As a wife and mother, all I want is a peaceful home and a happy family. Some days, I feel “on top of it”. Those days are usually the ones when my three and five year old actually take a nap! Other days, it feels like there are forces pushing against my family’s well-being. Screen time, social obligations, relational conflict, financial pressure and discipline issues yank my focus from gratitude to stress. It’s challenging to keep our boat harmoniously afloat without slamming up against the banks of chaos and rigidity. People always say, “They grow up so quickly!” I think to myself, “Thank God!” The sleepless nights and whiny requests test the parenting ideal I imagined for myself. The challenge of achieving balance at home has driven me to read, ask questions and create new rhythms. My hope is that no matter what your circumstance, you can glean a bit of stability and peace for yourself and those around you.
Have you ever got to the end of a day and wondered, “What did I do today?” It’s a disorienting feeling, right? Adults and children thrive in routine. A flexible schedule holds me accountable for my time and habits. If you want to make time for exercise or hobbies, you have to budget your time the same way you budget money for rent or groceries. If you want your children to read well or play independently, time must be budgeted to model and practice the skills needed. With some discipline, your day can transform to be super-productive and fulfilling. Start by writing down the times and activities that are non-negotiable. Next, fill in the gaps with activities you aspire toward. If you are a parent, design a schedule that makes your life easier. For example, my kids complete chores after naptime and watch TV while I make dinner. Planning your day will free yourself to stay in the “pace of grace”.
Perhaps the most important factor in finding balance at home is striving to relate well with those around you. Whether it be your spouse, partner, roommate or best friend, everyone needs a safe unconditionally loving person to connect with. For me, that person is my husband. We prioritize sharing our feelings and talking about the little and big things. One major obstacle to our connection is cellphones. Texting and social media give a false sense of intimacy with others, and without constraints, it is too easy to become addicted. Take an honest look at your screen time. Are you replacing face to face connection with a glowing piece of glass? Connecting with someone you love is a much more profitable investment of your time. The trust and teamwork you can build with another person is worth all of your attention.
After reading “The Secrets of Happy Families”, I started conducting weekly family meetings. They occur over dinner, usually on a Sunday evening, and they consist of three simple questions.
- What went well in our family this week?
- What did not go well in our family this week?
- What will we work to improve next week?
My children love sharing the highlights and struggles from their perspectives. I love that I get the opportunity to give compliments and constructive feedback outside of emotional moments. Our discussions have become keenly insightful, refreshingly honest and, at times, funny! Choosing one goal as a family to work toward for the following week is doable. We even allow the kids to choose their consequence if they achieve the goal, or not. Family meetings are a game-changer!
Switchfoot wrote a song called “Adding to the Noise” that I heard as a teenager. I was impressed by its message: reduce the noise in your life. In other words, cut out anything that adds chaos to your life. Perhaps it’s a friend who dries you up emotionally or over-scheduling your time. Filling every moment with something to do or somewhere to be can lead to burn out. Look for ways to simplify your environment. Minimize the amount of clothes, toys, and clutter around your home. Silence the negative voices that lead to guilt or shame and replace the thoughts in your mind with an intentional focus on positivity. What do you value? Meditate or pray about what is most important to you. Be empowered to say no and set boundaries.
Follow a Budget
Financial problems can fracture a home. Honestly assess your finances and make realistic small changes to help achieve your goal. I tracked my spending for 3 months and created categories for my expenses. After that, I chose one or two areas to change. For me, eating out is a downfall. It’s so convenient to order pizza or drive through to pick up fast food. However, its expensive and unhealthy. When I chose to be a stay at home mom, one of the changes I made was cooking dinner (almost) every day. As a result, my husband and I lost a combined total of 70 lbs. Therefore, following a budget in one area can positively influence another area of your life. Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar App help my husband and I stay debt free. We have also gained a sense of freedom and enhanced our teamwork.
What helps you achieve balance at home?