One of my biggest challenges in becoming a mother was finding that my life wasn’t as flexible as it has previously been. With a babe in arms, I couldn’t just pop out to the shops. I suddenly had to think about feeding times and sleeping times. With a toddler I had to think about nap times and creating opportunities for play. Now with my girls at school, my day is only my own between 9:30 and 2:30.
Conversely, another challenge has been finding that my life is not as structured as I would like it to be. I have different personalities, and emotional ups and downs to deal with daily. Sometimes I have to be flexible and cancel my plans or ideas. To allow space and time for my daughters to process their day.
What I have found is the best thing for my family is a flexible structure, or structured flexibility. (Whichever you want – we are being flexible here!).
So how do you get that? Well for us it is all based around our family values.
Sometime last year my husband and I sat down and wrote a value statement for our family, highlighting the things that are important to us:
Faith: God is at the centre
Creativity: He created us to create
Hospitality: to bless others
Service: putting others before ourselves
Together: We build each other up and encourage one another
Peace: We value times of quiet refreshing
Outside: We enjoy and take strength from the world around us
Eating: because everything is enhanced by a good meal
This family value statement gives us a base to make decisions and it affects all aspects of our life, our diary, our home and our finances.
How does this look in practice?
It means that we are a family who doesn’t have an activity on every night of the week or weekends with back-to-back events. Because of our value of peace, we recognise that our family needs down time. The flexibility to have down-time, means that I have to carefully look at our diary for each week and make sure that there are spaces for that to happen (structure).
Our core value of creativity, means that when the girls ask if they can create an ocean diorama with stuff from the craft box I say yes (flexible) because I have all the egg cartons and cardboard boxes there in an easy spot for them to access (structure).
Our family value of service, means that we manage our finances and our time to enable us to contribute to various programs. And particularly at this time of the year, we involve our children in Operation Christmas Child and the Love Community Christmas hampers. We want our children to understand the value of service and giving to those in need.
This value statement guides our family’s decisions, and often if we find ourselves wondering about whether we should do something or not, we come back to these values and evaluate the decision in the light of them. And some of these things are easier than others. I love to cook, so gathering around the table with friends and family is easy. But keeping space in our weekends, means saying no to some of the good things that come our way as a family, and that is harder.
Remember this value statement is for our family, and they don’t work for everyone. I know families that need to be really active and have things on most nights, as they are a high-energy family. It doesn’t work for us but it works for them.
I also know that the statement changes over time. When we were a professional couple with no kids, we did have something on most nights of the week with Monday as our date night. But seasons change and the nature of our family has changed and therefore our value statement has changed.
This is what works for me, could it maybe work for you to? Would it be helpful to have a way to create a flexible structure or structured flexibility in your life and for your family?
There are a number of people who have written and blogged about family value statements. We formed ours using Tsh Oxenrider’s questions. So if you are interested in doing this, you can use her questions too or google a way that works for you.
And if you don’t think a family value statement will work for you, find something that does. ‘Cause isn’t that what flexibility is all about!