We arrived at our new home in Arizona! Our daughter’s family was here as was our son. We managed to cook a Thanksgiving meal and used real dishes and silverware (I just can’t eat the Thanksgiving meal off paper plates). But everything is in chaos and it’s a challenge figuring out where to put things from a 4-bedroom house into a 2-bedroom house. I thought we threw a lot away, but we have a lot more to get rid of.
Like I mentioned earlier, purging takes time but it’s a good thing. When we neglect purging our stuff, (as I have for about 25 years), the task feels overwhelming, but still not impossible. As they say, one day at a time.
Sometimes we allow our inner stuff to accumulate for too long as well. Perhaps this season of Advent, you can give yourself 30 minutes a day to purge. What needs to go from your heart. Bitterness? Fear? Insecurity? Resentment? Old wounds from your past? Lies you believe? People pleasing behavior? Don’t get me wrong, purging these things for 30 minutes a day won’t completely eliminate all of them anymore than my purge for my move completely eliminated all my extra stuff.
For example, my husband and I each had our own office in our old home. We also had an office for him to work with my business. That means 3 computers, 3 printers, 3 desks.Well we sold all 3 desks because the house we purchased had a desk, but who need 3 printers? We can funnel all of our computers to one printer. And we don’t need three computers anymore. We can transfer the data onto one of the other two. But now that we have made an intention to purge, the momentum is there. We are not buying new things until we get rid of the old things. We will need some new things for this house, but we must make space by letting go of the old.
What new things might God have for you in this New Year of 2017? It will take you to make space in your inner life to receive them. I’m becoming more and more aware of how much space crankiness and anxiety take up in my heart and I am RESOLVED to regularly take stock and purge them when I see them popping up throughout my day. How about you? What needs to go?
Next week on December 7th we start our 2-session Moving Beyond People Pleasing class. If you have trouble setting boundaries and speaking up for yourself, this is a place to start to learn to say no without feeling guilty. Click here to learn more.
Question: When we have family gatherings with our children and grandchildren, my husband gets extremely territorial when they all first arrive. He can be very rude and berating and sarcastic to get his point across and it’s very embarrassing to me. And makes me feel very uncomfortable. Example would be, maybe to my daughter in law, do your kids always drag every toy out of the toy box? He tends to be obsessive compulsive, which adds to the chaos when 25 people are in your house for a week at Christmas!
It causes so much tension inside me because I’m trying to juggle a lot of responsibilities with a house full of company, I don’t need the additional pressure of his unkindness and sarcastic remarks to my family. What would you suggest I do or say to keep this habitual behavior from happening? I’m already dreading the Christmas gathering because of him. But also looking forward to having my family!
It’s like when they don’t meet his expectation in the care of our house, he mumbles stuff that they hear him say. It’s so embarrassing.
Answer: First, let me tell you I am all for family gatherings at holidays. That is one reason I moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona, so I could be closer to family, especially during holiday times. And it does create quite a bit of chaos when there are a lot of people in your home at one time, especially for a whole week. Everyone is so excited to gather together and see all of their relatives. But the guests usually don’t think about the extra noise or mess or extra stress they may add.
I was talking with a female friend recently who has four adult children who all have four children. They all come for a week during Christmas and she loves it and hates it. She loves it because she longs to see everyone, loves to serve and play with the grandkids. She hates it because she ends the week totally exhausted with a huge mess to clean up, coupled with a tinge of resentment that her adult kids didn’t help her more.
I encouraged her to have a frank talk with her adult kids this year before they show up. I find sometimes when adult children come to visit mom and dad, they see it as a vacation for them and aren’t always as helpful as you might need them to be. They are glad to get a vacation from parenting, from cooking and cleaning, but aren’t always conscious of all the extra work it puts on you. Although I sense that you love having your family around for the entire week, you may need to make some adjustments so that it’s less tense for you and your husband.
Here are some suggestions. From your question, I sense your husband is more of an introvert than you are. He finds large crowds of people exhausting and draining and the chaos from them unsettling, even when they are his own family. In his own clumsy way he is trying to set boundaries for himself to manage the event but instead of speaking up in a clear way, he’s doing it in a way that is harsh, awkward, and embarrassing for you. I’m wondering if he feels he has to do that because there have been no rules or boundaries set up ahead of time for this visit?
I think it would be wise for you to sit down with your spouse ahead of time to talk about this problem. You can say something like, “I know these large family gatherings stress you out. I recognize that there is noise and mess and chaos and that really bothers you. Yet the way you try to manage all of that is harsh and I fear it makes our family feel unwelcome in our home. That’s not okay with me. I also want our kids and grandkids to have a good relationship with you and not see you as an ogre who is always critical or mad. Your attitude creates a lot of tension for me as I’m trying to cook and get things ready for everyone and when I see you getting mad and say harsh things, I feel stressed and embarrassed. What can we do for this year to make it better for you and less tense for me?”
By having this discussion ahead of their visit, you are showing compassion and empathy (which is the E step of CORE) for your husband’s distress. Some people are just not comfortable with large gatherings of people and he may be one of them. That doesn’t mean you cater entirely to his nature, but it does mean you show some concern and empathy for the distress he feels. See if he can come up with softer boundaries such as, “I would like our children to make sure that their children don’t take every book and toy off our shelves without putting the one’s they already played with back.” Or, “I need to get off by myself for a few hours each day and I don’t want to feel pressure to participate in every activity.” Or “I don’t want to babysit the grandkids every night when their parents go out to visit all their friends.”
You too may need to communicate some requests and/or boundaries to your adult children such as, “I will cook Christmas dinner but I need all of you to pitch in and plan meals for the week and take turns to cook them. I can’t do it all. 25 people is a lot of people to cook for and clean up after all week. Perhaps if you weren’t so pressured to get it all done, you would also feel less tense.
I think one of the most important lessons our adult children need to learn from us is that we are people and not just parents, not just givers, not just helpers or servers (Click to Tweet).
Your husband is a person and his wants needs and feelings need to be heard, especially in his own home. Therefore it would be healthier if he just said that to them rather than mumble sarcastic remarks under his breath.
Perhaps your adult children also need to prepare better for when they come to your house by instructing their children not to make huge messes, or to play outside more, or to not run in Grandma and Grandpa’s house because it upsets them. Teaching our children and grandchildren to be considerate of our needs and preferences is important as they mature. Sadly sometimes our kids or grandkids grow up not ever learning to think about anyone else’s needs but their own.
You have a few weeks before the chaos descends. You know the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results. If you make a change and have a discussion with your husband and then with your adult children, perhaps this year can be less tense and more enjoyable for all.
Friends, when your house is filled with family for an extended gathering, do you talk ahead of time about boundaries and expectations? How do you do it? If you don’t, what is the result?