Sunday, June 30, 2013

run your family like a business?

Lots of hours nursing means lots of hours reading. I came across this article in Time: Executive Parenting. A similar article can be found here. I found it to be slightly ridiculous. In fact, I even read it out loud to my husband. His first reaction: if we run a family like a business, can we fire people for not performing? Well, of course not! Meanwhile, there is a desire for efficiency and blurring more lines between home and work. If your house is not a place to relax, then what is it? Another stressful environment to be managed?
Anyone who dealt with newborns for a long period of time knows the first rule of newborns: there is no predictability to their schedule, and. therefore, there is no predictability to your schedule. The baby got up, nursed and now he might:

  • fall back asleep for five minutes till you put him down
  • fall asleep for two hours
  • scream and scream
  • poop and want to nurse some more
  • chill out, look around, and be totally content

Which one will it be? Can you guess whether this is a good time for you to start on a major project, or will you be interrupted every five minutes trying to soothe a baby? No wonder so many parents are anxious: how come you are doing the same thing, but getting vastly different results? Moreover, if a baby cries, is he evaluating your performance and finding it lacking? Easier to hand the kid over to daycare, tell them to feed formula (in easily measurable amounts, but this is a topic for another post), and go on with your predictable workday.

Beyond newborn, how about relationship building? Is it really made out of the same blocks as a team at work? When I was in college, taking a Jewish Philosophy class on the Lonely Man of Faith, my teacher said: never marry a person because you will make a great team. You would be missing the point of connection due to existential loneliness. Or, in other words, no relationship will go far if it's just about efficiency. Dating takes time, and it is convoluted. Relationships bloom when there is time to connect casually and leisurely.
A lot of time is wasted on reading the same story over and over again. A lot of time is spent on taking children out to the park. A lot of time is spent cuddling the boo-boos and tucking kids into bed. But all these moments of a seeming waste of time are building up a relationship. Once the relationship is there, it will not seem odd that a 9 yo will sit everyone down and say that we need to have a family meeting to discuss everyone's grievances, and what's working and what's not. He did that, tonight, just as everyone was getting into pajamas. We did not come up with a mission statement and weekly goals, but everyone got the floor, starting with the baby (he seemed content with life), moving on to 3 yo (she was content playing with her necklace) and then to 7 yo. He brought up again how he wants to go and paint pottery just with me and the baby. 9 yo brought up bigger stuff: sleeping arrangements, dishwasher arguments, sibling arguments, money, going to Israel. I got the floor next. I brought up uneaten camp lunches, and the schedule for next year. Lastly, my husband brought up how he has so little time to spend with us, and to take care of the things he needs to do. We spoke about all these issues in an atmosphere of trust. Everyone had a turn, everyone chimed in with suggestions. Some things were brought up that we, as parents, were not aware of. We resolved quite a few of the issues.

The meeting was a success. What differentiated our meeting from the article was the bottom-up instead of top-down approach. If there is a need for a meeting, we will call a family meeting. If there isn't a need for one, we will not hold it just because it is scheduled in. Moreover, if we discover that a family meeting is not the best way for us to address what ails us, we will try something else. We will not sacrifice relationship building for the sake of efficiency.

Life is a meandering journey, not a sprint. We will get there, but we might as well have fun along the way.

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