I Want to Learn to Take Better Pictures!

I live in a family where my lack of photography skills is a frequent source of amusement.

Katie, my YouTube daughter, has Instagram all figured out. She can line up a photo with great composition, take it on her iPhone, edit it like crazy, and create a lovely memory.

Katie Instagram

Katie Instagram 2

Keith, my husband, has mastered his DSL (is that EVEN the right term? I don’t even know. That’s how bad I am) camera and takes awesome pictures of birds (we enjoy bird watching together, though he’s way more into it than me. I just like walking in nature).

Blue Jay

Goldfinch

And then there’s me.

Here’s one I took this weekend where I was trying to be artistic, but the lighting isn’t quite right.

Landscape

I’m in the middle of two huge photo projects: the first is that I want to get good at Instagram over the summer. I enjoy photos; I just can’t figure it all out. But I’m going to have fun trying! The other is that Katie is taking ALL of our old family photo albums and scanning the pictures. I want to digitize everything.

But as I’m going through all the old photos, I see so many that could have been better. And for my daughter’s wedding in July, I want to be ready! I just didn’t document the kids’ early years that well. Thankfully the girls have documented their teen years just fine on their own, but I’d like to start capturing memories that have the right feel a little bit better. And I want to make sure that I can always FIND those photos again, too!

So I am launching myself into the Ultimate Digital Photography Bundle that starts today–for one week only! I got a hold of the books early–last Friday–just to take a look, and I’m absolutely loving it. There are three tiers, depending on what type of photographer you are: Beginner, Intermediate, and Professional.

Like most of you, I’m just a beginner. But the beginner ebooks and ecourses are so much fun.


There are books on composition (like what goes into making a good photo, and where everything should be), lighting, exposure, depth, and so much more. There are ecourses for your Nikon camera and ecourses for your Canon camera (we have a Canon. I think. That’s how bad I am).

One of the things I think is so cool is this ecourse on Metadata:

Metadata

It helps you learn how to insert code into the actual raw photo file so that you always know who is in the photo, where it was taken, the date it was taken, and the subject. That way if you’re ever trying to find “all photos of Johnny when he was 3″, you can just search for it. It teaches you what keywords to use and what to do with them. I’m so excited about that because of my project to organize all of my photos from forever!

And here’s another one that my daughters are really excited about: iPhone Only Photography.

iPhone Only Photography

It shows you how to use your iPhone to take amazing pictures, and then what editing software to use to make them even better. It’s a really long book–200 pages–so it’s a major course in and of itself. I’m working my way slowly through it, and by the end of the week I hope to show you an updated landscape photo with the sun peeking through the trees–like the one above–that’s so much better! Taken just with my iPhone, of course.

There’s also a great resource on how to capture those unexpected memories, which every mom is going to want. Those lovely pics of your kids laughing, or even having a meltdown, are irreplaceable. I wish I had more of them–but you can!

TheUnexpectedEveryday

Then my husband is so excited to work through the ones on shadow and light to figure out how to use his camera better.

Seriously–there is so much for everyone. And it’s such a great deal!

Click here to see the full range of ebooks and training courses included in The Ultimate Photography Bundle (Beginner’s Edition).

There’s even better news! Everything in the bundle has a combined total value of $555, but for this week only, The Ultimate Bundles Team is selling the entire bundle for just $37 – a discount of more than 90%! What’s more, they’re also throwing in a FREE copy of FX Photo Studio Pro software from MacPhun (which provides stunning filters and photography effects) worth $29.99!

Click here to buy The Ultimate Digital Photography Bundle (Beginner’s Edition) for just $37.


The next generation is going to be all about photography. Our lives will be documented on social media, and we have the ability to really capture amazing photos that will last for generations. Technologically, this is such an exciting time to be alive because anyone can master this stuff! And the equipment is so much cheaper than it ever has been.

The bundle sale ends June 29 at midnight EST, so don’t wait to pick it up!

I’m going to try to work through some of the assignments in the iPhone Only Photography book over the week, and keep you updated. I hope you like my progress! And if you want to join me, just click here.

Remember, there’s also a bundle for Intermediate photographers, with lots more on lighting and black and white photography, and for professional photographers. When you buy one of the bigger bundles, you get all the resources in the lower bundles as well. So when you buy the intermediate bundle, you also get all the ebooks, courses, and bonuses in the beginner bundle.

No blurriness, no exposure nightmares, no bad angles. Just perfect, happy memories!


Top 10 Things Great Parents DON’T Do

When we think of great parents, we probably picture all the things that great parents have to do.

In fact, last week on Top 10 Tuesday Lindsay Bell shared ten things that great parents all do in common. But there are also lots of things that great parents DON’T do. And today Rebekah Curtis, mom of 7 and author of Ladylike, is going to share with us ten things great parents don’t have to do–and let us all off the hook just a little bit.

Top 10 Things Great Parents Don't Do--let yourself off the hook! #parenting

When my husband and I announced our first pregnancy, one of our grad school professors congratulated us and then said, “Get ready for Spongebob!”

We smiled, kept walking, and then looked at each other and whispered, “Do we have to?”

Answer: no. And that’s not the only thing you’re allowed not to do.

1. Expensive photography sessions.

Children are so beautiful they do not need professional photo shoots every six months to prove it. We all take about 3000 pictures of our kids every week. Their growth is so overdocumented they’re probably going to hate us for it. If you get a semi-decent family portrait taken every year (or every few years) and then go to the trouble of keeping your phone on you, there will be a longer photographic record of your kids’ personal appearance over time than there is of Giselle Bundchen’s.

2. Disney trips, even one.

It’s a Magic Kingdom, alright, but it’s just not required. If your family has the wherewithal for a dream trip, make it the trip that’s your family’s dream; maybe Yosemite, New York City, the World Series, or Narnia.

3. Devices.

There’s a lot of good to be had from gizmos, but the overhead and service costs are pretty high for entertainment when there are still moldy old books in the world. Devices also tend to decrease a young user’s chances to practice the life skill of spending time alone with her thoughts. Whatever we decide on this one, parents need to be honest with ourselves about what we’re giving our baby along with an iPad. It mostly means less time that I’m actively engaged with her, not a free ride to MIT and a secure future in the tech industry.

4. Lessons.

At least, not all of them. Sometime after 1980, we started feeling like scumbags if we didn’t enroll our critters in ballet, soccer, harpsichord, and haberdashery classes the minute they turned three. While any of these activities can be a great time for both kids and families, they can also be an expensive pain in the haunches. Most kids won’t end up earning big financial returns on this kind of thing, and the social and character benefits don’t start kicking in until children are a few years older. And there’s a good possibility that if your child’s parents don’t have a musical bone in either of their bodies, he’s not the next Adele either. Aptitudes have a way of coming out, or put another way, there’s a reason this story appears in The Onion and not the Times.

5. New clothes.

There are a lot of kids with more clothes than anyone could wear out in a year, and many of their parents are considerate enough to give those clothes a glamorous retirement at Goodwill. If you have more time than money, you can find really nice clothes that fit your resource set better than a huge Land’s End bill every fall.

6. Field trips.

Some parents aren’t able to go on a field trip, either because of work constraints or because they’re caring for other children. Some parents aren’t comfortable asking another adult to be responsible for the extra level of vigilance required when children are in a crowded public setting, an open rural area, on a boat, or just in a new place the child might find confusing or troubling. Plug this into a Venn diagram, and you’ve got families for whom field trips aren’t always a good fit. It’s OK. It’s your kid.

7. Birthday blowouts.

It doesn’t do any good to tell a kid to appreciate how blessed she is when she’s wearing her new silk kimono and Tahitian pearl earrings while riding a glitter-hoofed pony and porking down cream puffs shaped like swans, all because she turned eight. She has no comparative basis on which to appreciate it. Parents who fear it’s criminal not to throw a big shindig every year aren’t the ones whose child needs more stuff or public adoration. There was a time when it was thought that a birthday party with friends from school, planned activities, and a bakery cake was an extravagance every child should enjoy once. Maybe our kids would benefit from at least one birthday where the guests are the immediate family, the cake is from the house kitchen, and the fun is being with the people who love you so much more than anyone else does.

8. The school bus.

Some kids have a great time talking with friends or get through a lot of homework on a school bus. Others become bully-meat in an environment that can be only minimally supervised, and some find their unfortunate propensity for bullying enabled. A bus can be a friend of family efficiency, or an enemy of family happiness. Lots of good things can happen when moms and dads get to connect with their kids on a school commute, and that might be worth the tax on time.

9. Sleepovers.

If you are not comfortable with your kids sleeping at a house whose inhabitants you can’t claim to know that well, it doesn’t mean you’re a paranoid nut. None of us really know what another family’s home life is like. Factor in siblings, friends of siblings, extended family, and family friends who may also end up being present; practices regarding bathrooms and age-appropriate media; the variety of beliefs about swimming pools, copperhead infested areas, or walking to the park without a grownup; and so on ad infinitum, and it is perfectly reasonable for a family to say, “At our house, we sleep at our house.”

10. Another drink, story, or word of comfort for a troubled stuffed beast.

Four things are necessary at bedtime: toothbrushing, pajamas, snuggles, and prayers. Other routines are fun and useful only until they aren’t fun and useful any more. It does not violate a child’s human rights to say, “There isn’t going to be a drink right now, because it’s bedtime. I love you. Good night.”

Almost no one does all of these things.

You don’t have to look far to find a fully operational family that opts out of activities that have somehow taken place in our cultural mind as “the childhood experience.” Everyone remembers feeling frustrated, misunderstood, or deprived as a child. Our kids will be no exception, because dissatisfaction is a chronic human disease.

Our job isn’t to give kids perfect memories. It’s to help them think about their choices and not just do things because that’s what’s done. Children also need to learn that differences among families are OK, to deal with it when things don’t go their way, and to recognize that indulgence is not the solution to envy or discontentment. When they see us finding creative alternatives, they learn to do the same. That’s a lesson, an experience, and a gift they’ll use their whole lives.

Rebekah Curtis headshotLadyLike: Perspectives for Christian Woman_medium_image_attachmentRebekah Curtis is coauthor of LadyLike, a collection of essays on faith and society from Concordia Publishing House. She has written for Babble, The Federalist, Touchstone, and Modern Reformation (forthcoming). You can find her at the LadyLike blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and home with her husband and their seven children.

Top 10 Things Great Parents Do

Most moms are consumed with the question, “Am I a good enough parent?”

Today, for Top 10 Tuesday, Lindsey Bell joins us to talk about how to be a great parent–and how great parents aren’t perfect parents!

Top Ten Things Great Parents DO

Ever felt like a terrible parent?

Yeah, me too.

Earlier this week, it wasn’t even 10 AM and I had already lost my temper with my son over something that—in the grand scheme of things—really didn’t matter.

As I sat in my bedroom and beat myself up over my mistakes, the Lord gently reminded me that great parents aren’t those who never make mistakes.

A bad day doesn’t make us a bad parent.

That afternoon, while my sweet son took his nap, I started thinking about what does make a great parent.

Here are 10 things great parents have in common.

1. Great parents grant forgiveness easily and ask for forgiveness often.

As much as we’d like to believe we’re not going to mess up and yell at our kids or make any mistakes as parents, we all know that’s not reality.

We are human, so we’re going to mess up. Our kids are human too, so they’re going to make mistakes.

Great parents build homes where forgiveness is asked for and given often.

2. Great parents let their kids make mistakes.

Instead of rushing in to make sure their children never fail, great parents allow their kids to make mistakes while they’re in the safety of home.

It’s much better to make little mistakes now (when a loving parent will be there to help them pick up the pieces and work through the disappointment) than to make big mistakes later on.

So the question is, is it safe to make a mistake in your home?

3. Great parents give their kids things money can’t buy.

We all know money doesn’t buy happiness, and yet we often live like it does.

Instead of giving your child “things,” give him something money can’t buy. Give him your time. Give him unconditional love. Help him fall in love with a Savior.

There’s nothing wrong with providing your child with physical blessings, but there are some things money can’t buy. Great parents focus on these types of things!

4. Great parents practice what they preach.

Kids will do what you DO, not what you SAY you do. Great parents model the behavior they want to see in their children. They live with integrity.

5. Great parents teach their children about money.

Many teenagers don’t know how to write a check or balance a checkbook. They don’t know how to live on a budget. They can use a credit card without any problem, but don’t yet realize how debt could affect their future.

Great parents teach their children how to save, how to give, and how to spend wisely within their means.

6. Great parents discipline in love.

They recognize their role in their child’s life. It’s not to be a best friend or to be a drill sergeant. A parent’s role is to guide his or her children and train them toward maturity. This can only happen with loving discipline.

7. Great parents tell their kids they love them, no matter what.

Our kids won’t always behave in a way that makes us happy, but they should always know they are loved. Great parents make sure their kids know they are loved even when their behavior is poor.

8. Great parents love their child’s father/mother.

One of the greatest things you can do for your child is to love that child’s father or mother.

It’s so easy after we have kids to stop investing in our marriages. We’re exhausted. At the end of a long day at work or at home, we’re spent and don’t want to have another person to care for.

The investment is worth it, though, both for your sake and for your child’s sake.

*In some instances, as Sheila has written about in the past, like when abuse is present, loving that person doesn’t mean you stay with them. If this is your situation, you need to know that loving that person doesn’t mean you allow him to abuse you. Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do is create some boundaries to keep yourself and your family safe.

9. Great parents teach their children about loving service.

The happiest people are not those who have it all, but those who have learned to invest in others.

Great parents teach their children the value of serving others. They teach them that true happiness isn’t found in things but in living with purpose.

10. Great parents are fully present.

They don’t allow their work, their hobbies, their phones, their computers or their televisions to become more important to them than their child. There’s a time for these things, but there’s also a time to put them away.

Great parents work hard to find that balance.

I’d love to hear from you. What other tips would you add to this list?

17648166-18785009-thumbnailSearching for Sanity: 52 Insights from Parents of the Bible (Christian Living Bible Study)Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity: 52 Insights from the Parents of the Bible. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. You can find Lindsey online at her blog, twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered, what in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me—of all people—to raise them?

Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past. In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book uses the parents of the Bible—both the good and the bad—to inspire today’s mothers.

 

Reader Question: I Never Told On My Abuser

Reader Question: How do I stop the lies and tell about past sexual abuse?
Do family secrets need to be brought to light? Should you confront someone who abused you as a child?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Last week, after I posted on the Duggar abuse scandal, I started receiving quite a few emails and Facebook messages from women who were abused as children and weren’t sure what their next steps should be now. This note in particular really hit me:

I have been reading your posts about the Duggar ‘scandal’ with much appreciation. I have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior a number of times as a child and teen, even in the first year of our marriage (from someone other than my spouse) and I am struggling to move on.  It was all kept a secret. I find it so difficult to open up to my husband of 5 years. I have spoken to him, but don’t know if he wants to know more, or if he just assumes I am all healed. How much or little detail do I go into? My parents also were not very open about sexuality and anything really other than teach biblical doctrine and cooking and cleaning. I lack many insights on what a healthy marriage is and just feel like I am drowning in emotion and self pity and I just want it to END! My husband is also recovering from watching porn. He’s doing really well but I am the only one he has told about it. The people from my past are known to me and two are relatives that I see regularly at family functions and church. I have forgiven them in my heart but feel I need to do so face to face. Do I talk to to them?

What a lot of pain! Let’s try to give her some help:

Bringing Past Abuse to Light: How to stop the secrets

First, a couple of big things: she is dealing with so much, and she’s living in the center of shame: shame from her parents who never talked about sex; shame from those who abused her; and shame because her husband watched porn. And she’s never been able to properly talk about any of this because there’s this cone of silence around everything.

The secrets need to stop.

When we shed light, God is there and can do amazing things. When we keep secrets and keep things hidden, we prevent God from doing His work, too.

I’m reminded of Micah 6:8 here:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

God wants us to love justice (which requires truth and speaking up); to do all this in a spirit of mercy (without vindictiveness or bitterness); and to be humble before God.

So often we think we’re merciful if we just “let things go”. But you can’t have real mercy without truth; you need both.

And so I’m going to suggest a radical shaking up in your family that may make you uncomfortable. I’m going to suggest that you tell the truth.

Here’s why:

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.

Forgiveness is something that you can do on your own: you decide “I will let God deal with this person, not me.”

Reconciliation on the other hand requires acknowledgment on the part of the other person to the pain that that person has caused. Reconciliation helps not just your own relationship but that person’s relationship with God. They’re forced to confront their misdeeds and they have a chance to repent and make things right.

When there is no reconciliation, there can be no real relationship. There is only a false facade. A real relationship can’t be based on a lie, and when there is something that big, it is all a lie.

So you have to tell the truth in order to get your relationships on a path where God can work towards peace or can let people choose judgment (and He would rather that people be given that stark choice than that things remain in secrets and lies). Remember, he’d rather us be hot or cold, not lukewarm.

But there’s another reason this has to come to light.

If someone abused you, chances are you were not the only one.

Therefore, if these individuals have minor children in the home still, then you must call children’s services. You simply must, in order to prevent any harm to those kids. I know this will be tough, but morally it is absolutely the right thing to do.

If these individuals serve in leadership at their church, or if they serve with children in any way at their work or at church, you must also tell their church. You are not responsible for what the church does with that information, but you must tell. A simple letter or email is fine. So many churches have been rocked by abuse, and this will continue to happen unless we start speaking up. And churches desperately want to avoid children being hurt in their care.

Speaking of contacting authorities, if the statute of limitations is not expired in your state, you may also consider filing criminal charges. But that is up to you.

Also, there may be other adult victims in your family. You may have cousins or siblings who were also abused by these men. When you speak up, you give them the chance to as well.

So you must speak up to achieve reconciliation, to validate others’ abuse stories, and to protect others.

But what are your practical steps? Here you go:

How to End Secrets and Bring Past Abuse to Light

I’m going assume that you have already contacted authorities and the church, if necessary. But here’s what you do for the rest of your family:

Get some support around you.

Talk to a counselor preferably, or one or two mentors who can pray with you and stand with you. Once you have talked it over with them, be fully open with your husband. Tell him what happened to you, in as much detail as you are comfortable with, and tell him how you think this affected you. Tell him that you want healing, and you’re striving towards that, and you totally believe healing can happen. Sometimes this is easier to do with the counselor present. Then the counselor can also explain to your husband why you need to bring this to light.

Tell your immediate family

Now it’s time to tell your parents and your siblings (unless they are the abusers; in that case skip to the next step). Tell them what happened, and tell them this: “I am going to contact them and ask for acknowledgement of what happened and an apology. If it is not given, I can no longer be in fellowship with them. I ask you not to invite them to family events anymore. If you do, then I will no longer come.

This is not being mean; it is just acknowledging that while forgiveness can be given by you alone, reconciliation cannot. Reconciliation is only possible when the other party admits the sin.

Contact your abusers in a safe way

I suggest using email; it keeps you at a safe distance and it avoids you having to listen to them yell or be defensive or call you names. You can even do so using your husband’s email so that if they send back a horrible response your husband can screen it and shield you from the details, if necessary.

Say something like, “I have disclosed the things that you did to me when I was X years old to my parents, my family, and my husband (and the authorities or the church if you also did this). I would ask that you admit what you did and apologize. If you do not, I will no longer be able to see you at social functions or at church. I ask that you be open and honest so that healing and reconciliation can take place.”

Contact the church (if you haven’t already) and ask for church discipline

You go to the same church as these individuals. That must end unless you achieve reconciliation (and even if you do, it may still be a good idea to go to a different church).

However, if you like your church, then they should have to leave it, not you.

Contact the elders’ board and explain in as much detail as is necessary what happened at the time, and ask that the elders help your abusers get established in another church so that you can feel spiritually safe.

Warning: many churches will not handle this well, especially if your abusers are in leadership positions. This may cause you a lot of hurt. If you know it won’t be handled well, then you likely need a new church anyway. That’s not a safe church.

Recognize that this will be difficult

This may very well blow a hole in your family, and people may blame you. But you did not cause the rift; your abusers did. You are simply trying to mend the rift by achieving honesty and reconciliation.

A family that socializes without acknowledging harm done is not healthy. It may outwardly look fine, but there is no real love there. Real love can only be present when real truth is also present. If self-preservation and “not rocking the boat” are the main things people want, then that is not loving; it is holding God at a distance. If God is going to do something in your family, it will only be because someone is finally shining a light on Truth.

So, yes, you may lose some relationships with your family. But those relationships weren’t real anyway. It is better–even if it is heartbreaking–to move forward in truth.

What about your marriage?

When secrets are part of your past, it’s very likely that openness is missing in your marriage. You grew up without honesty and good communication, so it’s hard to achieve that now, even in a healthy relationship.

31 Days to Great SexIn our letter writer’s case, it sounds like she and her husband need to start learning to talk about and communicate about sex and marriage. I’d really suggest talking to a counselor for at least six sessions. And if you haven’t done it yet, I’d really suggest picking up a copy of 31 Days to Great Sex, which walks you through so many exercises that will help the conversations start. For so many people that’s what they need most: a way to actually talk about it.

My dear readers: my heart has broken this week with all of these stories I’ve been hearing. There are just so many secrets. So many. But Jesus came to be the Light, and He can handle those secrets. I don’t know if He will bring reconciliation; He leaves that up to us to choose it, and your abusers may not. But it is better to live under Truth, even if it means your family gets a lot smaller, than to live with a lie.

I’m so sorry. I really am. May God be with you and may He put the right people around you to support you as you tell the truth.

Let me know: has your family ever been rocked by something like this? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!

What Could You Do with 750 Hours a Year?

What could you do instead with the time that you waste?

I’m back from Colorado! Yay! Had a wonderful trip, but being away from my family for 8 days was long.

Today I want to share with you a few highlights from the blog, but before I do that, I want to follow-up on Monday’s post about time wasters by asking you this question:

What would you do if you had 750 hours?

Do We Waste Too Much Time?
We were talking on Monday about how most of us in the West spend an inordinate amount of time on what are essentially time wasters–activities that don’t add to our relationships, our faith, our skill levels, or even, in many cases, our enjoyment of life. We may want to relax and watch TV, but afterwards we still feel unsettled because we haven’t done anything meaningful.

The comments on that post were great, but I felt like there was still something unsaid. And so let’s look a little further.

Let’s assume that you are spending roughly two hours a day on things with no redeeming value. Let’s assume it’s browsing Pinterest, or watching TV, or playing video games. On its own, you can likely justify that time. After all, if you’re working during the other hours, what does it really matter if you want to relax and escape for a while?

Once you do the math, though, you see that that time adds up.

If you’re wasting two hours a day, you’re roughly wasting 15 hours a week (let’s use 15; it’s a rounder number than 14). And over the course of a year, subtracting two weeks for Christmas and vacation, that’s 750 hours.

That’s a lot of time.

What could you do with 750 hours?

You could likely:

  • Start that part-time business
  • Exercise, get toned up and get down to that target weight
  • Completely organize and streamline your home
  • Invest in your friendships by visiting/talking with some friends every week
  • Have people in for dinner
  • Volunteer for that cause that’s been on your heart

Now let’s take the long-term view and multiply that 750 hours over a few years. Then what could you do?

  • Get your degree online (my daughters took university courses online. At 15 hours a week, you could finish a Bachelor’s degree from home in 6 years)
  • Write your novel/book

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceOr how about this: Malcolm Gladwell said in his book The Tipping Point that to get truly proficient at something you need 10,000 hours of practice. That’s maybe 10-12 years. Then you could:

  • Master an instrument
  • Become an artist
  • Start designing your own knitting/sewing patterns
  • Learn photography inside and out
  • Learn blogging and social media as a business (it’s taken me about 8 years of constant work to get proficient)

Wow! That time really adds up.

So next time you’re wondering about wasting time, ask yourself this: it may not seem like it matters if I waste this two hours, but if you take the long term view, is playing these video games more important than writing my novel? Than getting my degree? Than exercising and getting in shape? Than learning the piano like I’ve always wanted to?

All of us have dreams and goals for our lives. But we aren’t going to accomplish those things without time, and that time is not suddenly going to magically appear.

If you’re waiting for “one day” when you have time, one day will never come.

Many of us are in busy stages of our lives with babies and toddlers when starting something new may not be feasible. But look at those charts on Monday’s post again and ask yourself: am I spending time where it matters? Or am I putting a lot into time wasters? And if it’s the latter, then you do have time–right now–for goals that are important. The time is there. It’s just your choice how you use it.

That’s how I began to write–in little bites when the kids were toddlers. I turned off the TV and turned on my computer instead. And my life is so much better.

I once heard someone say that if Satan can’t make us bad he’ll make us busy.

That’s what he’s done in our culture where we entertain ourselves to death. We’re so busy with things that don’t matter that we’re not investing our time. Think about what our communities, churches, and families would be like if we took that 750 hours and spent it on important things. I get goosebumps.

What will you do?

What’s #1 at To Love, Honor and Vacuum This Week?

Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?HandleMoney#1 on the Blog: Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet
#1 on Facebook: Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?
#1 on Pinterest: Teaching Kids to Handle Money
#1 on Twitter: 9 FUN tips to make SEX great for you, too!

 

Want to See Pics of My Trip to Colorado?

Here’s my Girl Talk in Greeley, Colorado, and here’s my talk in Green River, Wyoming.

What I wish I could convey in pictures is how gorgeous it was driving through the mountains and the ranches, but my iPhone didn’t do it justice.

Now I’m looking forward to getting back to my real life and start planning my daughter’s wedding! She’s coming home for the long weekend (it’s a long weekend up here in Canada), and we’ll be making all the gifts for her bridesmaids together, just her and I. My husband is taking her fiance on a father-son canoe trip with our church this weekend so they can get better acquainted, and my younger daughter is off to camp. So it’s just Becca and me getting reacquainted!

I hope you have a lovely weekend, too.

 

Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum–The Book

Today I’m in Colorado Springs at the Focus on the Family headquarters taping a radio show about my book To, Love, Honor and Vacuum.

And since it’s our Book of the Month for our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in May, I want to let you all know a little more about it. It’s the first book I ever wrote (it was out originally in 2003), and last year I published a revised and expanded edition.

I know I write a lot about sex, but I’m also passionate about helping women with their daily lives. So I’d like to introduce you to To Love, Honor and Vacuum–the book.

To Love, Honor and Vacuum: For all women who feel more like maids than wives and mothers!

Do you feel harried? Taken for granted? Like you never have enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone anything that you actually want to do?

Then this REVISED and UPDATED book is for you! To Love, Honor and Vacuum helps women find peace in the midst of their hectic lives by helping them remember that the goal is to point people to Christ–not to wait on everyone hand and foot and to have a perfect house.

I give it to you straight: do you do everything around your house, but never have time for the important things? Are you inadvertently teaching your family members to treat you with disrespect? Or are you simply overwhelmed by keeping a house while you’ve also got toddlers underfoot?

I’ll teach you how to put first things first, and foster relationships where you’ll feel more appreciated, less harried, and more fulfilled. The book will help you:

  • Set realistic standards for housework
  • Learn to do housework more efficiently
  • Make your home family-friendly
  • Recruit help from family members
  • Command respect from your husband and kids
  • Prioritize family relationships
  • Make decisions about work and money
  • Keep romance alive!

TLHV Review

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum Review

Review of TLHV

To Love, Honor and Vacuum Review

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Ever wonder why you’ve tried dozens of different chores organization techniques and they don’t work?

Maybe the issue isn’t organization–it’s perspective and attitude.

  • Are you trying to raise children–or raise adults?
  • Are you trying to be nice to your family–or be good to your family by pointing them to Christ?
  • Are you trying to create a perfect house–or a comfortable home?

If your starting point is wrong, you will be stressed, no matter what organization technique you use. And so maybe it’s time to start with our attitudes, then look at our relationships–and only THEN turn to how to organize ourselves better.

4346 vac cvr CC.indd
Here’s what’s included in To Love, Honor and Vacuum:

Chapter 1: Diagnosis Stress!
Why we women so often find home life so exhausting.

Chapter 2: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
A fictional jaunt through history to show you why life IS more stressful today–and why your grandmother could handle things better than you can!

Chapter 3: This Ain’t My Momma’s House!
An invitation to take a close look at who is setting your standards–with a plea for grace for ourselves.

Chapter 4: Balancing Tipped Scales
Feeling worn out? Maybe you’re spending too much time on the unimportant, and not enough on the stuff that revives you. A plan to include more reviving things in your life.

Chapter 5: Relationship U-Turns
We’ve given ourselves a break, we’re getting more organized, and we have more things that revive us in our lives. But what if the reason that we’re exhausted is that no one else seems to help–or even to care? A look at how to actually change relationships so that we point people to Christ, not away from Him.

Chapter 6: The Family That Cleans Together
You CAN get your kids involved in keeping the house under control. And you can involve your husband, too!

Chapter 7: Don’t Just Sit There–Do Something!
What do you do if people take you for granted and disrespect you? A look at how to earn respect in your family, and set your relationships back on the right course.

Chapter 8: Kids Spell Love T-I-M-E
You’ve got kids involved in the house, but you also need to just relax and have fun with them. Here’s how.

Chapter 9: Bringing Your Wallet Under God’s Control
Another big source of stress is money. Do you use money well? Do you save money well? What do you do about work and childcare? A helpful look at how to make decisions about kids, money, and savings.

Chapter 10: In the Mood
A peaceful family that reflects Christ’s love has the marriage at the centre. And that means that you need to prioritize your relationship with your husband–even in the bedroom! (You knew I couldn’t leave that out, right?)

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum Audio Download
Want to hear more about it–but don’t have time to read?

Purchase a 45 minute talk based on the book.

 

If you’re tired of spinning your wheels, get
To Love, Honor and Vacuum.
And start feeling like a mom and a wife again!

I Actually Drank This–And What It Taught Me

So true story: Last Saturday night (like eight days ago) I landed in the Toronto airport late at night after having spent an amazing week speaking throughout Arizona.

Sheila Gregoire gives her Girl Talk presentation about sex and marriage.

But all day I had been battling quite the headache. I don’t handle changes in pressure from airline travel well, and combine that with the fact that I’ve been clenching my jaw at night, making for some tension headaches to begin with, and I was not in a Happy Place.

I picked up my luggage, which included a huge suitcase, a computer, and this mega huge golf bag which held the banner for my Girl Talk, and waited for the airport shuttle (which took 25 minutes) to take me back to where my car was.

Lugged that stuff up four flights in the parking garage, found my car in the dark, somehow managed to push that golf bag in, and then thought about the 2 hour drive I had home. And I knew I could not do that without fortification (namely Advil).

But I also didn’t have anything to drink, nor did I have the energy to find a corner store. So I searched under the seats and in the crevices of my van, and Hallelujah! I found an old water bottle that was still full. So I downed two Advils and headed home.

Thursday night, five days later, my daughter and I are in the car heading to the 100 Huntley Street headquarters for a Women in Music and Media networking event. I wanted Katie (my YouTube daughter) to meet the amazing gals there–Anne Mainse and Moira Brown, and we did.

WIMM

But as we’re driving, Katie holds up the water bottle and comments, “boy this water looks gross.”

Then she flips the bottle and there’s algae on the bottom.

Sometimes we don't realize how toxic our surroundings are.

And I drank that.

No wonder I’ve felt so queasy for a week!

All week I was also telling you about the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle (watch the skilled way I transition here; you will be amazed and astounded. :) ). And one thing that really hit me was that often I don’t realize how toxic my environment is.

Certainly there’s my environment-environment–the air I breathe, the food I eat, the chemicals on my clothes, and, of course, the algae in my water.

And you’ll learn with this Bundle how to create a HEALTHY Home–without going overboard on all the hype. There’s a lot of hype out there scaring us about all kinds of things. This ecourse tells you which claims have scientific backing, which ones don’t, and where you get the most bang for your buck.


It normally sells for $97–so if you buy the Bundle, it’s like you’re getting that course for 66% off, but then you’re also getting 99 other resources!

But it’s not just about our physical environment. It’s also the “feel” of my home that I, as the mom, tend to set up. Is home cuddly or chaotic? Nurturing or nerves-inducing? And how do we make home something that is relaxing and life-giving without wearing ourselves out in the process?

I shared with you last Tuesday ten books that did that for me–ten homemaking hacks that I really appreciated! But there are so many others–books on meal planning, mothering, passing on your faith to your kids, enriching your own faith, saving money, cleaning, and more. I’m partial to the organizing books and printables, and these ones alone are worth more than the cost of the bundle, too:


This Bundle sale is now over, but the awesome people at the Ultimate Bundles website offer about 6 bundles a year on different topics--and it's always about $1000 worth of digital products for $29.97. Sign up to be notified of the next bundle! (They have homemaking, digital photography, healthy living, work at home business, and more!


If you’ve already bought a bundle in the past, I understand. I’ve been part of five bundle sales, so I have a LOT of ebooks. But what I find with each Bundle is that there’s something new–some tip that really will change EVERYTHING. This time around it was learning how to organize myself paperlessly, and that was so worth it. I never would have thought to buy that book on its own, but when I read it in the Bundle, I was like: “Why didn’t I think of this before?” But last Bundle it was something else.

And remember–the bonuses are all new! And you get a designer scarf valued at $20; a physical book of your choice from Tyndale; an art print; registration in a Craftsy class to improve your craft skills (go for the knitting ones!), and so much more.

And it makes a great Mother’s Day gift!

I’ll be talking more this week about how not to be toxic in your marriage–how to pray for your husband; how to avoid seasons of distance; how to stay close and healthy. And I’m looking forward to those posts!

But for today, I am excited about this last chance to offer you the bundle. I do get a percentage of your sales (which go towards bringing an assistant with me when I speak so I don’t have to lug all that stuff by myself), but I also participate in these sales just because I love them. I’m like a kid in a candy store when I get to go through all the resources! Here’s one more look at them all:

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle--97 ebooks and ecourses plus bonuses for just $29.97

Don’t miss it! It will be gone soon.

Click here to learn more

Have a great week!

 

Open Letter to My Toddler: Why You Need Time Alone

Toddlers Playing By Themselves
If you’re a mom of a toddler, do you ever just dream of 10 minutes all to yourself?

Today Katharine Grubb shares with us a letter to her toddler explaining why she needs to learn to play by herself–so mom can be by herself, too! And that means that we moms need to TRAIN our kids to play by themselves.

If you’re a mom feeling guilty for not being with your child every minute of the day, read this this morning. Breathe it in. And let the guilt go.

Here’s Katharine:

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. But it’s time you learned something big.

It’s time you learned how to entertain yourself for a few minutes each day.

I’ve got all your needs covered — you’re fed, you’re clean, you’re dry, you could probably stand a nap (who doesn’t?) But it’s time now to sit in a spot on the floor, pick up the things you love and entertain yourself, without my help, for ten full minutes.

I’ll coach you. I’ll bring you special toys that aren’t out often. I’ll let you pick out the alarm sound on my phone. I’ll reward you if you can sit, for ten minutes, and entertain yourself. (I suppose you could just have my phone, but I will not fish it out of the toilet again.)

Are ten minutes too much? That’s okay, let’s start with one. You sit and play and dont watch me and dont talk to me and when the timer goes off we’ll celebrate. You made it to one. Then we’ll try two. Then four. We’ll take the time to practice this over and over until you get to ten full minutes. This is far more than just a game. I’m giving you a gift and someday, you’ll understand why it’s so important.

I want you to see that there is joy in being creative.

Trust me, it feels great to see in your hand a completed work (don’t remind me of that cross stitch I started for Grammy and Grampy for their 40th wedding anniversary.) It feels good when you stretch yourself to be more than you are, (maybe it will be ready for their 50th next year?) I want to see what you’ve done in our time apart. I want to share this joy with you. I’ll say nothing about the mess you made, (but dear, we cut paper, not hair with the scissors.)

When you pick up a crayon for the first time and you rub it across the paper, you’ll see magic. When you pick up blocks for the first time and pile them up, you’ll see potential. When you push a button on that V-Tech toy (that Daddy “accidentally” caulked all the speaker holes up to make the music less annoying) and you saw lights, you were mesmerized by the laws of cause and effect. As your mind grows your discoveries and creations will grow too. For every scribble, for every drawing, for every time you had to get Rainbow Dash’s mane just right, you’ll rehearsing for sitting at a future desk with a future task that will be less forgiving and less fun. But those tasks will need a creative mind and an eye for detail and persevering spirit. You only get those by practicing and playing and sitting alone, for a little bit each day and working on something you love.

We’re doing this because I want you to try new things.

I want you to gain confidence in your decision-making and risk-taking. I want you to trust your own judgement, learning logic and cause and effect, learn how shapes and colors and art and physics all work together. Someday, you’ll see that self-discipline is the only way to get tasks done. Someday you’ll be glad that I didn’t allow you to indulge yourself in your whims 24/7. Someday, you’ll spend hours alone studying for a big exam, or writing a paper or creating some project that a grade or a job will depend on. Someday you’re going to earn a paycheck, darling baby, and you’ll take me to lunch. (I’ve already picked the restaurant. And I’m not wearing yoga pants and a stained t-shirt so you may not recognize me.)

Helping children learn to play by themselves--and be creative

I fully expect you to fail.

The crayon will break, the KNEX won’t go together the right way, the tower will come falling down. But that’s why we play: to practice life because life is messy. (What is that smell? What did you eat?) I want to give you the gift of being able to deal with mistakes, failures and messes gracefully. But if you’ve sat at my feet, working on your projects, and failed near me, I can remind you that you are not your failures. I can remind you that you are loved anyway. I can remind you that you may have a solution to your problem nearby if you take the initiative. Playing alone will do that.

I suppose I could argue about brain development, independence, creativity and self-discipline all day long, but the truth I need a minute! And I need you to be within sight and within earshot, but fully entertained, just long enough for me to do something for me. I can check my email, catch up on Facebook, read a chapter in that book I started last year, crochet ten stitches, sketch a drawing or try to write that short story. I like making things too and surprise! The things I make are just as important to me as that glitter disaster on the dining room table. (Who gives a toddler glitter? The nice neighbor? That’s it! I’m giving her kid a drum set and a kitten!)

Making art is fun. Creating beautiful things is an act of worship. You are an amazing creation and whenever you make something, you are reminding me of who made you. In the same way that I put your drawings on the refrigerator door and we all look at them proudly is the same way that God looks at you — his creation. He is proud of you. When you create, you are doing what he did first. This is more than just play, this is worship. Let’s learn to work independently for ten minutes, so we can both glorify God in our creations.

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. Let’s spend a little time apart today and be all the better for it.

I love you!

Mommy

headshotWrite a novel in 10 minutes a dayKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five children and lives in Massachusetts. Her book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day, has been recently published by Teach Yourself Books. She blogs at 10 Minute Novelists–a blog I’m reading as I’m starting to work on my first novel! Find Katharine on Facebook, too.

Katharine uses her time away from her children to write–in extremely short bursts. If you’ve longed to make better use of your short bursts, check out Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day! That’s what I’m doing right now.

Now let me know: did you ever have to train your children to play by themselves? Was it hard? Have any tips for us? Share them in the comments!

Reader Question: How Do You Leave and Cleave If He Won’t Leave?

Reader Question: My husband is lazy and won't get a job!
When we get married we’re supposed to leave and cleave–but what if your husband won’t leave his mother and father?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Today we’re talking mother-in-law issues:

What do you do when your mother-in-law interferes? She will call the house and if I don’t answer she will call my husband at work and bug him about me not answering…She calls every evening around 7 when my husband is getting home. Most times I don’t even get a hello from him before she calls. Some nights she will keep him on the phone for up to an hour…Almost every Sunday she bugs us about going to church with them and she gets mad if we don’t go to their church. Every time we plan on going out something comes up (usually because of his mom) and we don’t. We have only been out once in the last year for our anniversary. I feel like I never see my husband and when I do his mom is involved. It is very stressful and it is causing a wedge between us. Please help!

Here’s another woman who is frustrated that her husband is still primarily concerned with his mother:

My husband and I have been married for 14 years and have several children. We married quite young and went straight from our parents’ homes to married with a baby on the way. We’ve been through a lot in our marriage, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his tendency to choose his mom over me. If she wants us to do something and I do not want to, we do it. We have talked and argued and battled over this our entire marriage. When he does go along with something, he acts as if it couldn’t be helped. In the past I have tried to get him to go to counseling, but he “doesn’t like the idea”. I realize that this is a power struggle that I am in, but my life and marriage are being controlled by his mother. I am 33 years old, a mother myself, and do not want her dictating our lives. What do I do that is both pleasing to God and putting my foot down?

Leave and Cleave: Handling it when your husband lets your mother-in-law interfere

The Basics: What Does “Leave and Cleave” Mean?

Genesis 2:24 says,

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

When we get married, we leave behind our parents and we join with our spouse, becoming one flesh with them. We are a new unit.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t to honor our parents; they deserve our love and respect and our help, especially as they age. But our primary allegiance is no longer to them; we’re supposed to identify first and foremost with our spouse.

On a Daughter Getting Engaged: Getting ready for them to leave and cleave
This summer, after my husband walks our oldest, Rebecca, down the aisle, the minister will ask Keith and me and Connor’s parents if we are prepared to let our children go. I never thought much about that, but as the date draws near the enormity of it is hitting. I have to let Rebecca make her own choices. I can’t interfere. I can’t demand that she update me on what’s going on with school. I can ask, but it really needs to be her choice, and I need to be okay with that.

I hope that she still wants to spend lots of time with us, but ultimately that is her decision, not mine. She and Connor will be the unit, and we won’t be a nuclear family in the same way again.

How Do You Talk About Leave and Cleave?

Usually when leave and cleave in-law issues come up, the conversation with our husbands focuses on the mother.

Let’s imagine the first scenario for a minute:

“Your mom called right as you came in the door again! I feel like I never get to talk to you. Instead of eating dinner with the family you speak all night with her. She is always interfering in our lives and taking you away from us!”

Now, what’s your husband going to think? He now is put in the position of either defending his mother or attacking his mother–neither of which is really comfortable for him.

What’s a better strategy for having this conversation? Offer him two things:

  1. A specific chance to help you
  2. A chance to plan with you

Let’s say the conversation instead looked like this:

“Honey, I feel like we’ve had so little time together lately because your mom has been calling so much. I love your mom and love the fact that you love your mom, but I’m feeling lonely. Can we talk about how to find time to feel more connected?”

Now the issue is no longer his mom–it’s the fact that you have a need that he can fill–and many guys like feeling like Captain America swooping in to save the damsel in distress.

You could also frame a conversation like this:

“I love your mom and so appreciate her role as grandma. I also really love our own nuclear family. Can we talk about what a great relationship with a grandma would look like, and what a great nuclear family would look like?”

Again, no blame is being placed. You’re not attacking his mom and asking him to choose sides. You’re just asking for some ideas. And as you have these conversations, you can say something like this:

“I’d like to write down what we’re saying so that we can refer to it later. What do you think is a reasonable amount of time to spend together with your family in the evenings? How often should an adult check in with their parents if they want to honor their parents? How many weekends a year should a family give their parents, and how many weekends should they take, just them? Can you think of a family that we know with a great relationship with their parents–but also as a nuclear family? How often do they spend with their parents? What makes that relationship great?”

Once you get these parameters written down, you can now refer to them when things get out of hand.

“Honey, I notice that you said you thought it was reasonable to check in with parents every other day for about twenty minutes, but in the last few days you’ve talked to your mom for an hour each day. How do you think we can move our family closer to what we want?”

These are the kinds of conversations that are often more productive. You’re not blaming, you define parameters, you set up goals which you you can easily see whether you’ve met or not, and you have something tangible to come back to if things don’t work.

Who is Responsible for Leaving?

It’s important that parents let their children go, but ultimately the child must decide to leave. And you can’t make that decision for your spouse. If your mother-in-law is taking a lot of your husband’s time, you can certainly talk to her. But your husband must be the one to set the parameters.

How Can You Build a Life with Your In-Laws?

It’s easier for him to set those parameters if you make an effort to love your mother-in-law and make your own relationship with her. If your husband feels as if he always must choose between two women who don’t like each other, you put him in a difficult position.

Romans 12:18 says,

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Do what you can to have a great relationship with your mother-in-law. Sometimes that won’t be possible, but try. Ask for recipes. Ask for her to teach you something. Ask if you can join a hobby with her, or take her shopping. Go get your nails done together on a regular basis.

If you can find a way to relate to your mother-in-law that does not involve your husband, you go so far in making it easier for your husband to leave.

I’m about to be a mother-in-law, and I’m starting to have some sympathy for the mother-in-law in these relationships. Here’s the thing: I believe that mothers-in-law often become interfering because they are desperately afraid of losing their child. And so you try to make sure that your son still loves you as his mom. You want to still feel special.

I know that I won’t worry about losing my daughter if Connor takes some time to get to know us individually. And that’s why we were so happy when he agreed to go on a father-son canoe trip coming up with my husband! If we feel as if our son-in-law loves us as individuals, and not just because he’s married to our daughter, then we won’t be nearly as concerned with our daughter proving her loyalty. And I’ve been so proud to watch how Rebecca is trying to reach out to her future mother-in-law, and put her at ease that she won’t take her son away from her. She gets it.

So reach to your mother-in-law. It may not take much–but if she knows you’re an ally, not a rival, then she may have an easier time letting go of her son.

Dayspring Serenity Prayer

What if Your Husband Never Chooses to Leave and Cleave?

What if you’ve done all of this and your husband is still at her beck and call?

Can you move away? I’ve known several marriages that have broken up that I’ve always felt would have survived if they had just moved away from her parents (in those cases it was SHE who wasn’t leaving, not HE).

If that’s not possible, you have two choices:

  1. Grow bitter about it and make his life miserable
  2. Decide to let it go and love your husband

I know that everyone would be better off if your husband learned to leave and cleave. But you can’t make him. You can seek out a mentor couple; you can ask for all of you to sit down with a counselor; you can even go to your pastor. But if things don’t change, what are you going to do?

I wrote a post a while ago about changing our attitudes when there’s one big area where your husband disappoints you–and you have to learn to accept it, and find ways to make your own life happy and peaceful anyway.

If you know that your husband is going to talk to his mom every night at 7 for an hour, then can you find something you do at 7 that you enjoy, so you’re not disappointed and stewing every evening? If you know that your mother-in-law is going to want your husband to help her with errands this Saturday, can you plan something fun for you and the kids so that you don’t end up making him feel guilty?

BoundariesAnd if your mother-in-law wants you all to come do something with her, it’s quite okay on occasion to say, “I really need a weekend just with the kids. I’d love for you to join us, but if you feel you must go with your mother, feel free. But I think I’ll keep the kids here with me this weekend.” You don’t need to go along with everything; you can set boundaries yourself.

Keep expressing your feelings, as we talked about above, but ultimately you’re letting go and you’re letting your husband make his own decisions. Sometimes in that letting go he feels freed to look at the situation more objectively, because it’s not so emotional. He may decide that you look like you’re having a lot more fun without him–and he wants to join you! But even if he doesn’t, at least you’re not as miserable anymore.

Now it’s your turn: Let me know in the comments, have you ever had to set boundaries around in-laws? Or are you an in-law yourself and you’ve had to watch how you treat your adult children? Tell us any tips you have!