family priorities

I am lost in the parenting aisle of the supermarket that is Facebook.  And I am SO overwhelmed. overwhelmed

Do I want to be more Polly Pinterest or Gail GoodEnough?  Hipster Homemaker or Martha Stewart?  DIY or GTI (Go To Ikea)? There are so many voices, so many contradictory opinions, and so much to lose if you choose the wrong path.  We all want what is best for our kids, and while there is a ton of research out there, it is still a pretty biased field.  And frankly, though I know I have some firm ideas of who I am and what kind of things I want to instill in my child, I also have a drive to be a good mom and Facebook always makes me feel like I am failing.

Buuuuuut, I love Facebook.  I love my friends’ updates, I love the funny things they post, and I love the conversations that get started.  I love having my views challenged and therefore refined.  So I don’t want to quit Facebook.  Instead, I will try to lay a firmer foundation for my mothering so I don’t feel like I am a monkey swinging from tree to tree in the forest of parenting options.  I am much happier as a “sit in one tree and eat a banana” kind of monkey.

Step 1:  Brainstorming

I started on Workflowy.com because I have enjoyed using it as a to-do list, and it has helped me to brainstorm before.  It just feels super edit-able.  Microsoft Word feels so much more permanent (ridiculous, I know).  Here is what I have so far:

family priorities

Underneath each of these, I have a rough list of what parts of my life go with each of these, and the ideas that occurred to me at that moment for each of them.  By the way, I have wanted to do this for SO long, but never felt like I had the time.  It’s like picking a new workout on a new treadmill while you are on the treadmill. Impossible. My mind is always going so fast!  So I will pull a Nike (Just Do It) and I will worry about improving it and fleshing it out further as time goes on.  (This is painful for me, as I want everything perfect before I show it to anyone.  But frankly, motherhood is pushing me to get past that, as I am always mothering imperfectly to someone.  I am attempting to embrace the spirit of trying, not perfecting.)
family priorities

 Now that I have the basics of what I want my priorities to be, I want to think about the values that will flow through all of this.  This reminds me of the Mission-Vision-Values thing that people do when setting up a business.  So I visited MindTools.com to learn how to do this (click the link to get schooled on this; they give great examples for businesses).  I’m excited, because I feel a serious lack of direction in my mothering, and I don’t want to get to the end of the line and feel like I was just a leaf swept to and fro in the churning waters of media messages.

Step 2:  Mission

A mission statement should define your family’s purpose and primary objectives, along with goals and how to measure them.  Here is my attempt:

To become a joyful family by loving others, serving others, and being thankful for what we have.

My focus on joy comes from my faith, and it is very different from happiness (learn more here and here).  Not sure how to measure these goals, but I think I will see it in the general atmosphere of my home.

Step 3:  Vision

The vision statement is supposed to be more emotional and reveal the underlying human value to your mission.

We encourage each other and help others to see the beauty in themselves, so they too might experience joy, peace, and fulfillment.

Yeah, I am a total idealist.  I can’t tell you how illuminating this process just was.  I have been so focused on educating my daughter (in totally age appropriate, non-pushy ways, IMHO) that I didn’t realize that my main priority for her in life lays elsewhere.  Now that I have fleshed out what is really important to me in life, I can structure my time more around that.

Step 4:  Values

Let’s talk about values.  For this, I went to DIY Committee Guide.

An organisation’s values are its guiding principles which apply across the organisation and underpin how its work is carried out. An organisation’s values are its basic beliefs about what really matters, which guide how things should be done.”

Here is some more help from MindTools.com.  This link will walk you through thinking about your values and then choosing them from a list. 

“When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you’re satisfied and content. But when these don’t align with your values, that’s when things feel… wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness.”

So what values to choose?  I copy/pasted the list into my workflow, then deleted the ones that didn’t resonate at all.  Then I took the remaining list (pretty long still) and put it into my Workflowy under Education-Character Building.  The longer list will be nice to look at occasionally to remind myself of other values I would like to instill.

Back to deleting—I kept going until I narrowed it down to five main values (some are not from the list, it got easier to think them up after narrowing down the list on MindTools.com:

  • Love
  • Thankfulness
  • Kindness
  • Generosity
  • Effort

I am already feeling more grounded and more positive about my parenting future.  I can now take everything I read on FB and run it through the filter of these values.  If it doesn’t fit, I don’t need to worry about it.  :)  I will have to think up some kind of artwork to hang in the house to keep these things in my mind on a daily basis.

Maybe living every minute of every day by the things you value most comes naturally to other people, but for me, a little something more concrete was needed.  I find that in motherhood, I just feel so completely scattered, and I don’t want my mothering to be just hit or miss.  It is too important to me.  I wonder how much I will really use this in the future… motherhood seems to make my brain crazy.  The exercise of doing this was enough for now to calm me down and make me feel like I have direction.

 

**Update**

Since I first wrote this about a month ago, I have totally lost track of it!  Granted, our lives were upended by moving into a new apartment, celebrating the holidays, and just plain getting on our feet and settled in a new place.  But I am back to it now that I am planning out my time at home with the kiddo during the day.  I realized I have already started to focus way too much on education again, and I need to focus on the mission, vision, and values I wrote for my family so I don’t get swept away again.  I think I will need to put an appointment on the calendar to reflect on this at least once a month and see where I’ve drifted off to again… :)  But just to re-calibrate, not to berate myself for not being perfect!

Jennifer Jasensky is a Dubai resident, United States transplant, former mathematics teacher and dancer/choreographer. She is an outgoing homebody and perpetual idealist whose love of learning knows no bounds. She is most happy enjoying a good book with a plate of kaya toast, runny eggs, and kopi-c peng siew dai, but now that she has moved from
Singapore to Dubai, drinking an iced latte in the ocean is fast becoming her happy place.

8 thoughts on “Creating a Family Foundation

  1. Hi Jennifer, sassymom brought me to your blog, thanks for the posts you’ve written, they are genuine and grounded, it’s encouraging to see moms like you to root the family values in your faith. Hope your family filled with joy and love no matter where you are living:)

  2. I like how you reflect on what is and what could be. I too am an idealist, but often I expect other people to ultimately be good at their core and when I find this to be more the exception rather than the rule, I stumble right back down to reality.

    That said, I like it up here in the clouds living my life probably differently than the typical family, but truly joyous and happy. Sure there are things I want to change, I may take your list of health tasks and get started at some point, but overall I say I have carved out a little piece of this world for myself and my family.

    To add to your lists, here are things that are important to me that make me a content person and mother:
    Laughter/silliness
    Pajamas
    Working hard/feeling accomplished
    iPhone games
    Hugs
    Television
    Soft micro plush blankets
    Kitty cats
    When my kids say the funniest things
    Seeing my kids learn and remember things I teach them
    Feeling proud
    Quiet time

    The best days are days I have laughed with my kids, been complimented for my hard work, helped someone, taugh something to my kids and where I have had 1 hour of quiet reflection time to smell the roses of my life.

    My advice: When you’ve earned the right to stop and smell the roses, don’t forget to do so!

  3. I always love hearing what you have to say. Parenting is hard but thankfully rewarding. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed by research studies and other parents techniques. You are right to say it will always look like you are doing it wrong to someone so don’t stress about it. I am going to have to remember “trying” not perfection. I like that.

  4. Though I chuckled a little at first that you used a business site as guide, I am more impressed that you have defined your family’s mission, vision, and values. Which I have not.
    It might be interesting to compare core values with other families. While I strongly agree that all of yours are important, I wonder if I would choose a different five or just execute yours differently than you.

    1. I wondered about posting my values, as I hope it doesn’t skew people on direction as a model. It was really eye opening to go through the process and really think about what is important to me, and what I care about most for my family, as opposed to the types of pressures I feel on a daily basis from society (especially out here, education education education…). Still working on keeping those ideas in my mind…

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