If you missed last week, catch up here: Family Work: Week 1
Last week we started talking about how to make lasting changes in our family. We don’t want to just jump in and start giving new orders. We have to start with principles – why the change is important. Then move on to vision – what it is that you really want to accomplish.
Last weekend, I attended the funeral of a dear friend’s husband. As my friend bravely gave his eulogy she shared a wonderful story. One evening after a long day at work, she found him sitting on the couch with his eyes closed. She suggested that if he was tired he should just go to bed. He replied “I’m not tired; I’m building a new tv cabinet.” My friend explained that that was the reason his projects were always so beautiful – he built them in his head first. In other words, he had vision.
How did your homework go? Were you able to begin creating a vision for your family and home? I hope that you are enjoying building a family culture that values work. For this is where it starts – in your head.
Before we move on to talk about planning and implementation, we need to spend some time talking about one other very important thing.
Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
James 3:4 KJV
You are the helm.
Your attitudes will influence and direct your families actions.
Will your family sail or sink?
In other words:
If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
It might seem unfair, but merely by our example, we mothers have an extraordinary amount of influence over our families and their attitudes about things.
Do you hate housework? Do you dread having to figure out what’s for dinner again?
If so, it sounds like you are pretty normal. Everyone feels that way at times. But each of us must realize that those negative attitudes about family work— family service, teach our children that the work is undesirable.
Years ago, I read a lovely little book that greatly influenced many of the attitudes I have about the work of mothering. In Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry the author, Katrina Kennison, relates a pivotal experience in her life. She was a friend and colleague to fellow writer Olive Ann Burns (author of Cold Sassy Tree). Olive Ann had been in the midst of writing a sequel to Cold Sassy Tree when she passed away after more than a decade of battling cancer. Katrina was going through Olive Ann’s manuscript when she found this handwritten note:
I have learned to quit speeding through life, always trying to do too many things too quickly, without taking the time to enjoy each day’s doings. I think I always thought of real living as being high. I don’t mean on drugs— I mean real living was falling in love, or when I got my first job, or when I was able to help somebody, or watch my baby get born, or have a good morning or really good writing. In between the highs I was impatient— you know how it is— life seemed so Daily. Now I love the dailiness. I enjoy washing dishes. I enjoy cooking. I see my father’s roses out the kitchen window, I like picking beans. I notice everything— birdsongs, the clouds, the sound of wind, the glory of sunshine after two weeks of rain. These things I took for granted before.
What a profound impact this had on Katrina, and as I read them, me as well.
How would you feel about the service you give your family— the meals that must be prepared, the floors that must be swept, the laundry that must be folded, if you knew that those things were numbered. What if you knew that there would come a time when you would no longer be able to do these things for your family? Would that change the way you felt about them?
Now I’m not saying that life needs to look like this:
But if we can each find a way to celebrate the dailiness in our own lives, to take joy in our work, and do it with love, how powerful will that be in the lives of our children*?
Sometimes it’s not that we hate serving our family, it’s that we feel overwhelmed. The work seems too big, too overwhelming. I really do understand that as well. I did not learn to care for my home and family while I was growing up. The first four years my husband and I were married we did not own a vacuum cleaner – I borrowed my mom’s…two times. I know what it is like to look at a mess and not have any idea where to start. If you feel the same way, might I suggest you look into flylady or some other such system? (If you know of another good resource, please share it in the comments.)
Now, back to vision— while you are building your ideal in your mind, be sure to be kind to yourself. Visualize becoming the best example, best leader that you can be.
If you are married or co-parenting, once you have created a vision for yourself and family, share it with your partner. If your vision is different than his, that could be a good thing. The things that he can add may add a richness and level of detail you would not be able to envision on your own.
If your visions are vastly different and feel problematic, find the commonalities and build from there. If there are things that you find unacceptable, or vise versa, remember that you are partners and try to work together anyway. Compromise where you can and realize that your love and respect will go a lot further to bring you together than frustrated decisiveness.
Let’s refer back to the chart one more time:
After your vision is clear (Did you write it down? Have you shared it?) you can begin to to formulate your plan. The rest of this series will give you tips, ideas and things to think about building into your plan. Your plan does not have be detailed or exhaustive. In fact, it can be quite small to begin with. (See today’s homework.)
The next step in the cycle is implementation, but not all at once – just one degree at a time. In Raving Fans the author talks about implementing your vision 1% at a time. I was talking about that with my husband and he referred me to this video:
I like the idea of implementing or changing 1° at a time. With percents, you are working toward 100 – or perfection. I don’t think that perfection is attainable for us mere mortals. But changing or improving, bit by bit – by degrees, anyone can do that. It’s such a small increment, really quite manageable, but as the video shows, so powerful.
As we continue with the series, I hope that you will be able to start formulating a plan.
This Week’s Homework (download your family work journal here):
- Refer back to the list of three things you would like to see change. (You did make a list, right? If not make one now.) Truthfully ponder if a change in your attitude will make a difference. I want to be clear – I am not saying that all problems are the mother’s fault. There are a lot of factors at play in families. However, it is worth asking the question: Can I make one small change that will help my family begin getting closer to my vision?
- Identify one thing that you enjoy when it comes to serving your family. What is it? Baking cookies? Ironing? Gardening? Share that thing with your children/family this week (either by telling them about it, or even better – doing it together).
- Share this series with someone: tweet, stumble, like or just tell someone about it. Post a button on your site, if you like.
Note: Next week we will be talking about how to teach your kids to work: tricks and tips and age appropriate chores. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll be putting together a link-up, so if you blog, write a new post or find one in your archives and get ready to share it. If you don’t blog, please feel free to share on Frantically Simple’s Facebook Page.
I’d like to leave you with a few more words from Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry:
“Like all mothers, I harbor dreams for my children, and sometimes I fall under the spell of my own aspirations for them. We want our children to do well! But when I stop and think about what I truly want for them, I know that it is not material wealth or academic brilliance or athletic prowess. My deeper hope is that each of my sons will be able to see the sacred in the ordinary; that they, too, will grow up knowing how to “love the dailiness”. So, for their sakes as well as my own, I remind myself to slow down and enjoy the day’s doings. The daily rhythms of life, the humble household rituals, the nourishment I provide—these are my offerings to my children, given with love and gratefully received.
When I stop speeding through life, I find the joy in each day’s doings, in the life that cannot be bought, but only discovered, created, savored, and lived. – Katrina Kennison”
*Another great book on this theme, is The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less. (A mouthful, I know). This the true story of Evelyn Ryan, 1950s housewife and mother of 10. Her husband does not earn enough to keep the family afloat financially, and yet still insists on drinking half his paycheck. But Evelyn chooses happiness anyway. Between endless batches of laundry, and seemingly endless trips to the emergency room with one accident prone kid after another, Evelyn writes jingles and enters contests. She wins enough money and prizes to provide for her family’s every need. And she does it all with a smile on her face. I highly recommend it.
Amazon affiliate links are on. If you purchase any of the books I have linked to, I get a small commission. Thanks!