Day Four: House Rules

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Today we are going to talk about ‘House Rules’. I’m using this title as an umbrella for a bunch of smaller topics, all having to do with how we run and create an atmosphere for our home. A lot of this is just great wisdom that has been passed down to me that I feel obliged to share…because it could change the way you see your role in the home, or because it could change the way you decide to act on certain things in your home.

I’ve had a hard time organizing this material, so bear with me!

First, I want to say that I am not just referring to stay-at-home moms in this post. I am hoping this post influences all women in some way. If you are single, I pray that this information helps you when the time comes to marry or become a parent. If you are working, I pray this information helps you just as I hope it helps a stay-at-home mom.

Whether we work or not, or are married or not, we all have a place we call ‘home’. That can mean a lot of different things for different people. Maybe your home includes step-children. Maybe your home includes foster children and your own children. Maybe just you and your spouse make up your home right now. Or maybe you live by yourself and are dating (I remember those years!).

My point is: We all have a ‘home’ and this home has an atmosphere.

I’ve often wondered what others think when coming to my home. I mean, I know how I see it, but I wonder how others see it. What is the first thing they see or feel? Do they feel relaxed and able to be themselves while here? Are there smells that I’ve gotten used to that they can smell right away? (<–just being honest with that last one 😀 )

**Note:  I am not really talking about decorating or style when I say these things. I really do think those things are important, and, in my opinion, it is definitely the woman’s job to create a nice space in her home that makes the family feel relaxed, but I am really talking about the atmosphere.

One day, my mother-in-law came over to watch my son while I ran errands. She came in and sat down. We got to talking about the different house projects that my husband was taking on… (Well, actually…I was apologizing for the mess because of those projects) when she said: “Don’t worry about that. You have a baby, and you may have toys everywhere but your house is always clean. And I love your style.” And while that made me feel really good,  I think it’s an even bigger compliment when she comes in, sits down, and begins talking about her childhood with me.

The long, in-depth conversations we’ve had on my couch make me feel better about the atmosphere of my home than the lighting and photo gallery do.

I keep using this word ‘atmosphere’…Let me tell you what that word means to me–

Have you ever noticed, especially if you are married or even live with someone else, that if you –talking to the women here- are in a bad mood, everyone else is suddenly in a bad mood? If you are stressed, everyone else becomes stressed? It also swings the other way too- if you are joyful, the people you live with are more joyful and lighthearted?

Our pastor’s wife put it greatly when she said that women are the “thermostats” of their household. I like to imagine that we are the moon of our household, controlling the tide. Our attitudes and feelings create a ripple effect in our homes, reaching everyone that surrounds us.  Whether we realize it or not, we have a very strong pull on our family’s feelings, actions, and emotions. That is a lot of power. And we often misuse it.

I wasn’t aware of this until we talked about it in church and then it’s like my eyes were opened. I noticed that if I became pissy over the weekend, my husband did too. Even if he started out in a good mood, my bad one would eventually rub off on him creating a sour atmosphere in our home. I also noticed that if I were happy and joking, this would make my husband and child the same way. When I am upset, they become upset. When I am angry, slamming cabinets and huffing and puffing, they become distant and quiet.  When I am tired and am becoming more impatient with my fussy son, he becomes more and more impatient with me.

Ladies, we set the tone. We set the temperature in our homes, not only for our immediate family but for our guests as well.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever be sad or tired- you can be those things, but we have to stop and think of how much of it we’re emanating and where it’s coming from. Is something (unrelated to my family) bothering me and I’m taking it out on them? Did I wake up in a bad mood for no reason?

This is hard for me to do sometimes. When my house is a disaster and I’m feeling stressed, I really have to try hard not to let it ripple out to those around me. I usually curb this by playing upbeat music and acting silly with my son. Let me stop right here and say this is not acting or being fake, it is simply feeling my feelings and choosing to not let my mood seep into another human for the sake of my home. For example, if my day has been particularly tiring, our child is asleep, and my husband is talking about his day, I can choose to mutter a few responses, not make eye contact, and disconnect. Or- I can choose the harder route- I can be intentional through my tiredness: let it show, but still truly try to listen and offer input on a work dilemma. I can still make eye contact and keep an atmosphere where my husband feels free to talk about his workday in our home and not as if he were bothering me.

It’s very hard for me to do sometimes, because it means putting someone else’s need above my own. But I also have to think about the tone I’m setting in our house. Do I want this to be a space where my family feels supported and able to share anything (despite how I may feel on some days.)? Yes. Do I want a home where they can relax and be themselves? Yes. Do I want a home where there is arguing or discord between my husband and I? No. Do I want an atmosphere that breeds peacefulness and joy in the hearts of those that enter? Yes.  Do I want to my family to know they can approach me when something is on their heart, no matter how I am feeling? Yes.

This all comes down to me. If everyone in your family is in a bad mood, take a few seconds to think about how the day began. Hurried? Expectations not communicated and unmet? Chaotic? If so, did you embrace it or lash out?  It often begins with me.

————————————————————–

Now, I want to shift gears and talk a little bit about parenting. I have only been a mother for 13 months, so I haven’t had the chance to put some of these into practice yet. Nevertheless, it is sound wisdom that I hope will help you in whatever season you may be in with your littles.

When my husband and I were expecting our son, we sat down and talked about how we would deal with certain things when they arise (because the things will arise). I think we were feeling out each other’s parenting style a little bit, and we mostly agreed on how to raise our children. In hindsight, I think this was such a great thing to do. If you are getting married or thinking or having children- you have to have the parenting talk. You both need to decide what kind of parents you’re going to be early on. If you’re spouse believes in spanking and you don’t, but you never discuss it- that can be an issue when your child gets into trouble for the first time. If your spouse wants you to work, but you want to stay at home- that can lead to marital strife once the baby turns six weeks old and your husband is expecting you to go back to work.

You get the idea.

One of the things I think really needs to be talked about is what you will and will not tolerate from your kids in your home. My husband and I have three things that we will not tolerate from our kids. Having talked about these things way ahead of time helps us to know we will be on the same page when they occur (because they will occur). You don’t want to have to battle with your spouse on top of dealing with the issue from the child. You want to be on the same team and of one mind.

**I also think it needs to be said that if you aren’t happy with the way things are going in your house, no matter what age your children, YOU have the power to change it. Are your kids on their phones all the time? Has your home become a place of discontent and whining? Has it become a place of disconnect and no communication? You still have the power to change it, no matter how long it’s been going on. It is never too late to create the type of home that you want for you and your family.  Depending on how long the behaviors have been going on, it may take longer and be more work to change the family dynamics, but you can still do it. It starts with you. Set the example and communicate your new expectations to those around you. And pray. Do a lot of praying. Be in constant communication with Jesus to help you through this change. He is faithful and he will do it**

There are two other little nuggets of wisdom that I’d like to share:

  1. Be a YES mom. This means saying ‘yes’ to even the smallest of things so that when you have to say ‘no’, your  kid knows there’s a reason behind it. For example, if your child asks to do something that would usually be fine, except that you’re tired or don’t feel like dealing with it- say YES. Save the ‘no’s’ for the most important of things; things involving their own health and safety. Allow them to DO things so that when you tell them NOT to do something, they know you mean business and it’s for their good. Don’t let inconvenience become the voice to your children.

 

I’m trying to practice this with our son right now. I say ‘yes’ to things that make me uncomfortable or that mildly annoy me…like when he wants to play drums on top of the paint cans in the hallway (I told you, my house is always a project zone J ). Or maybe he wants to play on the porch at the sand and water table, even though I just gave him a bath. I would rather him not get dirty, but that’s for my own comfort- not his. I’m already seeing the benefits to saying ‘yes’. The other day, he learned how to open the cabinet under our sink that houses all of our household cleaners. I went over, firmly scooted him away, looked him in the eye and said ‘NO.’ He tried one more time, I repeated. And now, he just sits and looks at it and shakes his head ‘no’.

I encourage you to say ‘Yes’ to the little things- the things that take away our own comfort and convenience. The things that leave us tired and mentally exhausted, or in my case, longing for quiet (Really guys, I think I may have a future drummer on my hands!). Leave the ‘no’s for the serious stuff.

And my last nugget of wisdom:

Always graciously accept something a child is trying to give you- it may be all they have to give. A broken flower, a rock, a piece of their food, something they found outside, a drawing- all of these are little pieces of themselves they want to share with YOU.

It’s easy to forget that our kids have feelings too. Feelings of gratitude or love they express in different ways. Their stronger emotions are displayed more- we know when they are hungry, tired, angry, or sad. Though they aren’t always apparent, children have feelings of love and thankfulness. Even babies do!

I have begun a sort of “tradition” of making our Saturday breakfast using blueberries in some form. They are my sons absolute favorite food- I can’t even say the word around him or he goes bat-crap crazy wanting them. This past weekend, I baked maple-blueberry oatmeal for us. We were all sitting at the table eating, when my son takes one of his last pieces of oatmeal and tries to give it to my husband. My husband responded “That’s your food, you can eat it. But thank you.” Meanwhile, my son is putting all of his strength into extending that arm, trying to get that piece of food to my husband. He starts looking confused and a little dejected. I told Jason (my husband): “Take it. He’s offering his favorite food to you! He wants to give you some so you can enjoy it too.”

My husband took the little piece out of his hand and ate it, making a big deal about it the whole time. My sons face just lit up! He was smiling and happy again at once.

That was all he had to offer- a blueberry coated in oatmeal, but to him- it was a big deal and he wanted his daddy to experience it too.

This week, I hope you’ll accept the small things that find their way to you in tiny hands.

Prompt: Make this a week of observation. Take note of how your moods affect those around you. Observe the shift in the atmosphere of your home when you are cranky or upset. How do you see it ripple to your significant other? Your children?

What is the atmosphere you want to establish in your home? What are some tangible ways you can change so that you can establish it?

Would you consider yourself a ‘yes’ mom? Do you base your child’s activities on your comfort/convenience or their own?

What is the last thing your child gave to you? Did you graciously accept their gift or tell them to keep it? Do you notice a difference in their expressions when you accept the gift?

Have a great week. I’ll see you next time!

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