How I Implement Family Systems
At the beginning of the New Year, I knew I needed to give my home life an overhaul. 2020 was quite the year for all of us, and though there was also GOOD in 2020 and so many ways I saw God work, I knew that God was calling me to less so that I could make room for more – more time with my kids, more discipling, more one-on-ones, more coffee dates, more intentional time with my husband. But time for these things doesn’t come out of thin air, and so some changes needed to be made in our home to make room for the life I want to live – which is a life that has space for relationships.
My kids had relatively no morning or evening schedule besides meals and bedtime, and the lack of structure led to chaos, a lot of messes, which causes stress for myself and my husband. I thought I had no control over it, that it’s just the way it was. I’m a busy mom. I have 5 kids. They are still fairly young. My husband and I both run businesses. This is just the way life has to be right now. I was a victim of the circumstances I had created.
I’m an Enneagram 1W2 – a perfectionist, a reformer, a servant leader – many titles I’ve heard for this personality type. But if I’m one thing, I’m a problem solver. I like systems and organization, and I have a hard time saying, “That’s just the way it is right now.” I will be the very FIRST person to tell you that there is grace for any stage of life – we all need it, right? But I also believe that creativity and problem-solving skills can make a difference. Saying no can make a difference. Living intentionally can make a difference. And making hard choices can make a difference.
I have a dear friend – she’s becoming the big sister I never had and is certainly a mentor in my life. As a mom of four herself who has lived 7 yrs longer than me, she’s in a different stage with teens and always has so much wisdom to share with me on family life and work “balance” though I know that word has become quite a cliche. She is the one who has encouraged me to seek the abundance that God has for each of us, and if I were to declare a word for 2021 (which I hadn’t up until writing this today) it would be abundance. I believe that God has abundance for us, no matter where we are, what our circumstances are…He wants us to experience His abundance, and it doesn’t come from how much money is in our bank account, or what car we’re driving, how fancy our home is, or how orderly our schedule is.
Abundance comes from communion with the Father. Abundance is on the other side of stress and anxiety. Abundance doesn’t mean everything is always perfect…abundance is a relationship that overflows with His goodness, His joy, His peace. And I can’t get to abundance if I’m riding the waves of anxiety, stress, and chaos.
And so I dared to dream that it was possible even with 5 kids and crazy schedules…even with running a business start-up, to live in abundance. But it takes intentionality every single day. This is not for the faint of heart, and though I don’t want to scare you away (because it’s 100% worth every bit of work!!), it will require a little sweat. It will require a little reflection, analysis, and possibly even some death to self, death to “good” things in exchange for better.
Here are the main areas my husband and I looked at:
- Our relationship with God
- Physical health
- Kids’ activities
- Home Life
We analyzed what was working well and what wasn’t. If it wasn’t working well, we talked about what we could do to fix the problem. Here’s a couple of glaring issues for me: I was really struggling to meal plan like my family needed, and I was struggling to make time for budgeting. You can see the results of these two things. Let me tell you…it’s not for a lack of tools. I’ve tried all the tools. It was a lack of time and priority. I had no set time during the week, or the set time I had wasn’t working well. But by problem-solving, we were able to create space on Wednesday afternoons for both of these while the baby naps (which was usually my time to fold laundry), and now instead of dreading them, I actually look forward to a little quiet time to work on these b/c life feels better when I know where our money is going and I have meals lined up vs. wondering what to make at 5:30 pm.
In regards to #1,2, 3, and 7, I knew that we needed to have more of a schedule for our mornings and evenings. Nothing crazy rigid, but enough so that my kids knew what to expect which means less nagging on my end. Here’s what I did: (feel free to use my ideas to brainstorm, but I’m fully aware that this might not be the best schedule for your situation!)
I had the kids wake up 15 min earlier than they had been. When they wake up, they need to:
- Get dressed
- Make the bed
- Tidy up their room
Then they come upstairs for breakfast, eat, then brush their teeth and get their things and head out the door. That extra 15 min helps keep their rooms tidy, but it also gives them direction. They no longer come upstairs and turn on the TV, and I have less nagging to do, which means we all have a smoother morning.
In the afternoon, I pick up the kids. After putting things away, snack time, homework, and music lessons they are free to play. We stagger bedtime between 7:30 – 8:30 pm, The older kids get to stay up longer, but rather than letting them do what they want, they need to read downstairs from 8:00-8:30 and then go to bed. This allows Todd and me to finish cleaning up the house and start enjoying some time together catching up on the day. Before this point, it’d be close to 9:00 before we’d sit down b/c the bigger kids would still be up, and while I love time with my kids, my marriage needs to be a priority, and so shifting this has majorly helped give us time together while not getting to bed so late. I know in a couple of years this will shift again as all the kids go to bed later and we have more and more evening activities, but this is what is working right now for our stage.
This also means WE get to bed on time, so we can get up earlier (5:30 am) for #1 and 2 – spending time in the Word and getting in some movement. The whole system works if I am disciplined enough to enforce it. Did you catch that? I need to be disciplined enough to enforce it, b/c my kids would stay up as long as I let them stay up. And if I sit on the couch, I’m quite likely to NOT want to get up and make all of this happen. And there is a place for that, but giving my YES to that, means giving my NO to time with Todd, time for early morning quiet with Jesus and moving my body before the rest of my family gets up. That still occasionally happens, but the whole system functions better when all of these pieces fall into place.
Earlier I mentioned that my laundry afternoon turned into budget and grocery time. We assigned each kid a laundry day, and so they are responsible for bringing up their laundry and folding it after school (the older three). The younger 2 girls are responsible for putting their laundry away and making their bed as best as they can. The rest of the laundry gets folded on Fridays or Mondays when I’m home and have a free minute, or by my husband and me in the evening after kids are in bed while we spend time together, which may sound super boring but honestly, it’s a great time to talk together.
In terms of cleaning, I have a cleaner who does my main floor every other week, and all the kids help clean the basement every week or so. This was a YES that I made in order to make room for all the other things, and it’s honestly been such a good yes to have a cleaner help me out at least in the stage of life.
My systems won’t work perfectly for you b/c my family is different and my life is different than yours, but I hope you know that the message of Abundance is yours. It’s not just for me – it’s for you too. That might mean just getting up 30 min earlier so you have time with the Father. It might mean being more disciplined with your scrolling and putting the phone in the bedroom so that you are present with your family in the evening. It might mean working out over your noon hour or doing lunch dates to get that intentional time with your spouse. It might mean saying “no” to an activity or a volunteer job you feel like you “should” do. I’m going to encourage you not to do something just out of obligation, but to really decide if that is your BEST yes. Because it makes a difference. And abundance is on the other side of stress, chaos, and anxiety. It’s yours for the taking – but it will require a bit of sweat and possibly some tears. But you…you’re made to do hard things.