I have this thing for sweeping. I think I might have mentioned it a time or two.
Maybe that’s why my robotic vacuum, a gift I bought myself for Christmas, sort of feels like I fell in love and got myself a wife. (She cleans while I’m at work. I’m still trying to get her to tackle the laundry pile but the socks keep jamming).
The other day I called for my kids to come downstairs to sweep up a crumbly spill in the kitchen. “Mom, turn on the Roomba!” a kid yelled without looking up from their iPad. (And if that doesn’t make you mad, you my friend are a much better person than I am.)
The dog was still whining to go outside and I was standing alone in the kitchen cooking dinner –still waiting for the children I had called ten minutes earlier to come and help me. My next book contract was sitting on the counter, waiting to be signed and I had already put in a full day at work.
These are the moments that test us. And I’m pretty certain I failed. I turned off the internet and yelled a bunch of things I can’t remember and then I swallowed my anger and texted my husband: Tonight, we are having a family meeting.
The week before I had told him I was feeling overwhelmed and needed more help with meals and laundry and he reminded me that we had kids for a reason. Just kidding, he didn’t say that, but he did remind me that our family system of contributing had broken-down.
Don’t get me wrong: We have a chore chart and screen time rules. We rotate dinner prep and cleanup and the pets are potty trained and well fed. But we had a hectic Fall that led us into a busy holiday season and we’ve all gotten lazy.
Like most kids, mine are typically going to do what I ask and only that. Occasionally, there’s a burst of generosity and spontaneously serve others in our house and I tuck these moments away in my heart. But some days I’m too tired to ask for help. And then I find myself working my tail off in a dirty house while my kids are having a movie marathon and I’m in full martyr mode by the time my husband walks through the door.
So, yeah, it was time for a little family meeting. We do these a few times a year. They aren’t always well-received, but usually memorable. Sometimes people cry. Other times people get mad. This week, someone actually got grounded. But usually when it’s all said and done, we’ve talked things through and we get back on track.
It generally sounds something like this, “Kids, your Dad and I need to have a serious talk. No one is in trouble, but we are troubled. We both work hard to provide for our family and we know you’re working hard with school. But when we’re all home together, we have a job here, too, and we’ve noticed our system of working together has sort of broken-down. Your mom and I are doing more than our share and it’s time we get back to a system that works for all of us.”
We then went down the things on our list:
- Chores-we divided up daily and weekly household jobs
- Meals- if you eat, you help. Everyone can do something.
- Daily Screen Time Limit and a Once a Week No media Day reminders
- Pets-Just a little reminder that the die if they don’t get fed.
- Others-We talked about being behind on writing sponsored letters to our Compassion kids and gave them two weeks to each write two letters each.
I love family meetings (mostly) because it’s a good time family reminder that:
- Contributing to the family isn’t optional. It’s what makes us family. We all do our part (and if we don’t, we lose privileges).
- If our kids don’t learn how to work at home and aren’t expected to follow through, we might be surprised at what we are actually teaching them.
- It teaches our kids to have compassion for others–namely their parents. We need help and we get tired and don’t always enjoy housekeeping
Your family meeting will look different than ours. But you should have one and figure out how to figure it out. Share this post with your other half or your kids and plan one soon.
Today, I swept a clean floor. But I did it because I wanted to.