As the new year begins we all have such good intentions. We rework schedules, try to fit in runs, change our diets, start new habits. As we do this, we research what works for others, we ask friends and family how they do it, we scour the internet and social media for ideas, but all most of us really end up with at the end of January is a bunch of broken promises to ourselves. We end up feeling like we couldn’t do it perfectly, so why keep up with it at all.
Perfect is often the enemy of done.
In our minds we love to believe that somewhere there is a parent or more generally a person that has it all figured out, you know, the one who has found the ultimate work-life balance. They have learned to juggle all of life’s demands, including keeping a clean and tidy house, cooking nutritious meals, never getting angry and acting on that anger, have children with empathy and manners, fit in daily exercise, find time for their spouse, and give back to their community. NEWS FLASH: this person does not exist! Maybe in the world of social media they appear to, but their close friends and family probably know otherwise.
For further emphasis on the disparity between what we might display on social media as compared with our reality I post these pictures here for your enjoyment. The first series is what some of the main living, working and playing areas look like before we all go to bed at night. Mostly, things are tidy, and if you zoom in to any one area or shelf it looks particularly well put together. However, the second series of photos tells a different story. If you zoom in too close you notice that there are elements that are perhaps not well attended to. Furthermore, if you check out the same areas by mid-morning or worse yet, late afternoon you can see how quickly things have deteriorated. (I hope you not only see the children’s mess, but the half read books, the dust collecting on shelves, and the piles of paper and project parts waiting for me (the adult to complete and take care of).
Before Bed Series...
Mid-day, Busy Week, Mid-project Series...
Now I am not here to dash all your hopes and dreams that someday you can become this perfect person you strive to be, but only to lend support to the idea that we all make mistakes, we all have hard days, and we all have room to grow. In fact, growth is a direct result of experiencing challenges and making mistakes...that you then allow yourself to learn from.
An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. - Neils Bohr (created the Bohr model of the atom)
So what is a person to do?
Don’t strive for perfection, instead strive for self-satisfaction, love, joy, harmony – in the end these are the things you probably want most for yourself and your children anyway.
But how do I even start?
Below I share 10 strategies that I have read, researched and tried, to help you kick off the new year. Clearly, on any given day, week or year I am only so successful in my own journey, so feel free to take some of these tips and leave others. Engage with others in your home, family, and communities about what works for them and slowly build your plan over time. If you like what you see and want to dig in more deeply on your own caregiving journey feel free to explore some of the workshops and coaching services that Growing Home has to offer.
Work with your partner (if you have one) and your children (as young as 3 or 4) to establish your family’s priorities. These should be the things that lead to the most peace, joy, and harmony among all family members. For more on this you might listen to the podcast “Unlocking Us” with Brene Brown. This one is a great place to start: https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-comparative-suffering-the-50-50-myth-and-settling-the-ball/
Divvy up tasks and timelines for completion and post someplace to be checked off when completed to help everyone be accountable. The hidden benefit of doing this kind of work is that it requires you to clearly communicate ahead of time, which sets everyone up for more success.
Create enough organization in your home that commonly used items have a special place where they always go at the end of the day. This allows everyone to play a role in the clean up process and helps you quickly notice when your house has acquired too many items to be manageable.
Set up systems in your home that aid all family members to be more self-sufficient. Maria Montessori noticed that children wanted to do for themselves and it gave them great pride to complete tasks that they were capable of. This could be as simple as moving the fruit bowl and drink glasses to an accessible location or placing a mirror in your child’s room to help them get dressed and brush their hair more independently.
Organize your day and week into habits that are easy to follow. They may still take work at first, but ultimately the more consistent and the less you have to think, the more successful you will be at adopting them. It is not about will power. The Hidden Brain podcast recently aired a great episode on this topic: https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/creatures-of-habit/
Provide grace and courtesy lessons, such as “how to behave at the dinner table with guests”, “how to express a dislike for something you are offered”, or “what to do if you are feeling a big emotion, especially a negative one” BEFORE the time that one might need to employ the new skill. Role play can be especially useful here even for older children and adolescents.
Communicate clearly. Don’t expect that anyone can read your mind. Consider using a regular family meeting to: discuss time and schedule changes, set out boundaries and expectations, make decisions about upcoming or ongoing events/situations, express gratitude and more. If you are interested, Jane Nelson provides a great resource on family meetings: https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/family-meetings
Once your family systems are in place, recognize that it is okay to be flexible within them. Go with the flow by observing what everyone in the family needs. Focus on really listening not only to words, but body language and adjust plans accordingly. Some days we all just need a break to watch movies and eat ice cream, or spend the whole day outside.
Manage your own expectations. With children things rarely go as expected, so we need to prepare ourselves as adults for what may happen and how we will react. A key element of the Montessori Method that is often glossed over and left out of social media photos is that the most important aspect of “the prepared environment” is the “prepared adult”. (Look for a future blog post exclusively on the topic of managing our expectations.)
Know that you are enough. Know that what your children really need is your love, attention, understanding, and respect. Know that it is important to set clear expectations and boundaries that balance the wants and needs of your child with your own needs. One article that may help you explore this topic more is about the different parenting styles and how they benefit your children and ultimately you in the long-term: https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2021/10/05/child-psychologist-explains-why-authoritative-parenting-is-the-best-style-for-raising-smart-confident-kids.html
I hope you find these words helpful as you navigate how to move forward in 2022 among any challenges you may be facing. Don’t hesitate to reach out for more support.
With you in growing your home,