father takes a nap with his child

Family Health

How to Do Nothing and Still Have Quality Time With Your Family

Mar 21, 2018

La dolce far niente. As fun to say as it is to do! But what exactly is it? It's an Italian expression that translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing,” and oh...how sweet nothing can be! But do we North Americans really understand what this means? We’re a busy bunch! Ask anyone, “How’s it going?” And they’ll say, “Oh good. Just busy.”

Everyone is busy, and yet we continue to say yes to things we don’t want to do and we make plans with people out of a sense of obligation. We do this because we don’t want to miss out on anything, but the truth is, we are missing out on something amazing. It seems that, in addition to perfecting freshly made ravioli, we have a lot to learn from the Italians.

How do we do nothing? Isn’t there always something to do? Can this concept exist in our culture? Allow me to break down this seemingly lofty goal.

Related Reading: How to Create Quality Time with Your Kids When There is So Little Time

When Italians talk about far niente, they are talking about the intentional practice of being. We’ve started using language like this in English — words like mindful, phrases like "being in the moment" — and we’re trying to figure out exactly how to do this while smacking the snooze button at 6 a.m., getting through the morning rush, racing off in multiple directions, meeting deadlines, driving kids around to activities, putting dinner on the table and then hurrying the children off to bed. (Oops! Forgot to add in homework and reading time!) Doing nothing in our books means flopping on the couch at the end of the day and mindlessly consuming television. But the sweetness of doing nothing can be found in or around all those moments I described above if you follow these three tips.


As much as we think we are relaxed while scrolling through our social media feeds, we’re not. We are still engaging in something that sucks our energy, robs us of our time and sometimes takes a toll on our emotions. How many times have you thought you’d just "check in" to Instagram for 2 minutes, and then twenty minutes later found yourself bleary-eyed, feeling tired and still glued to the screen? Those twenty minutes could have been spent going on a walk around the neighbourhood, closing your eyes on the couch or lying in the grass with your kids and finding shapes among the clouds.

Take a day off

Like, an actual day off where your family does nothing together. We’re a family that likes to say no to commitments and just putter around the house. This isn’t always easy, but we find that most Sundays (outside of my daughter’s soccer game) are prime days for rejuvenating the old-fashioned way. Some things we like to do together: try new recipes; eat a slow breakfast; talk about things we didn’t get to talk about during the week; or head out for a family walk. Saying “no” to one thing means saying “yes” to another.

As a family, we’re conscious about saying yes to our time together as often as we can. It is limited and fleeting!

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Take a nap

All of you! Or, if the kids aren’t buying the nap idea, then encourage quiet, alone time in their bedrooms — unplugged. It’s good to get kids used to this idea of enjoyable solo time, because so many adults are uncomfortable with the idea of being alone. When we have even short moments to ourselves, we check in on our phones. We don’t appreciate a good cup of coffee in quiet and instead sip while creating to-do lists. It’s because we always feel like we should be doing something. Instead we can really use some time to do nothing. Valuing that as a family in your home will help your kids take this into adulthood.

Whether it’s a quick shut-eye on your lunch break, having a long, lingering dinner with your family or a Sunday afternoon in pyjamas, build these moments into your busy week and enjoy the benefits to get you through the rest of it.

Article Author Taslim Jaffer
Taslim Jaffer

Read more from Taslim here.

Taslim Jaffer is a freelance writer, writing instructor and blogger based in Surrey, B.C. Her stories have an inspirational bend whether she writes about parenting, activism, literature, travel or lifestyle topics. An avid journaler for almost 30 years, Taslim teaches writing for healing and memoir writing in community and rehabilitative settings. Life is good in Surrey, B.C. with her husband and three children. Read more of Taslim’s thoughts on www.taslimjaffer.com and say hi on Instagram and Twitter.