I almost burst into tears as Faith and I walked in the door of my friend Wendy’s house last week. Breaking up with wonderful, understanding piano teachers is hard.
I had to tell Wendy that we weren’t going to put Faith back in piano with her in the fall. “It’s not you, it’s me!” I tried to explain. The weekly drive to Faith’s lesson at Wendy’s house had, quite simply, become a burden. Faith’s 30-minute lesson took 2 1/2 hours round trip–an entire afternoon four other children and their mother had to spend in the van, just for one child.
Wendy understood completely, just like I knew she would. And I felt a burden lift from my shoulders as I climbed back into the van that afternoon.
During our last Couple Dialogue, Mike and I laid out all of our and our children’s activities, and made a couple of tough decisions. Deciding to break up with our beloved piano teacher and find one closer to home was first on the list. Next was nixing all of my big plans for camps and swim team and lessons over the summer. Honesty moment: It took my husband matter-of-factly pointing out that I was obviously already stressed out just thinking about my summer plans…so why would we sign up for them? He has a way of being right from time to time.
As Michael and I discussed in that Couple Dialogue about what to be involved in, we found ourselves talking more about our vision for our family. We talked about how the greatest gifts we want to give our children really depend on how we live here in our home, rather than what we sign them up for outside of our home.
Here is some of our how.
We want our home to be reliably restful in every sense of the word for each member of our family. We want our children to know how to find something to do (that’s not on a screen) when they are bored. We want to make sure our kids have enough free time to occasionally be bored. We want our kids to be friends. We want this home to feel safe for the kids. We want people to be well-fed emotionally and spiritually here. We want physical touch and words of affirmation to be abundant. For company to feel welcomed. For our home to be pretty and orderly, but not fussy or uncomfortable. We want to welcome friends and family into our home often. We want Michael to not work so much that he misses out on these precious Little Years of our kids’ lives. We want our kids (and us) to get enough sleep. To have quiet time regularly. To have Michael and I be able to do things (like write!) that fill us personally. We want to have great books always available to the kids and the time to read them.
We want to make our marriage a top priority. We want to regularly have quality time as a couple. We want to make sure that me (the momma, cook, housekeeper, chauffeur, etc.) isn’t so exhausted at the end of every day that my introvert self can’t handle interacting with one more human being (even if it’s my husband). We want to make sure that older children get as much age-appropriate time and attention as their needier younger siblings. We want to make sure that our youngest children don’t spend a crazy number of hours each week strapped into carseats. We want to make sure we build the kind of family culture where we regularly waste time with our children.
It’s so important to have a vision for your family life, and to create rules of life that nurture and protect that vision. Our monthly Couple Dialogue and Rule of Life commitments as part of Domestic Church have been invaluable tools in helping us create a vision and follow through on living that vision out.
As our children have gotten older, we’ve started to learn how easy it is to overcommit ourselves and our family. When our kids were younger, there were fewer choices we needed to make that would directly feed or take away from our vision for our family. These days, however, it’s a real necessity to regularly assess how our family is doing, and if what we’re doing is working for us.
One way that we’ve grown a lot these past few years is in realizing that if something isn’t working for me, The Momma, it’s probably not working for the family. It’s humbling, but empowering, to respect the importance my own mental health and well-being have in my family’s happiness. It makes me try as hard as I can to make things work, but then I feel like I can be honest with Michael if something is keeping me from feeling or being able to give my best. Deciding we needed to change piano teachers to someone closer to home is a great example of me putting this safeguard into practice, and I was thankful for it this month.
On another note, I don’t want to make it sound like Mike and I have no trouble being faithful to scheduling a Couple Dialogue every month, or that it’s easy-peasy to follow through when we make resolutions. It’s real work, and sometimes it’s really hard to be faithful to this commitment. But every time we finally make that Couple Dialogue time happen–no matter how busy we were that week or how difficult the conversation is–we are always so glad we did. Those Couple Dialogue conversations are like gold. They’re an anchor for us that brings us both a lot of peace that we’re making good decisions for our family and staying connected as a couple.
Have you and your spouse ever sat down to write out a vision for your family life? If not, what if you took time for that this month? Maybe it would look like getting a sitter and sliding into a back corner booth at your favorite restaurant, or maybe it would look like a bottle of wine and a roll of cookie dough after the kids are in bed one night. Wherever and whenever you do it, make sure you ask the Holy Spirit–together and if possible out loud–to make it a fruitful conversation. You don’t need a special prayer or the perfect words…just ask Him to be with you.
Also, put a calendar notice with reminders on your phone RIGHT NOW if you want to make this happen. I recommend this from experience.:) I find that if I treat making time for my marriage as seriously as I do getting my kids to an activity, it’s a lot more likely to happen!