This week we’ve been focusing on a guiding principle of the Ezzo books, which is to keep the family centered on the family, not the family centered on the children. This sounds so ideal and logical and simple in theory. Maybe it is even logical and simple in practice sometimes. But if you are like me (which I am sure some of you unfortunately are) then it is not always easy to put simple things into practice.
Though I work from home when I’m not on maternity leave, I am a full-time stay at home mom. That is, day in and day out I am with the children. How on God’s green earth am I not supposed to become too child centered when my whole day actually does revolve around the children? This is a question I ask myself frequently. It is a question I find new answers for regularly just to convince myself that I’m not somehow missing the mark and raising extremely self-entitled spoiled children. I don’t think that I am. But then again, I didn’t think that guys wearing girly jeans would take off…
Here are some of my thoughts on how we can keep it family centered, particularly in the early years when the family is centered on raising the children.
1. Know the season
I’ve written on embracing our season, and it is so true here. The cold hard fact is that when the children are babies, then toddlers and even still as preschoolers, so much of our days and nights are spent managing them. Not like they are our subjects, but they can’t even carry out many of their own hygienic practices. It’s laughable to think that we won’t spend most of our days directing them. Couch time may need to happen routinely, but even it only lasts a few short minutes compared to the minutes they have your undivided attention. That is okay.
2. Focus on the collective
I have three children 2 years old and under. That means I change a lot of diapers, make a lot of meals, wash a lot of dishes and do a lot of laundry myself. Sure, I get them to help me with as much as I can manage. But it still falls on me as the grown-up. However, even though my days are spent focusing on them as individuals, our routine benefits the collective. And by running the home in this way, I am focusing on meeting all of our needs. I don’t have one child deciding to eat lunch an hour and a half before another child so that I’m doing duty twice.
We have our naps as simultaneous as possible so that I actually get some time to myself which I think is an absolute and total must. Dinnertime is a lot earlier than many people so that they can eat dinner with their daddy, who goes to work by 6:00 most evenings. Independent playtime is done by the older toddlers so that I can have some alone time with my newborn. So, while I’m focusing on the children all day, I am doing it in a way that benefits us all. At least, I try.
3. Let the collective benefit the individual
Just as it’s important that our daily routine and habits benefit everyone as a whole, it is equally important that they benefit everyone as individuals. That can be tricky, but with a little forethought, I think it’s doable. Our current schedule allows me to feed my 3 month old three times during the day while the older children are occupied. Three times I’m able to feed Prince alone and play with him during his wake time without interruption. I can give him my undivided attention.
That also means that there is not a baby in my arms all day long preventing me from actively playing with the others. My 18-month-old isn’t very well able to do crafts yet so I often put him in front of a video he likes while I do the messier crafts with my daughter. He is happy. She is happy. They are both doing things they are able to do. With some planning you can work your schedule in a way that everyone’s needs, and even quite a few wants, are met.
4. Teach manners
For heaven’s sakes, mothers, we can’t let this fall by the wayside. In previous generations lack of manners would be shameful to both children and parents. Today, so many children couldn’t even tell you what it means to have manners. Teaching manners is hard. It requires extreme consistency. I’m still trying to hammer in “yes ma’am” to my daughter and I’m only doing it 50% of the time. That’s why it isn’t working out so well right now. We must teach them not to interrupt the adults while talking. We must teach them to speak respectfully. We must teach them to play nicely with their siblings. These things, though basic in theory, will go a long way in making the home family centered and not individual centered.
I won’t lie, at the end of the day the only thing I really want to talk about with my husband is the kids. What they did. What they didn’t do. Why I wanted to
squeeze the life out of them hug them really tight. It’s how I process. It’s how I rehash things to be sure I did the right thing. Or to get agreement that I’m not going about something the best way.
Plus, my husband likes to know what he’s missed if he isn’t home. Even when we do find time alone, like last night, the kids have a way of really needing us, 1 in 31 chance of it happening. And it happens on “date night.”
Having a family centered home will look different depending on whose family it is. It is such an admirable goal, to have each child feel part of something. Belonging is one of the most important things a child can feel. If you’d ever been trained in counselling as I have, you’d know the extreme damage that feelings of rejection (whether actual or perceived) can have on a person. Creating a sense of a family unit will bringing a strong security to your children, but navigating it in the day-to-day will be a challenge. However, if something isn’t challenging it isn’t worth very much is it?