Strengthen your family in a way that means most to you
Years ago our family took a vacation (with six children the word “vacation” is used loosely). We stopped to visit Hoover Dam, and during our tour the guide described the great pains taken to ensure the solidity and safety of the dam, but even as he spoke we could feel the moisture and see rivulets of water on the ceiling. When someone pointed that out he said, “Water finds a way.”
As I’ve thought of what would be the most important thing to focus on this year, I keep returning to the family. Just like the water at Hoover Dam, life will find a way — even in the strongest of families — to present obstacles and choices that could damage relationships. Ironically at each fork in the road — meaning each event, activity, employment and contribution — we decide whether we will ultimately strengthen or weaken our families this year.
4 things matter most
Roger and Rebecca Merrill share in their book “Life Matters” that no matter society or life’s situation, four things consistently matter most: work, family, time and money. It’s the balancing of those that are key “because life is dynamic, [so] the real issue is … creating the capacity to balance — day in, day out — in the unique and ever-changing circumstances of our lives.”
This year, consider strengthening your family in a way that matters most to you. For some that may mean being more selective of extracurricular activities to allow for downtime as a family, even if it’s only for a game of bonding Uno. For others, it may be creating one night a week to spend together, just the family, no interruptions (translation for teens: no texting, no headphones, no cell phones. Watch for possible fainting.) It could be choosing a new predictable ritual that children can count on such as family breakfast on Saturdays, a family-only activity each month, or a date night with each child during the course of the year.
In these economic times, there may be more serious considerations for strengthening the family such as if a husband goes back to school or if a currently working wife determines to become a full-time mother or work from home. These are very personal and often difficult decisions. Early in our marriage, my husband became seriously ill. Although I had a teaching degree, leaving my toddler son to work full-time wasn’t what we wanted for our family. As we considered options, a neighbor talked to me about medical transcription, which I could do from home. Ultimately, I was able to make more working from home — only four hours a day during my son’s sleeping hours — than I would have made teaching full time.
Decisions become more difficult when financial benefits don’t add up. According to the Merrills’ book, a “second income needs to reach $30,000 before even one dollar is contributed to spendable income in the family.”
We’re all in this together
Perhaps strengthening your family will mean increasing the contributions of each family member. According to professors Kathleen Bahr and Cheri Loveless, in previous generations children had “shared much of the hard work, laboring alongside their fathers and mothers in the house and on the farm … This work was considered good for them – part of their education for adulthood … Eventually, the relationship of children and work inside the family completely reversed itself: children went from economic asset to pampered consumer.”
Perhaps we can decide as a family what chores can be delegated to the capable children and reconsider the division of labor between spouses. In the book “Lighten Up,” Chieko Okazaki writes, “Dishes don’t care what gender you are, they just need to be done.”
Rather than a village, it takes a family to raise a family, and that means work, family, time, money and fun. Regardless of which way you and I choose to strengthen our families, as we do so, our community is strengthened and ultimately so is our nation. Perhaps water will find a way, but this year let’s ensure it’s met with caulk, sealant, and a water vac ready and waiting.
About the Author
Connie Sokol is an at-home mother and president of LIFEChange, a program to enhance women’s lives. For more information, visit www.lifechangeprogram.com