Ok, so you and I both know that there is no such thing as a perfect family. Sure, there are families who look perfect and maybe even families who try to act perfect but there are no perfect families on this earth today. We each have our flaws and downfalls. We each struggle with various crosses that sometimes only we can see. We realize that we can’t possibly know what goes on behind closed doors and that what we see is not always what is truly happening, but it doesn’t stop us from thinking that we just don’t measure up to someone else’s family. Now if we know in our hearts of hearts that there are no perfect families why do we torture ourselves by comparing our families to someone else’s?
I’ve been accused on several occasions of thinking I have a “perfect family”. One person even went on to tell me, “Michelle, your family is NOT perfect! You think it is, but it’s not!” I openly laughed right then and there. I told this woman that not only did I know for a fact that my family was not perfect that I also knew that if she could be a fly on my wall for just 5 minutes she would also laugh just as hard as I was at that moment. Sure my children are well behaved, they don’t talk back, and they are smart and cute and amazing (ok, so this part may be a tiny bit biased!). Sure my husband and I have a fantastic relationship and almost never argue. But, if you were a fly on my wall you’d see that we do indeed have our problems. We all tend to a sort of laziness and whine and fuss and drag our feet to do what needs to be done. I have to have hard rules and consequences for all of us so we will follow through. We get it done, but often not with happy hearts. We hate yard work and I’m sure our neighbors hate us for that! Our kids argue over things that drive me insane. Kids break things that aren’t theirs. We lose toothbrushes and hairbrushes daily. I yell way too much when I am over-stressed. I say things I regret. Of course, we have many, many more flaws that I don’t wish to divulge. Yes, just 5 minutes as a fly on my wall and our inadequacies would flash brilliantly like a neon sign!
No, no family is perfect. But there are ways to work towards perfection. All of us, great families or not, should constantly be striving towards that perfection. So, grab a pen if you are old school like me or copy and paste into a document if you prefer because here is your ultimate guide to having a perfect family.
- Put God first. If God is not at the center of your family life then nothing else will matter. God must come first. He is the creator of your family and He deserves the #1 spot. Invite Him to be a part of every aspect (yes, every aspect) of your life. He will help you work through problems and He will always keep you grounded in love.
- Your spouse comes next. Putting your spouse next is so important. He/she needs to know that those marriage vows you took were not just words. You pledged to be a part of this together, forever. Long after your children are grown and gone your spouse will still be there. How will you still connect so many years later if you didn’t cultivate your marriage and keep those fires going? Your children won’t mind not being in this position when they see how much they benefit from your loving, giving, caring relationship.
- Along this line, never degrade your spouse to anyone. Yes, you may be angry right now over something he/she did, but, when you talk about them negatively in the heat of the moment later that person is only going to be thinking of those negative comments. Others see your spouse in the light that you paint for them. They won’t see all the good, only the bad. Is this how you wish your spouse to be seen? Is this how God would show you to others? I highly doubt it. I don’t mean to say that you should make your spouse into something he/she is not but what you share with others is what they will judge your spouse by. Think about Joseph, betrothed to Mary. He could have easily pointed out her perceived “sin” to others but he chose to “divorce her quietly” instead of bringing light on to something so terrible she could have been killed over it! This shows his character in a very special way… loving her still so much that he didn’t want to bring shame on to her. We need to follow in his footsteps, loving our spouses so much we never bring negative light onto them.*
- Additionally, never degrade your children to others. Sure your child may have just done something so terrible that you just can’t wrap your mind around it, but they are still the same baby you rocked close to your heart and looked down upon with a love that defies all understanding. Children, like adults, make mistakes. They can be rude. They roll their eyes. Some slam doors. They stay out late, party, get bad grades, talk back, try drugs, drink, break the law, have sex, get pregnant, swear, and in general just act like pills! But they are still your children. They are still made in the image and likeness of God. They are still gifts from our loving Father. If you need to talk about your disappointments find a trusted friend to talk to but remember that kids make mistakes. You are not alone. Your kid is not the.worst.kid.ever. Don’t think it and don’t say it. Like with our spouses, people often form their opinions about your children based on what YOU say about them. Don’t make them out to be angels if they are not but don’t degrade them. They deserve so much better than that.
- Following this line of thinking, set boundaries for everyone in your family. Rules aren’t just about keeping people in line, they are about keeping people safe and keeping families healthy. When we have rules to follow and boundaries to keep we learn respect. We learn that life isn’t just about “me”. In a family, life should never be about one person. There will be times when it seems that way but we should remember that to have a healthy family everyone must think of others first. Rules help with this. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and say no. Do what is best for your family life. You won’t regret it.
- Set aside family time. If you want your family to behave like a loving, happy family, set aside times where you do things together. Cultivate a life that they want to be a part of and that they will remember all their lives. Have a family game night, a family movie night, let kids pick out and cook supper, eat your meals together, occasionally take a child out by themselves for alone time, read a book together, adopt a “cause” together, read the bible together, say a rosary together, have inside family jokes, create a family handshake, go to church together, make up a dance, have a special song, hug them, tell them you love them. There are so many ways to foster fun in your home. Kids need to know that you are excited to have them in your life and want to spend time with them. Your spouse needs this too. Guess what? So do you! Make it a priority to do things together as a family.
- Lastly, ditch the notion that there is a perfect family. The only perfect family was the Holy Family. Sure, we are called to perfection, but the reality is that we are going to stumble. We will have setbacks. We are going to wonder where we went wrong. You can incorporate all my suggestions above and still not have the perfect family. I know I don’t have the perfect family, but I have the perfect family for me. I quit comparing our family to others so long ago and just decided to focus on what was important to me and for my family. Guess what? I am so much happier now than I ever thought possible. I know that God has blessed me beyond all means and I am thankful each day for those blessings. We still struggle in many areas. I learn something new every single day. What worked one day doesn’t work the next and so I go back to the drawing board and that’s ok. But, I embrace the craziness of our life, the ups and downs, the laughter and the tears. The key to my happy family is that I recognize these things and continuously work to make them better all the while thanking God for every single second He gives me with each person in our family.
Family life takes work to make it great. No one is just “lucky to have good kids”. I hear that all the time… “Michelle, you’re lucky your kids are good.” The truth is it is hard WORK. It is constant DEDICATION. It is total ABANDONMENT. It is continuous PRAYER. It is steadfast FAITH. It is complete and unconditional LOVE. When you have these components you are well on your way to having YOUR perfect family.
*On a side note, if you are being abused in some way though seek out someone to help you. A spouse that is abusive is not living his/her marriage vows. Don’t shelter them because you fear what others might think of them but get help in a manner which still gives them and you dignity. After all, we are still all children of God and we all still deserve dignity.