There’s a saying I’ve heard all my life: If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. I can remember my mom getting in a funk from time to time when I was a kid . . . sure enough, I felt down and unsettled myself any time she wasn’t happy and content.
Lately, I’ve come to realize that my influence on our family isn’t limited to whether I’m happy or sad or mad. My attitude in general and how I’m spending my time is a barometer of the atmosphere in my house.
Sometimes our days are not exactly pleasant (and that’s probably putting it mildly). Instead of the peaceful atmosphere I hope for, there is bickering, arguing, yelling, and anger coming from everyone.
When it’s time to have school, the kids holler and complain and every lesson is filled with attempts to delay, fussing, and even tears. When it’s time to eat a meal, the kids can’t stand the food and don’t want to sit at the table while the adults are irritated and eat in a virtual silence.
The house is a mess. No one can ever find their shoes or clean socks to wear. The kids say it’s all Mom’s fault that they don’t have clean pants because she doesn’t do the laundry, but Mom says it’s their fault because their dirty clothes are all over the floor instead of in the clothes hamper.
Sound familiar? Please tell me I’m not the only one.
Things are different lately, though. Calmer. More peaceful. More pleasant with room to play, work, and move around. Much less bickering and almost no yelling. (Hey, nobody’s perfect.)
What’s changed? Me. What I’m doing. Where I’m putting my efforts and time.
I made a daily cleaning checklist, which everyone in the family has been so good to work from everyday. I can walk through my bedroom without stepping on blankets, and I can go into the kitchen to cook without having to wash pots and pans first. I can see the living room floor!
It had to start with me, though. I made the checklist with everyone’s names on it, but it was my own consistent effort to complete my cleaning tasks each day that motivated the rest of the family to do their part also.
With the kitchen clean, we’re now sitting down to eat together everyday. (Maybe that’s normal for some families, but it’s been a very rare occasion for mine.) It’s a little funny and very sweet how much my kids love having all of us sit at the table to eat together.
I’ve known that it was important to them for a long time, but I kept putting off making a real effort toward family mealtimes. When I worked 40 hours a week, it was easy (and even necessary) to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in front of the computer while the rest of the family ate in the kitchen. I had to work, after all. Even when I wasn’t working, though, the kitchen table was never clean enough for all five of us to sit there.
Now, my seven-year-old gets lots of happiness from setting the table with placemats and cloth napkins. It blesses his heart, and that blesses my heart.
I’ve also discovered that my preparation or lack thereof has a direct effect on whether our homeschool day runs smoothly or is fraught with difficulties. If I lay out books and papers the night before, we’re ready to start lessons after breakfast the next day. The kids can see the books I’ve laid out, so they know what to expect.
If I check my email first thing, though, I almost invariably end up spending an hour or more on the computer. That often makes breakfast later than it should be and always pushes back the time we start school. While I’m writing emails and checking social media accounts, the kids are playing the Battle of Hastings in our hallway … and they do not like it when I tell them to quit. The day just goes downhill from there.
Again, it’s me. What I do or don’t do has such a strong effect on the entire household. If I
lead serve with a gracious motive, the family falls in line with grace and pleasantness.
I’m not trying to put blame on Mom’s shoulders for bad days, stressful times, or anything negative that’s going on in the house. I know that there are so many circumstances that can affect us. I also know that seasons of life change and that our household might not seem so peaceful and pleasant next week as it does this week.
But I also know that as a mom, my influence on my family is great. It’s my hope and prayer to make choices each day that influence my family for good. The result is so much more enjoyable.
Cindy and her husband, Jon, live in beautiful West Virginia with their three sons – Nick, age 11, James, age 7, and Robert, age 4. They homeschool with a relaxed, eclectic style and enjoy reading great books together as a family, geocaching, and visiting historic and scenic places. Along with teaching Sunday School, knitting, and baking, Cindy loves geography and is the author of Expedition Earth: My Passport to the World. Visit her blog at Fenced in Family.