Do you have a day off scheduled into your week?

I didn’t always. Once I became intentional about it, I don’t know how I lived without it.

When I began my journalism fellowship at Tablet magazine, I was introduced for the first time to people who truly took seriously the concept of Sabbath rest. “Keeping holy the Sabbath” is a religious injunction so serious it appears in the Ten Commandments, but I never really thought that much about what it really meant. As an observant Catholic, I figured going to Mass on Sundays was probably close enough.

During the pandemic, as I grew more intentional about structuring my days in the absence of any real outside demands, I tried not to do anything too hectic or labor-intensive to mark the day as something apart from the other six.

Then, for three months at the end of 2020, I regularly (virtually) interacted with people who literally went offline in observance of Shabbat, going so far as to print off things they intended to read during the Saturdays they took to recharge.

a mother and two children looking at watches
Photo by Some Tale on Unsplash

It inspired me to get more serious about using my Sundays as my one day a week to just be: to do crafts with my kids, get caught up on my reading, talk on the phone with friends or family. Day drink. Have leftovers or Hamburger Helper for dinner.

Just one day a week of deliberately compartmentalizing all of my responsibilities and concerns to focus on what’s really important to me in an act of actual life-giving self care.

Now, the fact that I’m a religious person who was inspired by another faith to do this shouldn’t inhibit you from ordering your week similarly. Even if you aren’t the church or temple-going type, you won’t be sorry you made the commitment.

Yes, arranging your weekdays (as best you can) so that you may put all of your worldly concerns on the back burner for one day occasionally means a little more work during the week. I sometimes find myself scrambling on a Saturday evening to put away laundry and pick things up so that Sundays are something set apart and special. Lately, I’m trying to get serious about using Friday afternoons to get my planner ready for the next week so that’s one less thing to worry about, and I can set myself up for success when Monday morning hits.

I have a cleaning schedule for my family throughout the week of small chores and tasks that make the house pretty livable by the weekend, so we can mostly just enjoy ourselves and each other.

children laying on the grass and resting
Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

While this rhythm works for us, it didn’t happen overnight.

It’s the product of a flexible, ongoing trial-and-error process. And when it gets to feel like a grind, I remember it’s in service of something. In addition to teaching my kids good habits and helping us all show respect for one another by making our home a more pleasant, hospitable environment, it’s making our weekends–especially Sunday–more relaxing.

It’s making us more appreciative of true rest when we encounter it on the first day of the new week.

Of course, your family’s weekly routine will look different from mine, just as your day of rest won’t look like any other families’. But isn’t that the whole point of establishing family traditions and routines? It’s something that makes your family its own special thing, that optimizes your “little platoon” to be the very best it can be, forming its members to become loyal friends, helpful co-workers, compassionate bosses, and kind Americans.

Your family’s day of rest–and the preparation in anticipation of it throughout the week–makes both work and play under your roof something special. Treating rest as something sacred sheds light on the importance of the quiet, hidden parts of life where habits are formed and love is learned.

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