We don't always succeed, but we try. We have gone weeks without a family meeting and have suffered the consequences. Life is so much better for us with a family meeting.
If you are anything like me I have a list of things I need to tell my husband after he comes home from work. Things that happened, things I'm thinking about, plans we need to make, schedules we need to coordinate. If your partner is anything like mine, he isn't thinking about those things. He isn't ready to hear all the things going on in my head. He needs some time to prepare for what's coming.
We had spent years trying to communicate in this way. Me trying to bring Paul up to speed as soon as he walks in the door, and him, trying his very hardest to balance work, the kids, projects, my wishes and desires, and his own plans. These weren't our finest moments. Sometimes work got accomplished, but mostly we were both just left feeling hurt, unheard, and disrespected.
That's why over a year ago we instituted our family meeting. Since the kids are a little older, we include them once a week in our schedule meeting, and Paul and I actually created the managers meeting.
Once a week, at a designated time we sit down and hash out all of our family business. Now it isn't necessarily the same day each week, sometimes it doesn't work that way. However, the week before we would have looked at our upcoming schedule and so we would have set our date for the next managers meeting.
In our managers meeting we start with prayer. This is hands down my favorite moment in our meeting. This prayer time allows us to refocus. To center ourselves, our plans, and our agenda. It forces us to put things in perspective. This time also allows me to hear what is on my husbands heart. Things that maybe he is struggling with that I didn't know about. I get a chance to hear his heart, his desires, his insecurities, his concerns, all the things he wants to lay on God's shoulders. It gives me insight into what is going on in his heart that maybe we didn't get a change to talk about because life got in the way. And the very opposite is true. He gets the chance to hear all these things from me.
Once we've prayed, we pull out our schedule and go through our week. We start with the most important items first, when can Paul and I get time and when do we spend time together as a family. Once those items are decided we look at what else is in our schedule for the week, the month ahead and on the cusp of each busy quarter, we look a few months ahead.
Then we bring out our notepad.
The notepad is where we have put the items to discuss for the entire week. This has saved so many disagreements, frustrations, and arguments. Instead of dumping my ideas on Paul right when he gets home or sporadically during the week, I have already put them on the notepad to discuss during our meeting. I can't tell you how helpful this is. When Paul and I come to the family meeting, both our minds are ready and prepared to discuss the family, the house, issues, whatever, it doesn't matter, we are both mentally present. Before, Paul wasn't ready to hear all the things I needed to discuss with him, or I wouldn't communicate it properly because I had already put so much thought into my ideas and I would only bring him into the discussion after I had already decided on a course of action. Waiting for the meeting forces me to think things through and how to communicate effectively to Paul and it allows Paul time to think about it and process whatever it is. (Please realize that we do talk during the week. Sometimes things on the notepad get talked about before the meeting, and often we talk about how we are feeling during our days, but the notepad frees us to leave it if we need, or force us to talk about issues when we haven't had time before hand. We aren't weirdos that won't talk to each other until meeting time. That's just strange.)
We can both put items on the notepad, it’s not a secret. Things that come up on the notepad have ranged from school for the kids, when are we going to clean out the garage, are we going to investigate new car insurance, what do we do about chores for the kids, Lu seems ready to potty train, how will we approach that, etc. Everything is up for grabs in these meetings. The best part is it makes us a team to discuss them together. We each can have an opinion and then we will together decide on the best course of action.
At the end of discussing the items on the notepad, we divide up the responsibilities and walk away with homework, or projects to be completed and reported back on the following week. This may seem ridiculous to you, but what is the point of discussing things that need to get done if no one is going to accomplish them. Someone has to re caulk the tub. Someone needs to get the oil changed, and so forth.
We end our meeting asking how we are doing individually and as a couple. It is a time to share with your partner what you are struggling with, excited about, or need from them.
Some may think that having a managers meeting once a week is extreme or just a recipe for a control crazed mom. But Paul and I do a lot of different things. We are land lords, home owners, he does freelance design work on top of his job, plus his band. I run the household, plus have my speaking career, so it is a lot to keep straight. We discovered that the weekly meeting respected our partner and our time. It created healthy conversation and turned us into a team that works together instead of tag teaming separately. Paul and I have noticed that by intentionally taking some of our time and setting it aside we grow closer together and more towards our goals.
Last year it was hard to be consistent with our family meeting. We were very successful at the beginning, and then a new diet hit, I was cooking all the time and then a tornado hit and we felt lost for the next couple months. We were barely holding on. Over New's years, we both said the one thing we need to make happen this year consistently is our managers meeting. We both knew we felt better about our lives, our marriage and our parenting if we did it together as a team.
So a couple months ago I told you that this was our year of being intentional and I would tell you what that looks like for us. This is step one, and the most important to us. Now we are human, so we will most likely miss a few weeks, we already have in complete honesty. But we try. We don’t want to wake up years down the road and say, “What happened? Where did the time go? Why didn’t we pay attention more? Why didn’t we try saving more? Why didn’t we talk more?” By being intentional, we want to make the most of our lives now.