they may use an Advent wreath or make Jesse trees.

“The church gives us these times that are perfect for picking up a new practice together,” said Kristin.

The Burghers are fortunate to have examples of other couples who make time for each other and God when so much of the outside world doesn’t value it.

“If you don’t see that [example], you don’t have something to aspire to,” said Kristin.

Family has to come first, said Jason Kidd, director of the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Portland. Even the secular world is picking up on that fact, he added.

The husband and father of four listed several ideas for carving out time for family.

First is making your marriage a priority.

Second is the importance of keeping Sunday as the sabbath. Relationships require time, said Kidd. Unplugging from technology and carving out time on Sundays provides an opportunity for the family to be present to each other and strengthen their identity in the Lord. 

Kidd stressed the importance of eating meals together and praying as a family. And finally, he encouraged families to go camping — get away from the chaos of life and electronics and instead sit by the campfire or go on a hike.

It goes back to prioritizing, said Kidd. He warns parents against getting sucked into the rat race of life and urges them instead to make decisions about making time for family.

Pope Francis urged parents to spend time with their children in an encounter with some faithful in 2017. The church leader praised the tradition of going to Mass as a family and then going on a family outing together.

“This is beautiful and can help us to live out the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath,” he is reported as saying.

The pope also encouraged parents to play with their kids, saying that “wasting time” with kids shows them something about God’s love.

“Parents these days … have lost the habit of playing with their children, of ‘wasting time’ with their children,” he reportedly said.

“Playing with your children, ‘wasting time’ with your children, is also a way to transmit the faith,” said the pope. “It is graciousness, the graciousness of God.”

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org