The Real Family Rules

If you’ve spent 5 minutes on Etsy or Pinterest or even Amazon, you’ve seen the now infamous subway art Family Rules. They are lovely and precious and available in 92 varieties and every color and font imaginable. We have the vinyl version over our piano. In black.

But if your family is anything like mine, these aren’t the real rules in our home and they aren’t always true.


Because I don’t always laugh out loud or hug often and I for one am glad there isn’t a rule making me to do. People in my house don’t always share or love one another. Sometimes we yell at each other on the way to church and when I ask them to help, they hide in the bathroom. And sometimes when we try something new, we really hate it and cry in the middle of the lake.

That’s our reality.

I think the grass-is-greener mentality is an age old problem, but with instant access to technology, someone else’s grass is filtered to look much greener on our screens, in our feeds and tempting us to change our status to match.

It’s dangerous business altering a picture to perfection before we snap it. The bottom line, technology has made it easier to give us a prettier reality, but the truth is, it’s never as perfect as it seems. Or real.

I’d like see Pinterest boards filled with disastrous recipes gone wrong, outfits from the clearance rack that don’t perfectly coordinate, real hair tutorials that involve dry shampoo or a dirty pony tale, and pictures of first day of school breakfast feasts that involve eggs on a paper plate.

While I’m interested in pretty pins on a screen, when I try replicate them in my real life, it’s more of a Pintermess.

Live your messy life and don’t apologize for it. Don’t scrub the ink off your toddler’s arms before you Instagram it or move the dirty pile of laundry in the background. Because your real life moments are a beautiful mess. And they are more encouraging to your friends than you know when they show up on their screens and feeds.

Here’s what the real family rules in our house are:

  • If your sister pushes you, do not lick her arm in retribution.
  • When you whine, you make your mother twitch and (bonus), you get to go to bed early.
  • Always do your best, but if your best is a 64 average in math, you’re going to tutoring.
  • Be kind with your words. Talking back is a bad idea.
  • Apologize when you’ve done wrong, but please don’t yell “I’M SORRY!” across the house in an angry tone.
  • Share stuff (except don’t remind me of this rule when I won’t let you drink out of my sweet tea glass).
  • Have fun. But if  you have too much fun, you might have to mop it up.
  • Be Happy. And remember it has nothing to do with getting your way.
  • Try new things, unless it’s mom’s razor on your tongue. That will hurt.
  • Be grateful. Ingratitude will be a red flag to momma that you need a chore or two.
  • Hands are for hugging or giving wedgies, wet willies, what have you.
  • Follow your dreams, unless they include a lot of facial piercings.

How about you?


  1. 4


    I love this post! That picture is great! Bless her heart! Real is the good stuff no one can relate to perfect! Moms need to know other people struggle with the same things and beg Jesus to take the wheel! :) Thanks for posting!

  2. 5


    I loved this and laughed out loud as I was reading it. Sometimes when I am surfing and reading others blogs I am thinking to myself, “yeah, right” There are no perfect people. There are no perfect families and because we are human is what makes us all so interesting. Thanks for writing these rules. I love them!

  3. 7

    Kristi F says

    You have inspired me to create a new Pinterest board of the things I’ve tried that didn’t look like the picture. I have started to try to remember that everything I see on Facebook or Pinterest are people’s highlight reels. They don’t usually show the real deal. Thanks for this reminder!

    • 7.1

      Shannon says

      Someone once told me, “Don’t compare your game film to someone else’s highlight reel.” It has stuck with me! (I’m married to a football coach who is also the video guy, so it really resonates with me!) I love it when I get a glimpse of someone’s “game film” and realize it looks just like mine!

      • 7.1.1

        AmberK says

        VERY good way to put this!!! I live in a home with a hubby and three sons…they’ll resonate with this much beter than anything else I could’ve came up with. Thank you for sharing!!!!

      • 7.1.2


        a similar quote is attributed to Pastor Steven Furtick, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” and social media has only served to increase everyone’s insecurity. Between the girl’s nights out you don’t get invited to or the cute chalkboard first day of school photos…I feel left out and that I have failed! Thinking maybe I need to start posting pictures of the 4 baskets full of clean laundry waiting to be folded or the 2 days worth of dishes in my sink or the smelly sweaty boy socks strewn throughout my house….or the (new to us) fluffs of dog hair in ALL the corners and coating the couch cushions…or…..

    • 12.1

      Melissa McIntyre says

      I think I was eight when I saw my mom shaving her armpits. I decided to try it too, except I tried to shave my WHOLE arm, dry. OUCH! I can still remember the sting of razor burn on my arms! For that reason we have always kept our razors up HIGH in the shower in a little suction basket so no one can reach them 😉

  4. 15


    This is great! Pretty sure most of these are rules in our house too. Funny, our ‘first day of school’ pictures was me writing on a paper plate what grade they were going into – in lipstick! LOL that’s all I had! It’s good to be reminded of these things thanks!

  5. 16

    Beth says

    After being “too busy” for pinterest for a while I couldn’t understand my lack of…being impressed by it when I tried it again! It’s handy, no doubt about it. But it’s that insane level of perfection that I really didn’t like. Plus, it was making me hungry for things I’m not eating right now. :)

  6. 17

    Shannon says

    I struggled on the first day of school because I saw everyone else’s chalkboard signs or cute back to school pictures with the child holding up the grade level with their fingers. I didn’t do any of that. She posed in front of the fireplace and smiled. Simple, but us. I had to remind myself that it’s ok to not have a pinterest life. I’m good at certain things and not other things, and that’s ok!

    And with your first rule, so glad my kid isn’t the only crazy licker!!! I don’t get it! Why is licking a thing to the younger ages? My kids will pretend to be giving me a kiss and then lick my cheek!

    • 17.1

      Melissa McIntyre says

      Hmm… maybe I’m a younger kid stuck in a mom’s body??? I do that to my kids ALL the time! Lol! I go to kiss them and lick their cheek! Especially my older kids (10, 12, 14 ) EWWW, Mom!! Totally fun and totally worth it every time 😉

  7. 19


    Oh ya! Glad you said it!

    I know just what you mean about the “perfect” picture. Too often we paint this unrealistic visual for everyone to see when the reality is all heck is breaking loose.

    Be real. God sees the truth and you never know who needs to know their life doesn’t totally suck!

  8. 20

    Laura says

    Ha! Perfect! Loved this and loved the laugh – which came as a result of identifying with your “reality” rules. 😉

  9. 23


    Yes, that’s us too! My kids punching instead of hugging each other. My husband and I bickering, not holding hands. Rides to church where thanksgiving is replaced with complaints and ungratefulness…I could go on and on. We are far from being an idyllic, perfect family. But rules are there to guide us, not to become our idols. We try to follow family rules, those we have set up as parents based on our culture and values, and specially those in the Bible. Again and again our sinful nature gets in the way. Still, we look forward to God’s new mercies each morning, and to a beautiful life that although imperfect, is a precious gift and must be lived fully daily!

  10. 24


    I laughed out loud, then read the list of rules to Mike. :) I’ve never been able to bring myself to get one of those “House Rules” or “Family Rules” things, because, in our house, it’d be like pointing out to us all how awful we are! LOL!

  11. 26

    Shannon says

    I love your post! One of my rules that my girls loved was, “Don’t do (insert activity here) right now. Mom is making no trips to the emergency room today/tonight!” We only had a couple of ER trips but the girls always thought my rule was funny!

  12. 27

    Ginny says

    This is exactly what I have been feeling lately. I just got a pinterest account but have yet to pin anything for these exact reasons!! Thank you for putting these words out there!!

  13. 31

    Heather says

    Isn’t transparency what God asks of us? And that is what I LOVE about your blog. You are so real. I feel like you and I could be the best of friends, and I am so thankful that I get to walk along side you and your family while we are in the same crazy stages.

  14. 32

    Danielle says

    I look forward to your blog posts every day! Although I don’t have any children yet, this concept is actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I see so many teens whose lives revolve around social media, causing discontentment when their lives don’t seem “perfect” like everyone else’s. Thanks for always being so real and truthful.

  15. 33


    Thanks for the laugh and the dose of reality. I’m glad I skipped the whole Pinterest thing~I think you have a stellar idea. Why not create a place to share all our fails and flops?!

  16. 34

    Elizabeth says

    Thank you for this. I’m getting married in November and had eagerly pinned all these beautiful pictures of my dream wedding…and now that reality has set in I am finding that I need to remind myself that my pinterest wedding…is completely unrealistic. At the end of the day, if I am married to the man I love, it will all be worth it. In the meantime I have stopped looking at pinterest wedding pins and am enjoying my perfectly “imperfect” realistic wedding. :)

  17. 35

    Heather M says

    As a fellow Texan, you understand the desire to take a picturesque photograph of happy children in matching outfits, sitting in a field of bluebonnets….every year. All the while, trying to add more people…like cousins, aunts, uncles…and then try to get them ALL to look in the same direction, preferably the camera, at the same time.

    So, after years of trying to get that elusive shot, I finally turned to my mother, the photographer, and said, WE ARE DONE! That’s it! We get what we get. Because what we SHOULD have been doing all along is just trying to capture the moment…not manufacture one. So now, we just get what we can, and give up the rest.

    For the perfectionists among us, this is HARD. But it’s better for everyone involved, least of which, our blood pressure.

    <3 your REAL family

  18. 36

    Melanie says

    Now this set of rules is what I need over my mantle! LOVED it! Thanks for reminding me to keep things in perspective!! :)

  19. 37


    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! It’s about time someone pointed out that life is messy and that’s normal! My house is never neat, my daughter’s hair rarely stays brushed, and some days I’m lucky I make it out of my pajamas. Thank goodness I’m not alone!

  20. 41


    For years, I’ve joked about starting a magazine called “House Truthful,” where there’s laundry piles on the couch, dirty socks in front of the TV, and three days worth of mail on the kitchen island!

    And by the way, have you ever noticed that houses in magazines don’t have Kleenex boxes or trash cans? I guess that’s because nobody ever cries in those perfect houses.

  21. 42


    I needed this today. I was looking through some old christmas video of when my kids were small. We had been renovating and were living through hotplates and crockpots and stacks of dishes and plywood and bare stud walls. And it was hard for me to look at this video and see my beautiful chidren and their joy of the day because of the terrible state that my house was in, and ‘how could I have made us live that way for so long?’ Thank you for pointing out what should have been obvious – the only one who sees the disaster is me. I have three boys and a dog. The walls are dirty. The paint is chipped. Their are dishes in the sink and unfinished drywall on the ceiling. But I’ll get to that after we finish chasing each other through the house with laser tag, building legos, or making science experiments in the bathtub. As much as I wish it were, it will never be a magazine house. PinterMESS, though, absolutely!

  22. 43


    I know it’s cheesy when people tell you that you’ve “inspired” them to write a blog post of their own on the same topic, so I’ll just own it and say I’m going to knock this off on my blog tomorrow. I even made an adorable, little Pinterest-worthy graphic to highlight the irony of it all.

  23. 44


    I have often said I wish I could live in my blog because my clean and styled rooms look like that for only as long as it takes to snap the photo. We set an impossible standard for ourselves when we try to match what we see in magazines or Pinterest. I am guilty of it and guilty of feeling less than when my house or life devolves to mess and chaos.

    I’ve never much liked those rules signs because I never saw any that I thought would work for us. But yours, they are perfect.

  24. 45

    Wendy says

    Laughed & laughed & laughed……. You could do stand up comedy! These things are so funny & so true!

  25. 46


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