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Enjoy Harmony in Your Household
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Kathy Peel's new book, Desperate Households: How to Restore Order and Harmony to Your Life and Home, (Tyndale House Publishers, 2007).
You step over piles of clutter as you rush to get the kids ready for school. When you open the refrigerator, you discover that you’re out of milk again, but dry cereal will have to do for breakfast. There’s no time to run to the store because you’re running late. Then your kids tell you that they can’t find any clean shirts to wear because you haven’t gotten to the laundry. You wish you could go to school in their places because you just want to escape from the chaos in your house for a while. Does this remind you of your household?
If not, how about this: Your young son comes in the house from playing in the backyard and immediately tracks mud all over your clean carpets. You yell at him and feel bad when he cries, but doesn’t he realize how exhausted you are from cleaning the house all day long? And now you have to finish cooking a dinner from scratch. Your daughter offers to help you cook; she even says it would be fun for her. But fun is the last thing on your mind right now. You send both of your kids away so you can focus on getting everything done exactly right.
Neither extreme is healthy. You can have a clean, organized, and peaceful home – and time to enjoy it – if you seek God’s wisdom about managing it.
Here’s how you can enjoy harmony in your household:
Manage your home as well as you would a business. Recognize that running your home is much like running a business. You and others in your household provide important services like food preparation, child raising, laundry, transportation, housecleaning, caring for the sick, caring for the lawn and garden, home and car maintenance and repair, acquiring goods and services, and financial accounting. Managing your household is important work that requires someone to take charge, and the person who assumes responsibility for serving as the manager deserves appreciation and respect. If you’re a single parent, you’re your family’s manager. If you’re married, figure out who can best serve in the role (you or your spouse) – according to who has the most amount of time at home (even if you both work outside the home). Understand, though, that while just one person serves as the manager, he or she manages a team of family members who all pitch in to do the work – just like in a professional workplace. Divide the various household chores among yourself, your spouse, and your children, according to each person’s giftedness and availability. Know that your work at home has just as much dignity, honor, and value as professional work. Do your best to work together to create a home that runs as smoothly as a successful business.
Discover your personal management style. Instead of wasting time and energy trying to run your home the way others do, figure out how to make your unique design and God-given gifts work best for you. Make a list of activities that energize you, and another of tasks that drain your energy. As you study the list of what you like to do, notice what patterns you see repeated in them. Do you enjoy working with people, numbers, tools, words, ideas, techniques, colors, fabrics, food, or physical things? Then ask yourself how you can spend more time and energy on tasks you enjoy and do well. How can you maximize your strengths and delegate the jobs that drain you? Are there other family members who like to do what you don’t like doing yourself? If so, could you delegate those tasks to them? If not, could you barter with a friend to switch tasks sometimes at each other’s homes, or hire help to get certain tasks done? Remember that there will always be jobs you hate doing, but you can learn to work with your strengths and work around areas where you’re not gifted and through people who are.
Write a family mission statement. Sit down with your spouse to think and pray about setting priorities for your family. Why does your family exist? What is God’s purpose for your family, and what’s your basic approach to achieving that purpose? What are you trying to accomplish as your family’s manager? What core values guide your decisions? What type of atmosphere do you want to create in your home? What type of memories do you want your children to take with them once they grow up and leave home? Realize that if you fail to set clear priorities and build your decisions around them, your family life will likely end up quite different from how you’d like it to be. So write a family mission statement that explains what’s most important to your family, and why. Then keep that mission statement in mind when you make decisions every day, so you can build your choices around what’s most important to your family. Whenever your plans are interrupted by something unexpected happening, pray for God to help you put those interruptions into perspective so they don’t cause you unnecessary stress, and to give you the wisdom you need to respond to them well.
Communicate wisely with your spouse. Share the workload around the house. View each other as the equal partners you are, and seek to bless each other when you do chores, rather than resenting the work you have to do. Forget tradition when dividing household responsibilities; instead, divide them by who’s most gifted to handle what and how much time you each have at home. If your husband is a better cook than you and has the time to cook, encourage him to do so. If your wife can perform house and car repairs and is available for it, invite her to do so. Figure out how you and your spouse’s strengths and weaknesses complement each other. Expect that you’ll each sometimes fail to complete chores on time or well; whenever that happens, forgive and help each other. Whenever you disagree about a job that needs to be done around the house, pray for God to help you resolve the conflict with wisdom. Discover projects you both enjoy and can work on together to strengthen your bond.