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What Family Management Is All About
When you feel desperate because some key areas of your household are out of control, all you may care about is finding that one magical tip or strategy that will restore order to your home-ASAP.
If that's how you feel, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you can bring your household under control-and it may not take as long as you think. The bad news is that it won't come from discovering one foolproof technique. Instead, it will happen as you embrace your role as your family's manager and learn to use your expertise and creativity to direct the day-to-day functioning of your home. That's why I devote the first three chapters of this book to helping you understand your role, your unique giftedness, and your priorities. Please note that this is about you-not about making you manage your home and life a certain way. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I must first stress that every home needs a Family Manager-a person who oversees the household from the perspective of an executive manager of the most important organization in the world. Family Management, like all other good management, is not about a dictator imposing arbitrary standardsfrom on high. It's about sharing responsibility, helping each person find his or her niche, and empowering each one to succeed. In our family, I'm the Family Manager and my husband, Bill, is Chairman of the Board. We both participate in the operations of our home and take very seriously the job of building equity, if you will, into our home and family.
Like top-level corporate executives, Bill and I are peers and colleagues, and are committed to the same mission and values. But when push comes to shove, the buck has to stop somewhere-and the way we understand God's organizational hierarchy, it stops with Bill.
What! you gasp. I thought you were an independent, opinionated, modern, liberated woman!
Guilty as charged ... and, quite frankly, it is indeed liberating to know that God holds my husband ultimately responsible for the Peel family. But I digress. The point here is that the job of Family Manager is a valuable, executive-level position, and we need to get over any preconceived Stepford-wife notions about what it means to oversee the goings-on of a home and family.
In the majority of homes, Mom is the Family Manager, but in some households it makes more sense for Dad to be the Family Manager. I wrote this book from a woman's perspective and with women in mind, but the principles and strategies work no matter who the Family Manager is. And it's important for everyone in the family to understand the value of this role and treat the person who fills it with respect.
Every Mom Is a Working Mom
Although we've made progress over the past ten years, the "Do you work?" question is still awkward for many women. Women who do not work outside the home often flinch at this question, because they work all day and their work is never done. Those who have tabled professional careers to raise a family find themselves not only defending their choice but also suffering unwanted pity: "How sad to think you gave up your career as an IT professional [or attorney, marine biologist, or whatever]." Others may ask them angrily, "How could you let your education go to waste?" People who ask questions like that have, in my opinion, never spent even one day with a curious three-year-old. Young children are not people upon whom education is wasted.
The "Do you work?" question can also be touchy for mothers who have jobs in the marketplace. They typically answer the question with what they do to earn a paycheck as a real estate broker, sales manager, nurse-practitioner, etc. Whether they spend twenty or sixty hours a week "on the job," they still have to come home and spend more hours cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. In response to the "Do you work?" question, many of them reply, "I sure do work. I'm holding down two full-time jobs-one at my office and one at home."
In 1969, the seminal days of the working-mother debate, I was a college sophomore. I first heard in one of my humanities classes that it was boorishly backward-at least in the minds of the campus intellectuals-for a woman to even consider marrying and starting a family rather than pursuing her degree career path. Almost forty years later, sparks still fly between people on both sides of the issue.
I read an article a few months ago that made me want to give the journalist a piece of my mind (which I can ill afford to lose). She stated that full-time motherhood is not good for women because they lose out professionally, not good for men because they don't get to spend as much time fathering their children, not good for the kids because they grow up gender biased, and not good for the community because women who stay at home with their children are not contributing to the broader community as doctors, lawyers, social workers, and such-which is their duty as good citizens.
I wondered, What planet is this woman from? I researched her background and learned that she teaches women's studies at a college and does not have children herself (at least at the time she wrote the article). I wrote a lengthy response to her article, but she did not respond. Following is the bulk of my reply.
When I became a mother over thirty years ago, I chose to stay home with my children, and it did not infringe on my husband's desire to be an involved father. He cleaned up baby vomit, drove carpools, coached teams, and to their delight and better health, cooked a whole lot of dinners.
As a stay-at-home mother, I did not lose out professionally, and our community did not suffer. When my children were young, I continued my education by reading books, taking classes, and learning new skills. I put in many hours volunteering at my children's schools, for community service organizations and political campaigns, and at church. Waiting awhile to pursue another career, in addition to my career as a Family Manager, did not compromise my ability to achieve success in the marketplace today as an author and CEO of a company. (I can't brag about my 401(k), but it's a small price to pay for great kids, a strong marriage, and a family that still functions as a team although we're separated by miles.)
When it comes to "women's work" and "men's work," fulltime mothering did not cause my children to grow up gender biased. Our three boys learned that men are just as capable as women of mopping a floor and recognizing the aroma of a diaper that needs changing, and that women can run hospitals and corporations equally as well as men. Our sons also learned that smart management, of an office or a home, means delegating tasks according to age, schedule, and personal giftedness, not gender. And they learned that family is a team effort-a team made up of males and females.
Rearing children and managing a household are two of the most demanding and rewarding jobs. It is a great privilege and a huge responsibility with far-reaching ramifications for our communities, our country, and the world. What goes on in our homes affects who our children are today and will continue to influence them and their children when we're gone. As we spend time with our children-encouraging them at the breakfast table before school, listening to the happenings of their day in the car on the way to soccer practice, praying with them as we tuck them in at night-we are teaching them who they are and preparing them for who they will become. We are training them in how to treat other human beings and the planet we live on, how to determine right and wrong, and how they can contribute to making the world a better place. We're showing them how to express love and affection, anger and frustration, and how to settle conflicts. And most important, we're teaching them God's guidelines for living. This is valuable work-no matter how many other full- or part-time jobs you have, whether you're paid in sticky kisses or company stock-and it should not be taken lightly, for our children's sake and the world's.
Don't get me wrong. I am not advocating that every woman who works in the marketplace should quit her job and come home. My list of the best mothers I know includes a business owner, a physician, an interior designer, and a congresswoman, as well as women who have chosen Family Management as their only full-time career. All these women live balanced lives, and their families take priority over their careers.
I also know full-time mothers who don't take their job seriously. They fritter away time watching television, shopping, and running up credit card bills. Discontented and bored with their lives, they have low self-esteem and remain dissatisfied much of the time-not a good place to be, no matter what your job.
Here's the bottom line: Family Management is serious business. Bringing up children is not only a great privilege but also a responsibility that we need to take as seriously as career success, because home is where success really matters. Whether we're changing a diaper or closing a deal, our work has dignity, honor, and value.
The family is a great invention. When it's working at its best, the family unit is a uniquely loving and supportive place. It's where unconditional love finds rich expression and produces lasting rewards. However, whether we're office managers, Family Managers, or both, we are only human. We need help in balancing life's demands. We can't do everything by ourselves-and that's what family is about.
Who Is Your Family's Manager?
When Bill and I married in 1971, we didn't have the options and opportunities of today's couples when it comes to premarital classes, counseling, and temperament assessments that identify potential relational rocky spots. You can bypass a lot of heartache by asking questions and discussing important differences and definitions before you say "I do." For example, how were disagreements settled in the home where you grew up? Did family members blow up or clam up? Who managed the household? What was your family's definition of clean? Did your family eat dinner together? How did your parents handle money? Who always did what around the house? How did you celebrate holidays? Did you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Most people consider how their family of origin did things as "normal." But if not discussed beforehand, when two views of normal meet on the business end of matrimony, trouble lurks just around the corner.
On our wedding day, Bill and I knew that we wanted to spend our lives together serving God and helping people-but we'd never discussed the nitty-gritty details of our homes. We had a rude awakening when Bill's normal and my normal collided.
Bill came from a family in which his mother did everything, and I mean everything, for him and his dad. Naturally, Bill's view of normal was a wife/mother who, in addition to her pastor's wife duties, prepared a "country breakfast" every morning; took care of all the cleaning, laundry, errands, and shopping; and prepared a home-cooked meal every night. I came from a family in which everything was done for me as well-but not by my mom. We had household help that took care of all the cleaning, laundry, and cooking.
Neither Bill nor I had any inclination or preconceived notions about doing housework. It had always been done for us. So naturally, Bill expected me to do it. And naturally, I had no intention of doing it-much less by myself. Talk about a culture clash!
But we were also products of the sixties-you know, civil rights, women's liberation, and equal footing for all. So it made sense to us to put aside our views of "normal" and come up with a new definition. We decided that I would be our family's manager, but we would begin our life together working as a team. Back then there were still plenty of traditionalists who wondered why in the world Bill should clean, cook, or do laundry since he was the husband. And when he became a father, they saw no need for him to learn how to change diapers or use a rectal thermometer. They thought that I, the wife and mother, would naturally assume most of the responsibilities for domestic chores and for the children in our young, growing family.
We came to the mutual conclusion that men are just as capable as women of mopping a floor and changing a diaper. We're in this together, we reasoned, and if that means crossing some invisible but deeply drawn gender lines that say a woman does this and a man does that-which back then it really did-well, so be it.
We also believed (as we still do) that if Mom is a full-time Family Manager, then Dad is more than somebody who signs the checks and doles out praise or punishment at the end of the day. Bill wanted to be just as involved with our home and our children's lives as I was. We were naive, though, especially before we had our first child. Neither of us had a clue just how demanding a new baby can be, especially in the middle of the night. Since Bill had to get up early in the morning to drive across town for an 8 a.m. grad school class and then head straight to his part-time job (which paid the rent), it didn't seem fair that he should take equal turns at sleepless nights. That was when we reassessed equality.
As our egalitarian arrangement has devolved and then evolved over the last thirty-six years, Bill and I have made changes based on what we want for our family and ourselves. Except for a brief part-time teaching job and some entrepreneurial endeavors, during the first sixteen years of our marriage I chose to have only one fulltime job as the Peel Family Manager-staying at home with our children and running our household. It made sense that I should bear most of the domestic responsibilities during the day since Bill had a full-time job outside the home. Then at night we shared the responsibilities-kids, dishes, baths, spelling words. As our boys grew and were able, they began to help out as well. We wanted them to grow up understanding that being part of a family is a privilege, as well as a responsibility. But it was more than making sure they had regular chores to learn about responsibility. We wanted them to feel the pride of "ownership" and the independence of being able to, in part and according to their age, take care of their things and themselves. We also wanted our kids to grow up understanding that it's okay for men and women to cross over traditional, invisible territorial boundaries. Nowhere that I know of is it written that Dad is the only one who understands finances and Mom is everyone's live-in maid.
About the time I began writing and traveling around the country to speak, Bill started writing and speaking too, so our arrangement changed again. We regularly studied our calendars to make sure one parent was at home while the other one traveled. We divvied up household tasks according to our new schedule, and although we are hard-core do-it-yourselfers, we outsourced more jobs so that when we were home we'd have more time for family fun. Someone else could clean the carpets at this time in our lives.
Excerpted from desperate households by kathy peel Copyright © 2007 by Kathy Peel. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted April 23, 2012
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