Practice Makes Perfect: Homemakers are Made, not Born

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I want to talk about  practice, perfection and our tendency to compare with others.

Practice Makes PerfectLast night I was cleaning up my kitchen while my 18-year-old practised piano. At one point I paused from my scrubbing, and just listened as her fingers danced across the keyboard playing a deliciously difficult piece.

I love moments like that.

Nine years ago, when she started piano, she did not sound very lovely. She would sit on the bench, her feet dangling over, as she tried to pick out the notes to This Old Man. It was cute, but it wasn’t beautiful.

Over the years she has spent countless hours perfecting her skill. And now she can sit down whenever she wants and play a song she heard on the radio. She’s had experience.

We instinctively understand that when it comes to instruments. We get it when it comes to most hobbies. We know it’s true of driving, too: you get better with time and effort. I don’t think, however, that we give enough credence to the idea that this phenomenon could also apply to other parts of life.

When my children were very small, Keith and I were invited over to dinner to the home of a couple who was then in their late forties. They served a wonderful meal with a beautiful centrepiece and a delicious dessert. Music was drifting in the background. The house was immaculately decorated. Our hostess made the meal look effortless.

The next day, when I looked around my living room to see the mismatched couches, and the toys scattered over the floor, and the distinct lack of dining room table (we ate in the kitchen and had allowed the children to take over the dining room for their craft projects), I felt like a failure. I couldn’t have hosted a dinner party even if I had wanted to. I wouldn’t know what to make. I wouldn’t know where to seat people. And my furniture was terrible.

Fast forward fourteen years, and life is very different. I can host a dinner party now, because I have a dining room table again. My 15-year-old makes great centrepieces. I can cook much better (though last year’s Christmas dinner was a disaster, but that’s another story). My house isn’t a mess.

And the reason is because I’ve had practice.

When I think back to that woman in her late forties who entertained us, I think she, too, had simply learned how to be a good hostess. When she was in her late twenties, she had three boys under four. I’m sure her dining room table wasn’t huge and spotless. I’m sure her furniture didn’t all match, and toys likely littered every surface. But over the years they could slowly afford to buy better furniture. She had practice cooking. The toys were packed away. And life got easier.

We have a tendency to compare our abilities to keep a nice home, cook a good dinner, balance a chequebook, or manage investments to those of other, older people, like our parents. Perhaps it’s time to stop. Your mother’s home may have been quite a mess when her children were the age of your children, even if her home is spotless now. Your boss who is so careful with investments may only have learned to be that way because of mistakes and lost opportunities in his twenties. Your father’s ability to grow grass probably is not instinctual; he learned it over decades.

If you’re not there yet, relax.

Practice makes perfect.

We don’t learn basic life skills overnight. It takes a while to get used to it. So let’s enjoy the journey, rather than always beating ourselves up for not having arrived yet.

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I Need a Wife

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I talk about how margin can easily slip away with busyness.

I have always been a stay-at-home mom, but with my writing I’ve moved more and more towards “working from home”, and it’s eating so much of our margins. My husband and I are taking a weekend retreat in two weeks to pray about how to do life differently, because this isn’t what we want. At the same time, it’s difficult because we’ve felt that God was moving both of us in the direction we are now. So we’re going to put all options on the table and ask God to help us find the win-win. Sometimes all couples need to do that! And if you could pray for wisdom for us, that would be great.

I need a wifeI love to-do lists and organization planners. I have Excel spreadsheets for household chores and the business tasks I need to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. On good days, when I don’t hit the snooze button, I actually get most of those things done.

There’s only one problem. I have no margins in my life. If I’m super organized and super energetic, it is possible to keep my house clean and to get all my work done and, hopefully, to head to the grocery store before we’re stuck discovering that all we have in the cupboards are tins of cranberry sauce and tuna. But if an emergency comes up, I’m in trouble.

My husband works more than full-time, and my writing and speaking require my full-time attention and too much travel. Because I write primarily on marriage, it’s also really hard to neglect mine, or that “hypocrite” word might get tossed around. And with my oldest now flown the coop, I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my youngest before she leaves, too.

Life is simply busy. Pretty much everyone feels that way. But I think one of the biggest sources of stress isn’t the amount of work on our plate; it’s that nagging feeling that one more straw is going to cause the whole thing to come crashing down.

We used to have some buffer in our lives. At one time women were home to bring dinners to friends in the hospital, or to take parents to doctors’ appointments, or to care for a sister’s child if said sister caught a disgusting intestinal bug. Today few of us have people we can rely on. And what’s perhaps even worse is that we aren’t able to be there for those that we love, either.

When my cousin had a baby recently and needed help, I wasn’t in the position to go. What kind of life are we leading if we don’t have the room to be there for those that we love?

Yet my problem doesn’t stop there. What if, in all of our chaos of making more money, we’re actually missing out on a “good life”? A “good life” has to involve little touches of creativity and beauty: that home-cooked meal instead of the barbecued chicken we picked up on the way home; those refinished dressers instead of the Ikea assemble-yourself plywood; the crocheted baby afghans. One of the things I miss most lately is the joy of friends coming for dinner, an event which is quite difficult if you’re never home to cook dinner, let alone to clear a path to the dining room table.

My business started off extremely part time, but it has mushroomed, for which I am grateful. My husband is doing well at his job, for which I am proud. Yet I am not certain that this is the life I want. If I have no room for emergencies, and little room for beauty and hospitality and fun, then what is the point?

The dual income family is now the norm, and that won’t change. Certainly we could all lower our expectations and work less. The reduction in stress is likely worth the reduction in income. Yet that is not always easy to do. And in the meantime, there is no one left to “keep the homefires burning”. We women felt undervalued when we were “just housewives”, but gradually, as most women work, more and more of us are realizing just how valuable having someone at home was. That spouse didn’t just care for the kids and do the housework; that spouse gave you that buffer, that margin, that made life liveable. I can’t give up a business I’ve spent years creating, but in the meantime, I could really use a wife.

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Why Women Are Control Freaks

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Today’s was more political in nature, so I thought I’d rerun a column from a few years ago, that I wrote to help men understand women. Usually I’m writing to women, and telling women how they should STOP these tendencies. But sometimes it’s helpful to let men understand how men and why women do what they do–even if the women are being counterproductive.

Why women are control freaksIf you’re a guy, and you’ve always thought, “my wife is a control freak!”, read on. And if you’re a woman, maybe share this with your guy!

I’m writing this not to excuse women, but to help men understand what’s going on. I write lots of posts for women on how to improve their marriage. Here’s just a little insight into the female brain for the men:

As I’m writing this, my family is preparing to depart for two weeks on vacation. I am desperately tending to my email, ridding the fridge of any stray produce, washing all the laundry, heading to the bank, and somewhere in there I’m packing. And I’m managing to pull it all off while still barking orders at my kids. I am the very model of a modern wifely drill sergeant.

Few can issue orders as effectively as women when we are in control freak mode. We want the house cleaned because company is coming, and even though we’ve ignored the mess for two weeks it is now absolutely imperative that everybody drop what they’re doing and polish something. We want to get to work early, so everyone must hurry up and grab breakfast and by the way has anyone seen my purse? We have our agenda, and everybody had better get into line.

What men may not realize, though, is that when women get into control freak mode, it’s not because we particularly want to control people.

Let me get psychological for just a moment. A woman’s biggest fear is that she’s going to lose those things that she loves most. She wants to feel like her family is close-knit, her kids are safe, and everyone is secure. When something threatens that—because the kids are pulling away, or everyone’s too busy, or you’re distant—we feel out of control, and start issuing orders to compensate. Or, even worse, if we feel that we’re not doing a stellar job at caring for the family, then we really lose it, because we’re afraid that if the family falls apart, it will be our fault. We may imply again and again that it’s yours, but it’s only to deflect the blame we feel. We’re afraid we’re not good enough.

We’re not control freaks; we’re just scaredy cats! Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a big improvement, but it is, because once you understand that, you can help us bridge that sanity gap and end up in relational bliss once more. For you men in a relationship, here’s the key to helping your beloved relax and calm down: realize that when she gets stressed, it’s not because her primary goal in life is to stifle you. It’s because she’s scared things are falling apart. And the more scared she feels, the more she tries to clamp down.

That creates this strange situation in many homes where the wife starts running everything—the kids’ schedules, the doctors’ appointments, the educational plans, the finances, the housework—while the husband pulls away because she so obviously doesn’t need or want him involved. Don’t look at the situation logically, though. Look at it lovingly. Sure she’s doing everything. Sure she’s got a to-do list for you a mile long. But this doesn’t mean she wants to run everything; more than likely it means that she wants you to start taking more of the reins.

Don’t react to what we do; react to what’s going on inside. And then step up and be a man. Start talking to us about decisions. Get involved in the family. Listen to our concerns. And then develop your own opinions about what you think is best. Show us you care. Show us you’ve thought about it, too. Relieve us of the burden of messing stuff up, all on our own. That’s what we really want you to do, regardless of what it may look like.

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Reader Question: Dealing with a Husband with ADD

Reader Question of the Week

Every weekend I like to answer a reader question. I’ll give my thoughts on a subject, and then I invite you all to comment and help this reader out, too.

Here’s one I received recently:

I don’t want to be a nagging wife, but my husband has ADD and it seems like it is sometimes called for.  We both work and have a set division of labor around the house (that we have both agreed to) because it makes life easier on us.  I have to be ‘on his case’, so to speak about getting his tasks done.  I am extremely conscious of the way we are in public and around other people, so this really is limited to everyday household things.  But I was wondering whether any other readers have had similar experiences or have any wisdom to share.

Excellent question!

Let me take a stab at it with just a few points, not in any particular order:

1. Remember that ADD has its Strengths

My husband is a pediatrician, and so he diagnoses a lot of kids with ADD (and he tells even more that they do NOT have ADD. Most kids who come in for that diagnosis do not actually have a biological basis for attention deficit).

When there is a genuine diagnosis, the parents are often really sad. “My son (for it is usually boys) will be hampered by this his whole life,” they think. We frame it as a disability.

But here’s what my husband says (and I’m paraphrasing):

A generation ago, when there was no such thing as an ADD diagnosis, these kids grew up just being called “hyperactive” or “distracted”. But they grew up without a label. And many of them did amazing things.

We think of ADD as a negative thing, but people with ADD tend to make the best salesmen. They make the best stockbrokers. They make really good company CEOs because they can handle so many different thoughts at one time. People with ADD have gone on to do amazing things with their lives.

ADD is far more a problem in school, when everything has to be regimented, than it is in adult life, when you can choose a career that’s actually suited for someone with ADD (for there are many), and start to run your home the way it works best for you.

His main message? This will always be a challenge, but remember to see that it can have its pluses, too.

So if you’re married to someone with ADD, don’t always see it as a negative. Figure out the positive aspects to it (they can be really fun people; they’re active; they’re not boring, etc.)

2. Encourage His Leadership in His Areas of Strength

If he’s a really fun, active guy, make sure your family is really fun and active. Go to the beach. Run to parks often. You don’t have to be a typical family that sits at the dinner table for long periods of time and has deep conversations. Maybe he’s better suited to picnic dinners in the summer (and kids love that!)

In other words, don’t try to fit him into a stereotypical family; your family is unique. And it’s great to do family in a way that he is comfortable with and that works to his strengths.

3. Involve Him in Strategy-Making and Finding Solutions

Don’t treat him as someone with a disability; ask him, “how can we best make sure the work that needs to get done gets done?”

Now, for some men, nagging may actually not be a bad thing. If they have to be reminded, they may honestly be fine with that.

I don’t like that, though, because I think it sets up a mother-son type relationship instead of a marriage, and in general that’s not healthy.

So figure out: how does he work best? With lists? With post-it notes? With rewards? (like if he finishes this one task he gets to do something he loves, like play video games or go for a jog or something). Ask him, and ask him to brainstorm about different times in his life when he had to get stuff done. How did he accomplish it? What did he put in place?

Part of the problem with marrying someone with ADD is that his mother may have compensated for him so much growing up that he honestly isn’t used to having to take responsibility around the house. But if he’s able to do it at work, he’s able to do it at home. So ask him, “what helps you get tasks done at work? How do you keep yourself focused there?” And see if you can replicate that.

4. Think of the CEO-Secretary Mix

Again, I’m not trying to reinforce a lopsided relationship, but if you picture a distracted yet active CEO, the ones that function best are the ones with secretaries who compensate. Maybe it’s time to think about compensating rather than about trying to get him to become you.

The thing about the work relationship is that the secretary keeping him on track helps free him up to do what he’s good at. So ask yourself, “what is he good at?” You may honestly want the housework split, but maybe he’s just not a housework kind of guy. But he may be a grocery shopping/errands kind of guy, because that’s more active, and there’s more going on. He doesn’t have to stay focused at a task as much.

In other words, it’s not so much about assigning tasks based on what we think is fair or on what we enjoy but instead basing it on “what are we both best suited for?” Maybe in the comments we could brainstorm about what some of those tasks may be.

Some of you readers have husbands with ADD (or children with ADD) have more to offer on this particular topic. So please, chime in, and let’s help others in this same situation!
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Reader Question of the Week: How Much Is Reasonable to Expect From Your Spouse?

Married to Mr. Clean

Hello all, and welcome to the revamped Reader Question of the Week!

Instead of posting a question and asking you all to chime in, I’ve decided to post a question and then answer it myself first. Then you all can chime in once I’ve set the tone, which I think will keep things a little more on an even keel. Here goes:

My husband likes the house to be clean. I don’t mean just picked up and somewhat neat, but spotless, everything in it’s place, every dish put away, every surface wiped. Every day. He claims that if there is something that is not done in the house that he cannot relax and be happy. While I don’t feel that I am a dirty person, I am certainly not a neat freak. I am fine with a pile of papers on the desk or doing the dishes in the morning instead of right after supper. This has been a source of stress in our marriage from day 1. We have been married almost nine years and I feel that I have made huge adjustments to try to accomodate his needs.

My question is not so much about how much I should clean (I did read your post on When Mr. Clean marries Mrs. Messy). I truly do understand the desire for a clean place to come home to. I have tried to accommodate that. I feel that I am bending over backwards taking care of our two kids, working part time, cooking meals, and taking care of the house. I try to be submissive to his requests. If this is something that he thinks I should be doing, should I be trying harder to do it? My questions is how much should I feel responsible for his happiness?

Wow. Now THAT’S a loaded question, isn’t it? I want to answer this by giving a few thoughts that may steer people in the right direction. It’s hard to give advice to any particular person because I don’t know the whole story, and we don’t know the husband’s side. So here are just a few things that may help people to work towards a solution.

When You're Married to Mr. Clean1. When you’re married, the other person’s needs/desires do matter

It’s very likely that you and your spouse are opposite in some ways. Maybe your spouse loves to socialize and have people over for dinner while you don’t. Maybe your spouse loves outdoor stuff and you really don’t. Maybe your spouse really wants to go to bed early and you’re more of a night person.

Once you get married, you can’t just keep forging ahead according to your natural tendencies. Your spouse’s desires and needs matter, too. So if it’s really important for your spouse to have a clean house, then putting some effort in that direction is definitely warranted.

However, it sounds like this woman is already doing some of that, so:

2. When You’re Married, You Find a New Balance

Marriage should be about finding a new balance–not his way, not her way, but OUR way.

Just as she should go out of her way to keep things neat if he likes them neat, so he should also go out of his way to recognize her desires to sometimes just put her feet up and concentrate on other things.

Both spouses need to figure out what a new dynamic is. And that means that you have to talk about it–and communication really is the hardest part of marriage. It’s often difficult to have that conversation because it feels like you’re fighting. When you don’t agree, and you talk about it, it seems as if you’re angry, even when you’re not. But it FEELS as if something’s wrong, and that can be scary.

So lots of couples just simply don’t talk about it.

In this case, I think a conversation is definitely warranted so that they can both sit down and hash out THEIR new normal–not his normal, or her normal, but THEIR normal.

Here are some starting points for discussion:

1. Let’s define “spotless”. Is clean the issue, or is it tidy? Is there any leeway?

2. What areas of the house are most important to you? Assuming that I can’t keep everything perfectly neat at all times, especially with children, what areas of the house would you like me to concentrate on? The living room? The kitchen? The bathroom?

3. Let’s talk about priorities. What are your big priorities for us as a family? Now here are mine: kids who love God; a happy, active family; a comfortable home; a good marriage. All of these things matter. I’m wondering, though, how I can raise happy, active kids, and stay involved in their lives, and still keep the house perfectly spotless. It seems an impossible task to me. How do you see me spending my day?

4. If you want the house cleaner, what do you think I should cut out of my day? Can I stop working part-time?

5. Can we afford to hire a maid?

6. Can you work with me to teach the kids to clean, and can you help me enforce times when they also must do their chores?

3. Where Do Expectations Come From?

Another thought I have, specifically when it comes to how to keep the home, is the root of these expectations. Often people dream of having a home just like their mom kept. But what they often forget is that mom took 30 years to figure out how to clean that well. She likely didn’t do it that well right off the bat.

And we only remember the recent years. We don’t remember the house when we were small. If you have a mom who keeps a perfectly clean house, it’s unlikely it was spotless when there were toddlers.

4. If Someone Wants Something that Requires a Lot of Time and Effort, in General that Person Should Be Responsible For It

Here’s my rule of thumb in marriage: we all do reasonable things (of course defining “reasonable” is always difficult, but we all put in effort where we can, while still leaving time for self-care, relaxation, parenting, and marriage.

If someone wants something that takes away from any of those things, then the person who wants it most should be most responsible for it.

For instance, my husband likes having people over for dinner. I enjoy it, too, but usually we’re inviting his work colleagues or students. I don’t mind doing that, but the deal is that if we’re going to do it, it can’t all fall on me. So he has them over on nights when he gets home a little earlier so he can help clean up and prepare the food. It’s most important to him, so he helps.

Keeping a perfectly spotless house when there are kids is a lot of work. I would say, then, that she should definitely put in an effort, especially in the parts of the house that are most important to him. But because this is so crucial to HIM, then it should also fall on him to do something about it. If he’s having a hard time relaxing if the house is a little untidy, then perhaps he should help clean, too.

5. If You Can’t Agree, Ask a Mentor Couple to Sit Down With You

If you just can’t agree, get some third party advice. Sometimes seeing how another couple navigated this landmine can help. And they can often help you just to talk things out, too, which can be so difficult for us.

I know this is a really sticky subject, but like most things in marriage, it’s just about two people coming together and having to find a new balance. For marital peace, ideally both people need to be willing to set aside some of their own expectations and desires so that they can honor their spouse.

I hope that helps! Let me know in the comments how you’ve dealt with this.


Reader Question of the Week: My Husband Won't Help at all Around the House

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
A reader wrote in recently quoting on of my posts:

“We tend to clean the house when we see what needs doing. Men don’t work the same way. So if you ask him for a specific task, he’s more likely to do it.”

She then added, What about when you give him something specific (like “take out the trash” or “unload the dishes”) and it doesn’t get done until it gets out of hand (and then you end up doing it because you can’t stand stepping over the trash anymore, or having the dishes pile up in the sink)?

I think this is a connundrum many women have, and I’d love if we could discuss how to help! Now one warning: Often when I throw out questions like this, someone will say, “you need to recognize how much he DOES do, how hard he works outside the home, or how much yard work he does, etc. etc.” I completely agree. Many men do a ton of work that isn’t housework, and do contribute a ton of hours to the household.

But let’s assume for a minute that she does, too. And what she is saying is, “I don’t want the house to be 100% my responsibility. I think a person can clean up after themselves, or can contribute a little bit when we all live in the same house.”

Then what?  Any thoughts?

Reader Question: My Husband Thinks the Kids Are All My Job

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Every weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question comes from a homemaker, who wants a better balance in the division of labor with her husband:

For almost 3 years, I have been a homemaker. When my husband comes home from work, I feel it is still solely my responsibility to tend to the children and cooking dinner. If I am standing at the stove cooking and our newborn starts to cry I have to ASK HIM to take care of her so that I can cook, and more often than not he tells me “you tend to her and I will cook”. I have tried talking to him about why it is that I am mainly the only one who cares for our kids even when he is home, and I am told “you are a stay at home mom that is your duty” I have been dealing with this for several months and feel absolutely terrible, but honestly I have months of resentment built up. I feel like it is putting a strain on our marriage since he believes that his SOLE responsibility is to go to work and come home. I do not know how to get him to understand where I am coming from. Yes, as a homemaker the household duties are my responsibility and i try to do as much as possible during the week so when he is off on Sunday, I can have a small break as well. However, I do not agree with him thinking I should be the only care provider for children we BOTH created. If I tell him this, he tells me “then go to work, but I am not paying for daycare”. He does not understand, and my resentment grows stronger everytime we have this discussion. I end up biting my tongue to prevent further arguing, but I am not sure how much longer I can bite my tongue.

How can she overcome in this? What are your thoughts?

T-shirts vs. Sheets: The Control Freak Rises Again

Are you a control freak?

I certainly have those tendencies.

A few weeks ago I posted a review of Karen Ehman’s Let.It.Go book, helping us to let go of that need to control and learn to trust God.

Recently, when doing laundry, I had a vivid reminder of how dysfunctional being a control freak is. You see, it really bugs me to no end how my oldest daughter folds T-shirts. She kind of just balls them up. I know they have to be straight and even so they don’t have wrinkles, and so they fit so nicely on shelves once they’re folded. And they look so pretty that way!

Here are T-shirts that we both folded: hers on the left, mine on the right:

Tshirts

At times I really get on her case about this. “Why can’t you just learn to fold T-shirts right?” She rolls her eyes and sighs and tries again.

But below allow me to show you two sheets, one folded by me, and one folded by her:

Sheets

Guess which one is hers?

Yep. The perfectly flat one.

See, I don’t really care about how sheets are folded. It’s not my thing. So I don’t even notice that my sheets are all balled up, and her sheets are pristine. But she doesn’t care about T-shirts.

Often when we are control freaks that’s what happens. We freak out about the things that matter to us, and fail to notice that we may be less than perfect in ways that matter to other members of the family. We’re so sure that our priorities are the right ones, and theirs are not.

When I was putting sheets away the other day, after feeling annoyed at Becca for the T-shirts, I glanced her folded ones in the linen closet. And it was definitely one of those “a-ha” moments.

What are you not seeing? Maybe it’s time to give our family a break and agree that everyone’s priorities should be valued, not just our own.

I wrote a column on a similar theme a while ago–Do I See What You See?


Let It Go: Losing the Control Freak Inside You

There’s a great scene in the movie Date Night where the married couple, Phil and Claire Foster, played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey, are fighting in the car. Tina Fey’s character explains that she is just so tired, and the only fantasies she really entertains are of checking into a hotel and sipping a Diet Sprite all by herself, with no one to hang off of her. Because all day, everyday, she does laundry, she cleans the house, she gets the kids ready for school, she goes to work, she makes dinner, she gets the kids ready for bed (It’s always a surprise that we have to actually put on pyjamas!), and then she starts all over again. And she’s exhausted.
Steve Carell isn’t really that sympathetic.

“I know you have a lot on your plate, but part of the reason is because you never let me share the load. You have to do everything. You should let me do things sometimes. I might surprise you.”

I think there’s a little bit of Tina Fey in all of us moms. We’re control freaks, and we do run ourselves ragged because we so much want our kids’ lives, and our husband’s life, and the lives of those around us to go well. We have this dream of what things should look like, and we run after that dream, full speed ahead.

Karen Ehman knows what that’s like. I had the privilege of reading an early copy of Karen Ehman’s amazing new book, Let It Go. When she sent the email out asking if anyone of us were interested in taking a look, I jumped at the chance (though I often say no to other such requests) because I knew I needed this. I suffer from major control-freak tendencies.

Do you?

Karen starts the book by recounting a time when she was completely OUT of control. Pregnant with her third child, she suffered horrible nausea all day and was laid out flat. Teens from the church came to clean her house, and instead of feeling grateful, she felt physically ill–even more so than she did before! Can you relate? Do you have a hard time when you CAN’T control things?

She realized what the heart of the matter was: the realization that she was dispensable, and that when she wasn’t in control, she couldn’t get her own way.

We try to control in a myriad of ways: we’re passive aggressive, steering things the way we want them to go. We cover up for everyone’s faults or mistakes. Or we become the drill sergeant, trying to get everyone to fall into line.

But no matter which way you manifest your control freak tendencies, the root cause is the same: if you’re trying to run things, then you’re not trusting God. And seriously, trying to be in control is tiring.

Honestly, though, I’ve read lots of books that say “you just need to trust God more”. It’s a common message, and to tell you the truth, if I can say this without getting blasphemous, sometimes the books bug me. I’m not always certain the author really understands where I’m coming from. I KNOW the answer is that we’ve got to trust God more. Seriously, that’s the answer to just about EVERY problem in our lives. That’s the central issue of humanity. The problem is not that I don’t know I need to trust God more; the problem is that I can’t seem to do it.

And that’s where I found Karen’s book refreshing, because she was sympathetic about why we are the way we are, and she gave some great insights into some of the reasons that we as women have these control freak tendencies. I really enjoyed her section, for instance, on the problems of choice. One of the reasons that things are harder today is simply that we do have so many more choices. We’ve lost simplicity.

And because of that we have the illusion of happiness–a favourite theme of mine when I speak. Because we have so many choices, it naturally follows that if we just make the right ones we’ll be happy. And thus we get all wrapped up in choosing the right things. It was much easier when your choices about work, and childcare, and even what you were going to make for dinner were much more limited. We have the problem of excess.

The book is easy to read, peppered with one-liners. There are exercises at the end of each chapter to help you figure out where you’re at.

I want to leave you with one example of an error that she feels many moms make, and then tell you the three personal takeaways I had from the book.

Take Micromanaging Mama: Does that describe you? You give the child dishes to do, and you focus on the fact that they’re doing it WRONG because they aren’t doing it the way you do. I loved this example of a different way to handle it:

Say to him, “I love how you make chores fun. I wish I were more like you.” And then, at a different time, teach him when YOU’RE doing the dishes why you wash the glasses first and not the pots.

What Karen eventually realized was the Two Plus Two Equals Four lesson:

“I just tell mysef, two plus two equals four. three plus one equals four. Seven minus three equals four.”

They all get to four. They just get there differently! I needed to hear that today.

Here, then, are three quick lessons I learned, that perhaps you need to hear today, too.

1. Giving up control should feel foreign. I think many times I’ve believed that I’ve relinquished control when all I’ve really done is put a smile on my face and tried to be nicer. If it doesn’t feel foreign, it wasn’t real.

2. Second, I do emotionally manipulate my family without realizing it. I’m great at guilt.

3. And third, I have a hard time accepting Keith’s love for me because at heart I’m too busy trying to be in control to settle down and just let him love on me, so to speak. I’m always thinking about what I SHOULD be doing.

I need that Steve Carell lesson.

What about you?

Let. It. Go is a great book which is also available as a DVD study. You can find Karen at www.karenehman.com. Karen is doing a blog tour with her book which is almost wrapping up, and one person who comments during this blog tour is going to win a Kindle Fire! So leave a comment explaining why you have a problem with being a control freak (or how you conquered it) to enter to win.

Is Your Bedroom Inviting?

Christian Marriage AdviceIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment, or put the URL to your own marriage post into the linky below. Today I want to talk about romantic bedrooms.

I know several hundred of my readers are currently working through The 31 Days to Great Sex, my new ebook looking at how we can build a fun, intimate marriage. And one of the things you’ll find when you get to the end of the month is a series of challenges on how to set up your life so that intimacy becomes easier and more natural, with fewer roadblocks.

And one of those roadblocks may very well be our bedroom.

When my two daughters were babies our family was living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. Our computer was in our bedroom. Our duvet was old and rather ugly. In fact, everything in that room was old and rather ugly.

One winter, after a particularly grueling year during which we were grieving the loss of our little boy, we decided to head south for a vacation and recoup. When we came home, my mother and a friend had redone our bedroom, with new bedding, plump new pillows, and a new lamp.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t move the computer and all the excess stuff out of our room, but even the small effort they made created such a transformation. When I walked into our bedroom I wasn’t depressed anymore. I was happy!

Is Your Bedroom Inviting? Tips for a Romantic Bedroom

When you walk into your bedroom, do you feel like it’s a haven, or do you feel like it’s a dive?

If your dresser is covered with old VISA receipts, if craft boxes are stacked up in a corner, if your bedding is threadbare and ugly and your pillows are lumpy, then climbing into bed isn’t fun. And if you figure your bed is the best place to fold laundry—it’s so big, and just the right height!—but then that laundry never gets put away, and every night you sweep it onto the floor again, then jumping into bed isn’t going to seem stress free.

We tend to make it a priority to keep the kitchen and living room clean, because that’s what other people see when they come into our homes (though, if we’re honest, many of us rarely have company). But the bedroom is just for us, so if it’s a mess, no one ever sees it.

And so the bedroom is often last on our list.

Romantic Bedrooms bring Romantic Marriages

I think our priorities are wrong.

I think the bedroom should be one of the first places we decorate

–before the baby’s room, before the kitchen, before the living room. A baby doesn’t know the difference if the room is filled with boxes or if it’s straight out of Homes & Gardens. You, on the other hand, do. And if you’re going to nurture your marriage, you need to have a room that you feel is a haven.

Don’t put a TV in there so you’re mindlessly watching CSI instead of talking at night. Don’t bring work there. And don’t bring all your excess boxes in there (unless you honestly can’t help it, like we couldn’t in our tiny apartment).

Christmas is almost upon us, and can I make a suggestion? Why not get together with your husband and plan to buy something for the bedroom this year that will make your bedroom inviting. Maybe it’s a luxurious duvet, or some new bedding. Maybe it’s some luscious pillows. Maybe it’s an awesome tempurpedic mattress. Something that screams “luxury” and romance to you. And if you don’t have the money yet, that’s okay. Just set up a savings jar where you put change in and spare dollar bills. Set up a Pinterest board of bedrooms that say “haven” to you. And nurture your marriage!

It’s easy to forget about ourselves at Christmas and focus mostly on the kids. But children will forget what they got for Christmas when they were 8, or 9, or 11. They will never forget the love that you and your husband shared. What kids need, more than anything else, is to feel as if you and your husband are rock solid. It’s okay to invest in your marriage!

Browse some luxurious bedding at Frette.com! They have wonderful duvets and sheet sets. Maybe this is what you need to ask for for Christmas.

Now, what do you have for us today? Leave a link to the URL of your marriage post in the linky below!

This post is a sponsored post. The links are sponsored–the thoughts are 100% my own. I take sponsored posts to help offset the cost of this blog (which is getting very expensive to run!). But I only accept posts that I are in line with what I was already planning on writing.