Spending time "together" as a family doesn't have to feel like pulling teeth.
My husband and I work hard to carve out time for each other in our busy, workaholic lives.
We cook together. We indulge in our mutual appreciation of wine together. We do the couch potato thing and watch Netflix episodes of NCIS together. We even make a weekend activity out of house hunting.
As busy as we both so often are, we cling to these moments of intimacy, and know that we'll have to try even harder once a child is in the picture.
We come from close, tight-knit families and, despite my mother's failed attempts to institute Family Fun Time several years ago, we both have fond memories of growing up—and growing close—thanks to regular family activities and events. It's important to us that our kids have the same sort of childhood.
But how can you make family bonding time an eagerly anticipated event rather than a desperately avoided one?
1. Get the heck out!
Of the house, that is. My entire family used to hit the bike trails together at a nearby park, almost every weekend.
God, we were dorks. But my brother and I lived for it: the fresh air; the exhilaration that comes from coasting down a dip in the trail; the ice cream truck at journey's end.
If for no other reason than fun and health, find an outdoor activity you can share with your kids.
2. Learn unusual new skills together
Two acquaintances of mine—sisters, thick as thieves—recently discovered the joys of hoop dancing. Naturally, they decided to share this new skill with the rest of their family. Even their grandmother got in on the act! Now they have picnics together, during which they always bring along the hula hoops.
I love this. I love how close this family is, and I love how they decided, as a whole, to throw themselves into a completely new hobby together.
What new activity can you share with your kids? Check out local gyms and recreation centers for family-friendly sport, dance or art classes. Or hit up a museum and develop a new interest that you can obsess over as a family, like impressionist art, photography, glass-blowing or astronomy.
3. Share the hobbies you already have
The person I am today is a direct result of the people my parents were when they were raising me.
Because of my father, I'm into horror novels, geology, photography and bowling. I devoured his collection of John Saul, Dean Koontz and Stephen King novels. I went with him to gem shows, and to nearby quarries. I looked through our family photos again and again, and I joined a bowling league, just like him.
Because of my mother, I am into cooking and classic rock. She tried to get me to help out in the kitchen (that was an uphill battle, though I now love cooking far more than she does), and made sure my brother and I got to experience several Paul McCartney concerts.
When we have our own children, I'll share with them my love of classical singing, cheesy dance music, contemporary literature and belly dancing. Michael will share with them his guitar skills, his curiosity about both science and history, and his (somewhat snobby) love of obscure music.
If these interests catch on with our kids, we'll always be able to share them.
4. Have a lazy Sunday
Despite what I said in tip number 1, staying inside isn't all bad. On those lazy, possibly rainy, days, it can feel nice to just veg out in front of a family-friendly movie, or play several rounds of ultra-competitive Monopoly.
Then again, if you and your mom are too competitive, your dad will never want to play again. Coincidentally, this is the same reason my husband will no longer play Boggle with me.
5. Create a new tradition together
My mother built our family traditions around food. Every Christmas, we baked five different types of cookies. Every Easter, we made pizzarustica.
I still carry on these traditions, even when my mom doesn't have the time. I spend days mixing up batter and scattering bits of sugar and coconut and chocolate chips. I chop cheeses and pepperoni and make dough from scratch and roll out crusts.
Labor-intensive, sure, but it wouldn't feel right to let these traditions go.
Your family traditions don't have to revolve around the holidays or food. Take a family vacation every year. Go bowling together once a month. Throw an offbeat party at your house, for Dia de los Muertos or World Nutella Day.
Do it regularly, and it will become something you can share as a family forever.