I have an older client whose wife has become unable to do many of the household tasks that she used to do. I was at his home one day, a few days after their family had gathered to celebrate the end of summer. There were about 27, many of them children. They had water fights and silly string fights. This made for a lot of towel use. As he came up the stairs, he let out a tired breath and said, “How do women do it. The laundry alone is overwhelming.” I asked him what their laundry room had looked like when they were raising their family. He replied that there was always a heap of dirty clothes on the floor and another of clean laundry. I then asked him, “What did you think about that back then?” He didn’t hesitate to answer but blurted out, “Why can’t she get this cleaned up!”
He looked a bit sheepish and told me that he realized now, years later, that he should have been kinder in his appraisal of the job his wife was doing. He could see that his judgment was harsh, and his help was too little.
Here’s the thing about my friend who was washing the family towels. He went to work every day. He had to juggle the needs of the boss, his teammates and his own. He had deadlines to meet. He dealt with situations and expectations over which he had no control. Then there was the commute. He may have felt that his days were far more challenging than his wife’s.
Life is a challenge. Being part of a family is a challenge. But there are a few things we can do to lift our own burden, as well as the burdens of those we live with.
Tips to Lifting Burdens
• Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best
of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively. We will be more willing to lend a helping hand.
• Regardless of how or what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in their place.
• Suspend judgment. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
• Choose kindness over frustration. We’re all learning. When we choose kindness, we increase our ability to problem-solve.
Running a family can be daunting. Supporting a family can be daunting. There are so many moving parts to family life. If we learn to reserve judgment and respond with kindness, we will have far better outcomes and our family relationships will feel stronger and safer.
A few years ago I came home and on the counter was my blender…filled with flowers. I loved the flowers but I couldn’t understand why they were in the blender!!
When we moved last time I really downsized. I kept only two vases. One was filled with plants I am rooting. That left just the red one under the sink…too narrow of a neck for the flowers I found on my counter, in the blender.
I took a minute and stood in the middle of my living room and thought about what I might have that I could put this big, beautiful bouquet of flowers in. I mean, I couldn’t leave them in the blender. Right? Only a man would put flowers in the blender! Right?
I have a curio cupboard filled with stuff. In the cupboard, I discovered a beautiful clear, glass cookie jar. It was perfect for the flowers and the arrangement looked so nice.
Here is the thought that I had when the flowers were arranged in that beautiful, glass jar:
“What’s wrong with Don? He could have found this jar just as easily as I did. Why in the heck did he put those flowers in the blender? Men!”
Now in my past life, this is what would have happened when Don got home:
Hi Don. Thanks for the flowers. They’re beautiful but why did you put them in the blender?”
“Well, I couldn’t find a big enough vase.”
“Honey, there was a glass jar right in the curio cupboard. You can see it as well as I can. You just have to look. Anyway, thank you for the flowers. I love them.”
Ladies, does this scenario sound familiar to you? I am sure it does. Here my man brought home flowers but he would have gone away feeling unappreciated for his efforts and me, well, I would think that despite the fact that he brought home flowers, he was kind of lame for not putting them in something pretty, instead of the blender. In fact, I would have thought he was sort of lazy for not taking the time to find anything else.
Fortunately, I had time to think this through before Don got home and I am old enough to have been down this road many times in the past. I was looking for a new road! Here is what I realized. He wouldn’t have been free to use that glass jar even if he had seen it. Why? Because he wouldn’t have known if it was an antique or just stuff. If he had used it I might have come home and said, “Gee Don, why did you use that. It was Great Aunt May’s and it’s worth a lot of money. Why do you think it was in the curio in the first place?” I’ll bet this sounds familiar to many men. They just can’t do it right.
I was telling this story to a friend the other day. She nodded her head and said, “My husband is always saying, “Can I do anything right for you? Anything?” Gee, Don has said that to me! It isn’t that they really can’t do anything right. It’s really about complaining because it isn’t done the way we think it should be done.
This is the bind that our husbands and our children find themselves in quite often. They do the best they can but it just doesn’t make the grade and we let them know it. I propose that it’s better, more often than not, to just accept what is offered without complaint or criticism.
•Your husband brings flowers home, can’t find a vase, and so he puts them in the blender. Kiss him soundly and say, “Thank you so much, sweetheart!”
•Your 12-year-old son does the dishes without complaint. When he is done you notice that he hasn’t swept the floor so you point it out. “Sigh”, this comes from the son. It would be better to give a quick hug, say thanks and acknowledge that the job was done without complaint. Then, if you must, at a much later time mention that when he does the dishes next time would he please sweep the floor.
•Your husband helps the kids with their baths. There is a lot of laughing and good times going on. When they are done and in PJ’s and sitting on the couch you huff out of the bathroom because there is water all over the place and the towels are on the bedroom floor. You do one of two things – march into the living room, angry that you are again stuck with cleaning up, and loudly ask everyone to go clean up the floor and hang up their towels or you stay quiet and just put on your martyr face so that HE knows that you are upset. It would be better to join everyone in the living room, even if for only a few minutes. Give some quick hugs, thank your spouse for a job well done and then quietly wipe up the floor and hang up the towels. Later, in a day or two, if you must, you then ask him to wipe up the floor and have the kids hang up the towels next time, please, with a smile.
•Your five year old sets the table for dinner. He forgets the napkins and two plates don’t have forks. He comes to you beaming from ear to ear and lets you know he has done the job. You point out that there are no napkins and forks are missing. The job gets finished, the smile is gone. It might be better to give the five-year-old a big hug and ask him if he wants to learn how to fold napkins in a really cool, new way. Sure he does. You show him how, help him do it and now there are napkins on the table. You quietly put on the two missing forks. Later you have a Family Learning Time and everyone practices setting the table.
There are three things I am pointing out:
•Sometimes it’s wise to just accept the job as is and be grateful. No complaining!
•Timing in teaching is everything. We all want to feel valued for what we do even if it isn’t perfect.
•Even though we want our family to do their best, their best isn’t always going to be our idea of “best”. That’s OK.
Let’s all practice a new way of being in the coming year. Let’s all complain less and be kinder. I think we will like the results. I know our families will!
What do you think? True or not? Doable? Leave a comment.
Here’s to more joy,
I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me.
One day while helping a friend in her home she asked me if I ever felt as if I was at war with my family. She said that if anything was organized it wouldn’t stay that way. If it was clean it would get dirty. If it was peaceful chaos would inevitably show up.
I understood her frustration. After all, I had raised seven children. However, somewhere along the way, I had a mighty change of heart. I went from waging war to ministering to my family. It was a slight mental shift in how I looked at the work required to manage my family and it has made a huge difference in how I feel on busy and chaotic days.
When we step out of management mode we begin to ‘see’ the needs of those in our family and we’re better able to step into the service and kindness mode. We put ourselves in a place where we’re able to be Present. We see the ‘one’ and minister to them rather than being upset that there is one more thing to take care of.
As parents, one of our greatest responsibilities is to help our children become successful adults. I have found that the most successful adults I know are generous and kind. They serve others. They ‘see’ people and reach out.
Last Sunday one of my grandchildren was ill and one parent had to stay home with them. That caused the rest of the family to run late. In our church, the Sacrament is passed early in the meeting and my daughter worried that they wouldn’t get there in time. Sure enough, they missed the bread portion of the ceremony. She was deeply disappointed.
Then the children who were with her began to struggle to be still and they all ended up out in the hall. Her nine-year-old son, Jack, reached out and touched his mom on the arm and said, “Mom, I’m sorry we missed the bread and that we’re out in the hall.”
This is a perfect example of a person ‘seeing’ the need of another and this someone was just nine years old.
That same nine-year-old ‘saw’ me the other day. It had been a long day. I had been doing a lot of physical labor and I was tired. In fact, I was feeling a bit old. Jack came to me and said, “Grandma, I really like that shirt. You look good in it.” As you can imagine I felt better.
Jack has learned from the example of his parents to ‘see’. He has learned the value of kindness and service within his family because his parents serve their children rather than just managing them.
As I was beginning to transition from being in constant management mode in my family to serving my spouse and children I remember watching a video of a real-life experience that helped me see the difference between working in a family and serving the family.
A man with a very important job was leaving his home to go to a very important meeting. He had on a suit and tie. As he descended the stairs he saw his eighteen-month-old crawling up the stairs. He picked her up to give her a hug and say goodbye and found that she needed a diaper change.
This busy and important man, this father, did not call his equally busy wife. He got a diaper and wipes and sat down at the top of the stairs and changed his daughter. While he served his daughter he smiled and talked with her. He ‘saw’ his daughters need. He was also aware of the need of his wife. He served them both with great kindness and did not feel put upon while doing it. He was not in management mode but in the kindness and service mode.
WHY MAKE A MENTAL SHIFT
There are some very good reasons to work on this slight mental shift, from management to service:
• When we lose ourselves in service to others we grow and flourish. So do our children.
• When we feel that the work we do is serving rather than a burden we feel less overwhelmed.
• With this slight mental shift, we’re able to remain calm when things aren’t going well.
• When we serve our family we model it for our children who become kinder.
• Families who have a culture of service and kindness sustain one another better.
• In fact, as we serve rather than wage war, we begin to create a culture of kindness and serviceability.
In today’s world, there are many opportunities to reach out and serve. Let’s begin in our own families. Consider it a privilege rather than a daily burden. You can’t and won’t respond this way all of the time. But if you can slip into this mindset even a few times each day you will feel better about parenting and you will have more joy in the work that you do.
What service have you given to or received from your children? Please comment. I would love to hear your experiences.