A college paper I had written during the year my oldest daughter was 2/3 years old asked me to talk about my home management systems and how they did or did not work. The class was in Home Economics, and the paper was tied to a unit on household management and my beliefs, values, and goals.
So, flash back some 29 years and here I share with you some of what I wrote in that paper… Keep in mind that this was written in 1984 as I was beginning a degree completion curriculum in the field of Child Development and Family Relations. If my memory serves me right, this was one of the first courses I took and it was a real inspiration and motivator for both my academic and personal future. (Guess that is why I saved it along with my daughter’s early artwork! Typed on erasable-bond paper via an old typewriter, too!)
There are two management systems in my life which are in conflict — a personal management system and a family management system which includes my husband, me, and our daughter. I value family relationships highly and am often willing to give up personal goals or put them on hold when I feel it is best for the whole family. I am happy to work within the family management system as long as my personal goals that directly relate to my sense of inner harmony and well-being are acknowledged and respected. When my basic self needs are discounted or challenged I feel used, taken for granted, and trapped, at which point I feel controlled by the family management system and resent the compromises and adjustments that are directly related to marriage. No doubt I want the best of both worlds (don’t we all!) and all that is fair and equal, but finding that middle ground is most difficult. I have adjusted many personal standards over the years (as I am sure my husband has) — some I feel good about as those changes helped me to grown and learn to be a more flexible and adaptive person. Other compromises in standards leave me feeling frustrated and even angry, at times.
Our family is fortunate to have adequate resources available for improving our quality of life such as education, money, durable goods, property, and above all, the knowledge and ability of husband and wife to work and grow and make sensible and positive decisions that enhance the lives of all family members. As a married couple we have the potential to plan for and implement goals. Problems arise with ineffective use of our resources — things such as exhibiting poor communication, not utilizing feedback, and not planning or implementing for change. I value organization and plans to change and improve the physical, mental, and emotional quality of our lives. My husband is cautious, thrifty, does not plan, and is wary of change. Decision-making (on a personal level) is difficult for him, whereas I prefer to make the best decision possible believing that I can change it later if necessary.
With difficulty I admit that my most important value is inner harmony including a sense of well-being, control, and respect. When I feel comfortable and at peace within myself I am able to put the rest of my values and goals into perspective and manage to find plenty of motivation that keeps the family moving forward. I have learned that keeping my number one value satisfied is the key to accomplishing most of my lifetime goals. (Funny, but that still holds true today…)
A second and very important value are family relationships. I have special relationships with parents, brothers, sister, relatives, in-laws, and close friends that bring great satisfaction and sometimes pain. I enjoy writing letters, and to my husband’s dismay our phone bill is horrible! (Unlimited cell phone minutes have saved our marriage!) At this point in time my relationship with my daughter is strong and positive and rewarding after a slow start. (I had a difficult time trying to understand and nurture a crying infant. Yet, her rapid development of language skills and intellectual concepts has brought both of us great delight!) On the other hand, my relationship with my husband is strained. Parenthood and its’ physical and emotional responsibilities has been very hard for us to work on together. During the establishment phase of our life cycle we did many things together; more responsibilities were shared or interchanged. With the arrival of a child, despite all attempts to continue the original pattern of living we suddenly became the “husband-father-provider” going off to work for long hours and the “wife-mother-homemaker” staying home alone with child for long hours. We do many things independently now, and even though I also value independence and function well in that capacity I question why a marital relationship must revert to traditional, familiar roles once children are born. I see it happen so frequently, and swore it would never happen to me…
A third value important to me is order and efficiency. I like to be organized and have my environment organized to some degree. I like to use my time efficiently when possible. Education is very important for the new ideas and challenges it affords as well as its’ opportunity for personal growth. Power is a value; especially the power to make decisions and choices. I value respect, trust, and honesty — expect those qualities in others and give them when earned. Personal and financial independence are also strong values. These values of independence are sort of “on hold” at this point in my life, however. A certain degree of independence is something I was willing to give up in order to get the family relationships that I also valued and wanted to develop. Another value is adventure and change. New ideas and experiences happening is a great motivator for me. I’ve also learned that I feel best about myself when “my eggs are in several baskets,” so to speak. If, for example, I have a trying day with my daughter it is wonderful to anticipate a dance class or a vacation or a visit with a friend.
Last, but also necessary are pride and conservation. I’ve decided that I carry these two values from my parents even though I often wish I could eliminate them from my list (the values, not the parents!) because they do cause a great deal of conflict between my husband and I — but they remain strong. I value and respect my property and possessions. I understand the time and energy that went into accumulating those items, big and small, and the love that was sent along with gifts from others. I like my home to be not necessarily clean, but cared for and respected for I view my home as a reflection of myself. Little things can always wait, like the cleaning, but the “whole” is special. I expect others to value my home as I do. (There’s the conflict between my husband and I!!!!!) As for conservation, I take short showers, wash most things in cold water, keep the heat low and the air-conditioning warm, and it seems like I’m always flipping off light switches. From my father I developed a tremendous respect for fossil fuels.
As for short term goals, I must remember that a satisfied inner harmony gives me the greatest rewards and sets the foundation for completion of other goals. I need to work at being less sensitive and emotional and still more flexible and adaptive. I need to develop and organize a more cheerful and functional home environment as well as maximizing relationships with family members. I must figure out a way to gain more control and power within my home management system and gain the cooperation and respect from my husband to make some of the adjustments and changes within our household environment and lifestyle that I believe are necessary. I want to continue to give our daughter time — to listen to her and help her develop the confidence, independence, and high self-esteem that I think are vital to any person in order to survive in this world. In my opinion, that is the best resource I can give to my child. Lastly, I need to keep at school part-time for it provides me with diversity and self-respect.
Intermediate goals for me at this time include making quality time for family, completing a BS degree in Child Development and Family Relations, and beginning work on a master’s program. I would like to develop a greater knowledge of religion and traditions and establish special traditions in my own home. (Totally didn’t get much going on this goal, other than an annual summer beach week. But that is okay. Happy with the way it unfolded.) I would like to travel more.
Long-term goals include raising my child (or children – truly can’t decide how I feel about more children at this point), completing a master’s degree and consider a PhD, returning to the labor force, and achieving financial independence once again. (Did have a second daughter, and that has been a huge delight! Our family triangle became a square and has ever since felt quite balanced and comfortable. So love my girls… Raising them has ultimately been the most rewarding job I have ever had…)
To describe my household environment, I have been married for nearly eight years; our daughter is three. Financially we are comfortable, although my husband thinks we do not save enough money. We own our own home, which always needs repair. We did not carefully consider the cost of maintenance and repairs in budgeting for our home purchase, sadly. There are few young adults or children in our neighborhood, but plenty of dear grandparents… Our parents advised my husband and me to buy the most expensive house our finances would permit when we purchased this house four years ago — lovely, but a mistake from a social and relationship point of view. To move or not to move is a very big issue in our home these days as we are comfortable but frustrated. My husband analyzes how unhappy one must be to financially justify a physical move within our community. I don’t see cost as an issue and we go around in circles.
My husband is a health care professional. He is extremely bright and intellectual and hard-working (today I would say, workaholic), values thrift and savings, financial security, and also likes to be in control and retain power. He is a cautious person; studies all options in detail before making commitments, decisions, or changes.
I had a career in dental hygiene and worked full-time in that field for eight years prior to having my daughter at which point I set aside the career for four reasons. 1) I was bored with the work itself which was not challenging. 2) I wanted to be home with my child. 3) My husband’s income tax bracket greatly decreased my actual earnings which tore my ego to pieces. 4) It was time to move on and pursue another career that would be more fulfilling to me as I was changing along with some of my values and many of my goals and standards. Working on another career is something attractive to me as I can work at it part-time and have time for my family yet feel like I am doing something more than just being a homemaker, which yes, I am almost embarrassed to tell anyone. Unfortunate, but true… Despite all, knowing my daughter and understanding what it takes to be a mom and homemaker has given me tremendous respect for all homemakers — it is the most difficult challenge I have ever encountered. Anyway, hopefully what I learn in working on a Child Development degree will help me to achieve some of my goals in regards to being a better person and develop a more pleasant home life. When I feel good about myself and my goals I am working toward I am happier and more confident which can only portray a healthier picture of adulthood and motherhood to my child. (I think I was very successful in that regard as my daughter is now a most amazing wife, mother, and home manager… !)
Near environment for me is primarily our little community in eastern North Carolina, but also the East Coast and Midwest as we have family in Michigan, Ohio, New York, and DC. We enjoy the city life on occasion, but do prefer to live and work in a smaller city or town. Our larger environment is the world. As singles and later married, my husband and I have traveled many places.
In reference to the effects of my environment on goal achievement, my household environment frequent slows down or inhibits many of my goals. My husband and I often have quite different ideas regarding how to go about making a change in our environment or lifestyle, if any. I often lower my standards rather than start an argument and strain personal relationships, but eventually I get angry at both of us. It seems that many of the things I value and strive for are unimportant to my husband, and because he holds the job, money, and power in our household at this point I don’t usually see any changes come about unless he wants them as well. Under such conditions I feel stifled and trapped, at times. What I need to do is develop greater respect for myself and my values rather than letting them slide as I often do. From the positive angle, within the household environment I am able to work on building a strong relationship with my daughter and further my academic education.
The near environment offers a network of support friends for me and our child, a nice climate and relaxed environment with plenty of outdoor recreation options, and a nearby university for educational, social, and cultural opportunities. Within my near environment I find the right amount of comfort, safety, and diversity at this stage in my life span knowing that my larger environment is also available to me to meet changing needs. My large environment offers the world to travel and discover. I enjoy geography and appreciate different people, places, and new ideas.
Most things within my environment serve as a positive influence in my ability to reach goals. I have an assortment of human and non-human resources available to me and only need to learn to better manage those resources in order to achieve personal and family goals. Specifically, I need to develop a democratic system of home management that is acceptable to my spouse as well, and have the power to encourage or bring about change and growth in an orderly fashion with minimal restrictions or controls on my judgment and capabilities. Improved communication between my husband and I would be a vital resource to our family management system. (Famous last words for all marriages!)
~ Debi Levine, 1984