Reader question: Do Stay at Home Moms Have To Do All The Housework?

Reader Question: When do you resume sex after a pornography addiction?When it comes to splitting household chores, does the wife really have to do all the housework if she stays at home?

Every Monday I like to try to answer a Reader Question, and today I’ve got two quite similar ones from two frustrated moms who feel that their husbands expect them to do all of the housework. One writes:

I heard the broadcast on Focus on the Family, and did it ever validate some of the things I’ve been feeling! I am also a homeschool mom, and I really struggle with the line of “his work and her work”. When the wife stays home, whether she homeschools or not, is all the housework her responsibility? I see a lot of discussion about homes where the wife also works, but not about homes where the wives stay home.

Here’s another woman:

I’ve recently became a stay at home mom. My husband was all for the idea of me being home with our boys and I was overjoyed, too, but here is my issue: When I ask my husband to do the tiniest thing (take trash out, Wash the dishes, change a diaper), he makes a statement such as “well you’re a stay at home mom now” or “Do you want to grade papers or do lessons plans for me?”, and doesn’t do the thing I asked of him OR he makes requests that are adding to my Daily tasks–such as feeding the dog both evening and morning, watering plants, or things he used to to. I’m just starting out being home and I don’t want to resent it. But I also don’t want to drown with daily “chores” and “tasks” and not be able to spend the time with our boys like I had intended. Please help me get my husband to understand that I don’t want to do it all on my own.

I get asked these sorts of questions a lot, and I actually wrote a book about exactly this–To Love, Honor and Vacuum. What do you do when you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother? I’ve got all sorts of tips in there about how to divide household chores or at least how to talk about the issues, and so if you’re really struggling like this woman is, I’d really recommend getting the book, which goes into so much more detail than I can in this post.

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

But I’m going to share some general principles today which I hope can get people thinking and talking about it.

Story #1: Not Understanding How Much Work Being a Great Mom Is!

I was 28 years old and my husband was a resident at the Hospital for Sick Children in pediatrics. I was at home with a one-year-old and a three-year-old.

I went to a social function with all of the other residents and spouses, and one particular woman often talked to me because she had kids the same age as mine. The difference was that she and her husband were both residents (doctors in training), so they had hired a nanny to care for the kids.

She was venting and complaining to me that day that her nanny didn’t do enough housework. The nanny had dinner made every night, but the floors weren’t mopped and the laundry wasn’t always folded.

And I thought to myself: I’m at home all day and my floors aren’t always mopped and my laundry isn’t always folded either. Why? Because I do stuff with my kids. We go to the park. We go to gymnastics at the Y. We go to the library. And getting all that housework done with two kids underfoot is really hard. If she wanted a nanny who did all that housework, then she wanted a nanny who would ignore the kids.

Story #2: When You Stay at Home, You Home Is Messier

When my kids were about 3 and 5 I was involved in a small group at church with a bunch of other couples with young kids. One night we went over to one couple’s house for dessert. The house was spotless. Flowers everywhere; magazines fanned on the coffee table; toys in lovely wicker baskets in the corner of the living room.

My home NEVER looked like that.

I was despondent on the drive home, and then my husband reminded me: both parents work. They leave the house at 7:15 and drop the kids in day care, and get home at 6:00. The kids are in bed by 7:30. They don’t have time to mess up the house because they’re very rarely there!

And I did feel better.

The moral of the story? The house gets messier when it is lived in constantly, and being with kids is a busy job, in and of itself, if you want to actually spend time with kids, create memories, and teach them things.

Splitting Household Chores: If I'm a stay at home mom, does that mean I have to do everything? A look at how to divide things so you all have fun!

General Principles for Dividing up Household Chores

There’s No Substitute for Talking

Sometimes people write in and I get the feeling that they’re looking for a MAGIC answer–that magic thing they can say that will change everything.

There really isn’t any such thing as magic.

You have to talk about how busy and overwhelmed you feel. You have to talk about what goes into running a house, and decide what is the fairest way to divide that up. I hope I can give you some direction in WHAT to talk about and HOW to talk about it, but you do have to talk.

Here are some possible ways that you can frame that conversation:

Talk About His and Her Work Hours

I’m a firm believer that being a stay at home mom is hard work. But at the same time, if we’re honest, we know that we don’t always take it seriously. I think we could get a lot more done during the day if we did decide to treat stay at home motherhood like a job, with things we wanted to get done.

But when you are a stay at home mom, what adds to the exhaustion is the fact that you are never off duty. So it’s not always WHAT you do–it’s the fact that you never get to breathe on your own.

So let’s talk work week. Let’s say your husband works 50 hours a week. Then you should really work 50 hours a week, too. And what counts as work? Any time you’re doing something that contributes to the family as a whole. If go on Facebook for an hour while the kids nap, that’s not work. But taking them to the library, mopping the floors, fixing dinner–that’s work.

If you had an hour and a half to yourself today during the day, then it really is okay to let him sit on his butt for an hour and a half in the evening while you make dinner and clean up. Don’t resent him for that.

But if you spend the entire evening working, and he really does nothing, then it’s time to have that talk about how long your work days are and what you can do to even it out a bit. Again, don’t measure minutes–you’ll only end up in fights and it will be hurtful. But saying, “I need an hour of downtime at night, away from the kids, while you clean up dinner and give bath time” is perfectly reasonable.

Work Together in Short Bursts

My grandmother had a rule, “When Momma’s working, everybody’s working”, and I adopted that, too. If I was cleaning the kitchen, everybody else had better be cleaning something as well! So we’d set the timer for 15 minutes and see how much we could get done (you can get a LOT done in 15 minutes when all hands are on deck).

If you have a general routine where for 15 minutes after dinner everybody cleans something (you can give everybody a different zone), and then after that you do something fun as a family, that can work well, too. “Come on, guys! Let’s beat the timer and get this all cleaned up, and then we get to play Life!”

Get Super Organized

I am a much better housekeeper today, at 45, then I was at 25. I’ve had more practice at housework. I’ve learned that it’s important to empty the dishwasher first thing every morning or my whole day is thrown off. I’ve learned to fold the laundry as it comes out of the dryer rather than dumping it on the floor (or the bed).

So learn how to be as productive and organized as you can be!

My husband has always worked long hours, and quite frankly, when he was home I didn’t want him cleaning. I wanted to goof off with him and have fun with the kids! So my goal was always to see how much I could get done on my own, during the day, so that he wouldn’t have to do stuff at night–because then I wouldn’t have to do stuff, either!

Sometimes the house got out of control and we’d all have a cleaning day. And we did that 15 minute thing a lot. But my goal was just, “get it done as fast as I can” so that we can have family time at night. When the kids were really little that did mean that Keith had to watch them while I did the big cleaning. But I got better at it, and it didn’t take much time when I knew there was a reward at the other end: spending time together!

So I wouldn’t get too upset about watering the plants and feeding the dog–if you’re still spending time together having fun as a family. But if you aren’t enjoying family time, that’s a different story.

Take Some Time to Yourself

I know some moms who NEVER have themselves in their profile pics on Facebook. Their profile pics are always of their kids, as if the kids are their whole identity. And sometimes moms take no time away from the kids.

Your kids need to see that you have an identity outside of them, and your husband needs to see that you are still your own woman.

If your husband just will not help with anything, and you really are run off your feet, then may I suggest that you take one evening a week and say, “I’m going to take this for myself, and you can put the kids to bed”? Go to a woman’s Bible study. Take a craft evening class at a community college (ours offers quilting, cooking, painting, and more). Or take another course–like computers, investing, pilates. Do something that gets you out of the house for two hours a week. Besides, your husband needs to watch the kids and develop his own relationship with them.

I really don’t believe that there is “his work” or “her work”. But I do believe in two big principles:

  • Both spouses should be contributing to the family at roughly equal amounts;
  • Both spouses should have their own relationship with the kids

And of those two things, #2, in my mind, is the most important. I never cared about doing most of the housework if it meant that when we were together, Keith got to be with the kids. So let’s not count chores, but let’s put in the most effort we can when we are working. And if there’s a big imbalance, then you just have to talk about it.

If you’re a stay at home mom, how did you decide on splitting household chores? Let us know in the comments!

Wifey Wednesday: You Can Recover from Your Husband’s Porn Use

Your marriage CAN recover from his porn use--an inspirational true story.

Can a marriage recover from a husband’s porn use?

That’s the question a reader is going to answer for us for today’s Wifey Wednesdsay!

A reader recently sent me this beautiful email about porn, redemption, and hope. I wanted to share it with you today, because I know so many of you struggle with your husband’s porn use. Tomorrow I’m going to write a wrap up post on how to fight the porn, not fight your husband, but for today, I thought a story may help.

Recently my husband sent me a text and told me that he wanted to share some things that he had been keeping from me for our entire marriage.

As you can imagine, I let my lady brain take over and had all kinds of scenarios going through my head. He sent the text at 9AM and I wouldn’t be home until after 6PM! All day I kept thinking “Am I ready for this? Can I handle what he’s going to tell me?” We will be married 15 years this June and we have been together since we were 15! So what could he possibly tell me that I don’t already know?

When I got home that night he was in his chair writing, the kids came up to me and asked if Daddy was ok? He told them not to bother him and asked them to play quietly in their bedrooms. He didn’t even look up at me when I walked in the room, didn’t ask what was for supper, just kept on writing and writing.

After supper he asked the kids to go back to their rooms because he needed to talk to me. We cleaned up after dinner and went to sit down in our chairs. He handed me a note book and asked me to read it, he decided that it was going to be easier to write than say the actual words.

He told me of a day when he was 7 or 8 years old, the day started as many summer days for boys of that age.

He had plans to meet up with friends and tear up the town on his bike. One of his friends suggested that they sneak into an abandoned barn that they always rode by. It was a typical old barn full of rusty tractor parts and tools. But this barn was different–it held a secret that would change the world of all the boys. In the loft of this barn where piles and piles of pornography. This started him on a path that no little boy should have to walk.

Now let me fast forward to year 2 of our marriage.

We are fighting all the time, mostly about sex and how he hates my body and how fat I have gotten. I had gained about 50lbs going through fertility treatment and he was disgusted with my body. In that 6 page letter to me everything that we had fought about and almost divorced over made complete sense to me. I knew that his perception of women was warped because of the things he saw on those pages. I knew that his idea of a sex was skewed. He had no idea how to deal with it so he just got angry and when we did have sex it was just that, there was no love involved.

I prayed for years that God would change me, that I would wake up one day and be the perfect wife for this man that he had clearly chosen for me. I would throw fits and beg my husband to tell me what he wanted from me, but he would never tell me. I know that I sound naïve and the fact is I was, I had no idea that my husband struggled with pornography. He worked nights and I worked days for the first year of our marriage so he was home all day and I never knew what he was up to. I knew that he would spend hours online, he would get angry with me for asking him questions about his online activity. We spent the first 10 years of our marriage hanging on by a thread, not wanting to give up, but not wanting to do anything to make it better.

Then one day about 5 years ago God clearly spoke to me and told me that I needed to stop praying for one of us to change and just start praying for my husband.

I have never really just prayed for him in general, I always wanted him to change or be something different. So I started praying that he would allow God to work in him, to show him who he was and what he was put here to do. So I did just that, I prayed for this man that God picked out just for me, I thanked God for him. I stopped seeing all the things he wasn’t and saw what God saw. I stopped criticizing, pushing buttons just to get a response out of him. I let him know that I loved him and that was all that mattered.

Yes I was still struggling with not having a husband in all ways, but slowly God started working in me about that.

Fast forward to the Monday night he told me his secret.

I read his letter to me, I cried, I understood, my heart broke for the little boy whose innocence was stolen from him.

I got up out of my chair and went to his chair, crawled up on his lap and cried some more. Then I spoke to the little boy, “I’m so sorry” and my big, tough as nails husband cried.

“My heart broke for the little boy whose innocence was stolen from him.”

We held each other and cried.

I wasn’t angry at him for keeping his secret from me, I wasn’t hurt.

Honestly, I think I was relieved to know that all those years of sleepless nights fighting had nothing to do with me.

I know that sounds a bit selfish, but I always felt like it was my fault. I knew that in that moment we were going to be ok and that the enemy who stole his innocence and told him the lie to keep it a secret no longer had any power over us. He could no longer steal the joy that we have found in each other over the last 5 years. He could no longer hold the sin over my husband’s head. There was healing for both of us in the moment that he shared his dark secret with me.

I know no everyone can have the same healing experience as I did, but I wanted to let you know that sometimes, God asks us to do things that will make us uncomfortable, but yet there is so much cleansing that takes place afterwards. I look at my husband today and I see a light in his eyes that I have never seen before, a joy that has never been there.

He looks at me differently now too.

He sees a woman who stood next to him when she didn’t even know what was going on. He sees a woman who loved him through everything and never gave up on him. He told me that I saved him, that God didn’t make a mistake when He told my husband to marry me at 15yrs old.

I don’t know how long it has been since he lasted looked at porn, and I don’t want to know. What I do know is that God has delivered him from this and that I all I care about.

What a great story! I’m so glad she shared it.

I’m not writing it to say, “you should do everything like she did.” I DO think it’s important to get an accountability partner, and I do think setting something like Covenant Eyes up on your computer are important steps.

But I share this partly because healing doesn’t look the same in all cases.

The bigger reason, though, is because of her testimony of compassion for this man.

Tomorrow I’m going to share some other emails, and encourage women to fight the porn, don’t fight their husbands (if their husbands are repentant and take it seriously). But today, listen to her words:

I read his letter to me, I cried, I understood, my heart broke for the little boy whose innocence was stolen from him. I got up out of my chair and went to his chair, crawled up on his lap and cried some more. Then I spoke to the little boy, “I’m so sorry” and my big, tough as nails husband cried.

When husbands use porn, we get disgusted.

And it IS disgusting. We feel shame. We feel humiliation. We feel anger. These emotions are all normal, and likely important to go through if we’re going to honestly deal with our own grief, too.

But I ask you to add one more emotion in there: compassion.

Compassion for a man who was likely led down this path at a very young age. In this guy’s case, he was only 7 or 8 years old. Imagine what pornography does to a 7 or 8 year old child. They don’t even understand about sex yet, but they see these images, and those images get imprinted on their minds. Those images get tied to the sexual arousal process in the brain–and now THAT becomes what is arousing. And they didn’t even really go looking for it; it found them.

For so many young boys (and young girls), porn finds them. It’s very different from an alcohol addiction or a drug addiction. You have to make a deliberate decision to drink alcohol a lot; for many young kids, they see porn and it starts changing the way the brain thinks of sex. And they’re drawn to it. With alcohol, people usually enjoy it for a time, sometimes years, before it takes over and they start feeling shame and can’t stop. With porn the shame starts almost immediately–and yet they can’t stop.

When you talk to guys who have used porn, almost all hate themselves for it.

I have known a teenager from a GREAT Christian family (parents were missionaries; he knew Scripture; he was talented and musically gifted) who committed suicide because he could not break his porn addiction. He didn’t want the porn; but it had him hooked.

I am not saying that guys are powerless against it.

I am only saying that the stories of so many of our husbands start very similarly to this 7 or 8 year old boy.

He wasn’t searching it out. It came for him. And he always, always wanted to stop. He hated himself.

So be his ally in stopping! Tomorrow we’ll look at how to deal with some of the after-effects of porn (the withdrawal of emotional intimacy, which this writer and Robi Smith both mentioned yesterday; the secretiveness; and the sexual rewiring). But for today, I just ask you to feel compassion on these men, who were once little boys who got sucked in.

And, if you’re a parent (whether it’s boys or girls, makes no difference), don’t let this 7 year old’s story become your child’s story! Protect their eyes when they’re too young to understand. Please. Think about their future marriages. Don’t let them grow up with this as their story. Think about getting Covenant Eyes, and as they get older, keep open conversations about porn!)

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have any marriage thoughts to share with us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below! It’s a great way to get more blog traffic. And then be sure to link back here so that other people can see these awesome posts!

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Are You Robbing From Your Teen? Why Chores Matter!

Teenagers and Chores: If your kids don't work, you're robbing growth opportunities from them.

Teenagers should do chores!

Putting teenagers and chores in the same sentence doesn’t sound like a revolutionary thing, but in many families you would think that it was. Too few kids help out around the house–and too few even know how to! Today Joanne Kraft, author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids, issues a call to arms for all parents: let’s equip our kids–and that means requiring some work out of them!

Here’s Joanne:

What does the average week look like in your home? Do you make all the meals, do the laundry, clean the house with little help from your teenager? If this sounds like you, you might just be robbing your teenager.

The definition for the penal code of robbery is: To take something by force or fear. When we steal hardworking opportunities from our kids because {force} we can do it better or we’re {fear} afraid they can’t handle it, we rob from them.

I worked for years as a 911 dispatcher and I received more calls from parents of teenagers robbing from their kids than I care to recount. They spent their parenting years doing everything in their power to make their child’s life fairy-tale perfect and problem free. They now had teenagers who were disrespectful, lazy, and borderline narcissistic– Because they were allowed to be.

When the world revolves around your kid--they'll act like it!

When I do for my teenager what he can do for himself I allow my teen to stay a child. Here’s the good news: there’s a magic remedy for their success and it’s called good old fashioned hard work.

How to Grow Your Teen Into a Hardworking Adult:

  • Don’t pay for a cell phone. A smartphone isn’t a need, it’s a want. Put that money towards their college savings, instead. Or, better yet, let them get a job and pay for a cell phone themselves.
  • Turn off the TV/Video Games/iPads. Entertainment only after responsibilities. Is homework done? Is the house a mess? If it is, hand them a broom. They’re a part of the family. A family is a team. There’s no reason they can’t get in the game and do a big chunk of the chores.
  • Schoolwork isn’t a forever excuse. I can’t say, “I have a 40hr a week job, so I can’t be a mom this afternoon.” Begin training your teens now because life won’t care if they’re in graduate school or married. They need to be able to work hard no matter what is going on around them.
  • Driving isn’t a right it’s a privilege. Just because a teenager is old enough to drive the family car doesn’t mean they get dibs on it. Let them get a job and start saving for one. Our daughter, Grace, has been saving for a car since she was 13. She’s now 16 and almost all her babysitting money has gone into her future car account. She now has over $2500.00. She is just tickled she’s been able to do this. I could buy her a car but I won’t. Why rob her of this joy? She will appreciate her future first car so much more.

A few weeks ago, one of my girlfriends’ sent her seventeen year old son to stay with our family for a week. We had a blast. We showed him all around Nashville and took him out for BBQ. We treated him to dinner and a Civil War tour. Each morning after breakfast I gathered my two teenagers and wrote down a list of house chores and tore off a piece of the list for each…Nathaniel, too.

Teenagers and Chores and Part-Time Jobs

“You’re a part of the family this week, Nathaniel, so here you go.” I smiled and handed him his own chore list. I cranked up some tunes and the kids and I got to work. They had the lion’s share of chores but still laughed and sang along to the music while they swept, vacuumed, cleaned dishes and dusted. I told them, “Give me an hour of your time and I’ll give you the rest of the day.” Nathaniel still wants to come back and stay with us again.

Scripture one mom hangs in her kitchen: If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Give your teenager a job. Allow him or her to feel good about themselves. Too often, I hear mom’s say, “If he gets a job I’m the one who will have to take him to work.” Let him get a job that’s a bike ride away! Or, drive him to work for a little while. Weren’t you the one who drove him to baseball or football practice three times a week? So, why are you holding back from helping him get to work now? Other moms say, “She will have all her life to work. I want her to enjoy her school break or summer off.” I like to answer this with my own question: Why hold your teenager back from adult success?

A study released last year by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program said finding a job when you’re older is harder if you haven’t worked during your teenage years.

In addition, “research shows those who work in high school have wages 10 to 15 percent higher when they graduate from college,” said Ishwar Khatiwada, a co-author of the study and an associate director of research at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.

As a mom, each time I steal a hard work opportunity to grow my child into an adult I rob character-building moments.

Parents agree that their ultimate goal is to raise independent, hardworking, God honoring adults, yet still we continue to rob opportunities from our teens to grow them into these types of adults.

Don't rob your teen of opportunities to grow!

Mom, stop robbing from your teenager.

Stop making excuses for doing things they can do. It’s not mean to make your teenager do chores. It’s not mean to stop paying for his wants and to say no to designer jeans or video games and smartphones. It’s not mean to make her do her own laundry, or to put her to work around the house before she spends the day with friends or plops in front of the TV…it’s not mean at all.

Have you been robbing your teen? What do you think about teenagers and chores? Let us know in the comments–and tell us about your own experiences working when you were a teen, too!

joannekraftJoanne Kraft is a mom of four and the author of Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical and her recent bookThe Mean Mom's Guide to Raising Great Kids_medium_image_attachmentThe Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. She’s a favorite speaker at women’s conferences and has been a guest on Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and CBN.

Her articles have appeared in ParentLife, Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, Thriving Family, P31 Woman and more. Joanne and her husband, Paul, recently moved their family from California to Tennessee and happily traded soy milk and arugula for sweet tea and biscuits.

Download your FREE Mean Mom Bill of Rights at

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Grumpy As a Family

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Such a Grumpy Family

Is your family grumpy too much?

Today Liz Millay from Simple Life Messy Life joins us to give us 10 ways to stop feeling like a grumpy family–and start feeling like a happy family again, even in the midst of school!

School has begun once again and whether your kids are hopping on the big yellow bus or sitting down for math lessons at the kitchen table, one thing is for sure – gone are the lazy days of summer. Life is about to get busy!

I know for our family, when our schedules are full and we aren’t able to spend as much time together, we start to feel disconnected. We are more liable to get cranky at each other and we start to feel just plain “off.”

So, how do you stay connected as a family when your days are filled with activities taking you every which way?

If you don’t want to be a grumpy family, you have to be intentional.

Don’t get me wrong, being intentional about connecting as a family isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated either!

Here are ten simple ways to stay connected as a family. Don’t go crazy trying to do all ten (that wouldn’t be very simple after all!), but pick a few and find what works for you!

1. Have at least one night a week where everyone is home

Especially as your kids get older, it is really easy to have somewhere to be every night of the week. And while some seasons of life will be busier than others by necessity, try to keep at least one night a week where everyone is home together.

On these nights the pace of life can slow down a little. Family members can play, talk, and just spend time together unhurried. These times of rest are so important.

2. Cook a meal together

One of the simplest ways to find time to connect as a family is to combine it with something you already have to do anyway. Since you have to eat, why not have a night when the family makes dinner together?

You could try spitting the meal responsibilities (boys make the main dish, girls make the sides), do a little Chopped Challenge, or tackle a new recipe together. Even the littlest helpers can get involved!

3. Eat dinner around the table

Even if you aren’t able to cook the meal together, there are so many benefits to eating together! You can read more about the benefits of the family dinner table here, but just some of them are: less tension in the house, more talking among family members, and healthier eating all around.

For extra fun or a special evening, put out a table cloth and light a candle (even if you’re just eating pizza!). Put away the phones and make dinnertime a relaxing part of the evening.

4. Turn off the electronics

Speaking of putting away your phones, try putting some limits on all electronic devices. The TV, phone, iPad – being connected to them makes it really hard to be connected to each other!

This past year for Lent, one of the things we decided to do was to not turn the TV on until after our son went to bed. It was such a simple thing, but you wouldn’t imagine the different it made in the atmosphere of our family. You can read more about our experience here.

5. Go for a walk 

Another thing we did along with our no TV rule was to go for a walk almost every evening. Now, you might not be able to go for a family walk every evening, but I highly recommend doing it when you can!

It could be as simple as a quick walk around the block or a bigger adventure such as going on a hike at a nearby trail. Either way, there is something about the fresh air and getting your blood pumping that puts everyone in a good mood. Getting out of the house and away from distractions is also a great time to chat and catch up on life.

6. Play a game

Another fun way to spend some time together as a family is to play a game. This could be a card or board game (we like to play Uno with our three year old!) or something more active like shooting baskets or playing catch. You could even play video games together if that’s more your style! It doesn’t matter as much what the activity is, but that you are doing it side-by-side, connecting with each other and building memories.

7. Exercise together 

Getting in some exercise is something that most people have on their to-do list. One way to increase the odds of it actually happening (and have more fun doing it) is to get the whole family to join in!

My husband and I have been trying to do a short yoga video every night and often our three year old son joins in. It makes it a little more crazy – but also a lot more fun! Plus, he gets to see us exercising and we get to build a healthy habit as a family.

8. Sneak in some end of the night pillow talk

Pillow talk isn’t just for husbands and wives! That quiet moment, with a dim room all snuggled in bed is a great time to connect with your kids. Ask them about their favorite part of the day, read a book, or just get in some extra hugs and kisses.

9. Family devotional 

Sometimes it is easy to think of physical, social, and mental ways to connect, but forget that it is important to connect on a spiritual level too. A family devotional time doesn’t have to be complicated either. You can pair it with dinner or sneak it in at bed time, or even do it at breakfast if you are one of those crazy morning people!

If you need some ideas for family devotions try reading through a book of the Bible (or a story Bible for the little ones) and signing a favorite worship song. There are also lots of great devotional books out there to choose from!

If you have toddlers, try checking out my Play Through The Bible series!

10. Pray 

This goes along with having a family devotional time, but it is so important that I thought it deserved its own separate point! Definitely include prayer both during your devotional time and throughout your day as a family. But, even on top of that, don’t forget to pray for your family.

Pray for your family members individually, and also pray for your family as a whole. Pray for relationships among each other, for your marriage, for siblings, and for the love of Christ to shine in through your family.

Looking for more simple and fun ideas of activities to do together as a family? I have a FREE gift for you! Click here to get family fun cards – 36 printable cards with simple activities for you to do on family night or anytime! 

lizLiz is a twenty-something wife, mother, and jack-of-all-trades. When she’s not looking for ways to teach God’s truth to her three year old you’ll find her reading, cooking, writing, or enjoying the outdoors. Liz Blogs about faith, family, and life’s adventures at Simple Life. Messy Life.

Reader Question: My 8-Year-Old Masturbates!

Reader Question: My 8-year-old son masturbates!What do you do if your son masturbates–especially if he’s really young?

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I thought I’d tackle this one: I have a lot of moms writing to me saying, “my son masturbates and I don’t know what to do!” I want to tackle the issue of PRE-PUBESCENT masturbation today (so kids under 11 or 12).

One mom wrote this:

A few months ago, my 8 year old son discovered that he could use the floor as friction on himself (so to speak) when he’s lying down on his stomach reading a book. Not knowing what to do and hoping he would stop on his own, I pretended I didn’t notice the first few times and then read some advice which I’ve partly taken already.

I’ve told him a few times not to do this outside of his room. I asked him why he did it. My tone was casual, not condescending. He looked at me blankly, and I asked him if he did it because it felt good and he said yes. I left it at that. I know that the behaviour has not stopped.

One article mentioned lack of connection as a possible issue, but I don’t think that’s the case. We’re pretty much together 24/7 (we homeschool). My husband is also around a lot and spends tonnes of time with the kids (and me) doing things we all enjoy.

What I want to get across to him is that it’s a bad habit to get into at such a young age. I don’t want him to start conditioning his sexual response so early. If he gets into this habit now, how on earth is he going to manage his hormones when he hits puberty? And when he gets married….can guys have trouble having orgasms with their wife if they have been having them alone for years before they get hitched? I know it can be an issue for women, but I’m not sure on the male side.

In any case, he’s only 8. He’s not going to understand all that. Or maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. Maybe I need to explain the sexual response cycle to him in more detail and how triggering that in himself can disrupt it? Hmmm…. perhaps I’ve just answered my own question. :-)

That’s a tricky one for a lot of parents! I’ve actually talked to my daughter, who takes Psychology in university, and my husband, who is a pediatrician, to chime in a bit on this one, so I’ve amalgamated their advice.

My Son Masturbates! How to handle it when a young child touches himself/herself

First, a bit of background:

It’s Very Common to “Masturbate” When You’re 6-8

Around age 6-8 kids often realize that touching their genitals and stimulating their genitals feels good. And so MOST children at this age will start to explore and will start to touch themselves.

My girls taught swimming at the YMCA, and one thing they often found was that little girls–say ages 7 and 8–would often position themselves near the jets of water and sit themselves there. The male teachers would often have to come and get Rebecca and tell her, “Can you tell Nicole to move away from the jets again?” It was a running joke.

But here’s the thing: the 10-year-old and 11-year-old girls didn’t do it.


Because at around age 8-9, kids often enter a “latency” phase for about 3-4 years where they stop this kind of behaviour, and everything like it, until puberty starts.

At This Age It Isn’t Sexual

Let me repeat that: in the vast majority of cases at these young ages, this touching is not sexual at all. Not. At. All.

There may be exceptions: children who have been sexually abused, for instance, can engage in sexual behaviour, but for most children it really isn’t sexual. It simply “feels good”.

Kids Often Fixate for Short Periods on Something

Has your child ever decided he wanted to eat hot dogs–and nothing but hot dogs–for three weeks? Or decided that she can’t go anywhere without one particular toy–and then promptly forgot about that toy a month later? When we toured England back in 2004 Rebecca had this Tower of London teddy bear that she would not put down. It went with her everywhere for a few weeks. And then it sat on a shelf in her room for the rest of her life, never to be picked up again.


EngBuckSo if your child seems to be something repeatedly for a few days, it does NOT mean that they have developed a lifelong habit that they’ll never shake.

Okay, so there’s some information. Now, what do you do? We were talking in a previous article about the Josh Duggar scandal about how parents can unwittingly cause kids to become ashamed of their sexuality, and cause almost a “sexual splitting”. And many parents were asking how to prevent that, which is where this question came from. So let’s look at what actually to do:

When Your Son Masturbates: What To Do

Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of It

Sin is a big deal. Exploring your body is not. And at this age masturbation has nothing to do with lust at all. It really doesn’t. So it is not a sin.

This mom ignored it at first (quite understandably, because as a mom, you likely freak inside when you see your child doing this), but if you can, stop that “inner freak out” and, right from the get go, say something like, “Honey, we don’t play with our penis when we’re around other people,” or “Honey, we don’t rub our vulva when we’re around other people.”

Name the body part, too. That’s important. Because you’d say, “honey, we don’t pick our nose in public”, and “honey, we don’t bite our nails in at the dinner table.” You name those body parts. So don’t be afraid to name these. When you DON’T name them, you actually attach more shame to them (oh, we don’t TALK about those).

So just let them know that they aren’t to do that in front of people, in the same way that they aren’t to get naked in front of people.

If your son is constantly putting his hands down his pants, you just say, “Tommy, hands out of pants in the living room/kitchen/dining room please!”

Treat it like any other unwanted behaviour. You wouldn’t go ballistic on your kid for farting in public, right? So there’s no need to go ballistic about this, either. At this age it really is just like thumb sucking or carrying a teddy bear. It’s self-soothing. That’s all it is, so don’t treat it like it’s more.

Don’t Make It Sexual

One thing that parents often wonder is, “do I need to start explaining about sex?” No. You do not. Absolutely not.

Saying something like, “God made that part of your body to feel good, but it’s supposed to feel good in marriage” really confuses them at this age when they didn’t mean it sexually at all. At this age the idea of a girl touching him THERE is likely absolutely repulsive and not associated with feeling good whatsoever.

That may be a talk that you need to have in the future, if this gets really out of hand (excuse the pun), but you definitely don’t want to launch into that. To a child who likely doesn’t know much about sex at all to be introduced to sex like this can be rather traumatic and awfully embarrassing.

My girls and I have this weird condition where our the nerve ending in our throats is highly attached to the nerve endings in our inner ears. So whenever our throats itch, what do we do? We get a Q-tip and we rub our inner ear like crazy, and our throats feel so much better. Seriously–that Q-tip is likely the one thing I couldn’t live without on a desert island. I like Q-tips for Christmas. It’s bad.

And when I’m rubbing, Keith always laughs at me because I make sounds that are awfully similar to–well, you know.

But I don’t mean it that way at all!

And I think that’s the way little boys and little girls are at this age: they may touch themselves, and it feels really nice, but if someone were to suddenly make it into something sexual, they’d be ashamed and not know what to do. They didn’t even realize they were doing something bad! And now Mommy/Daddy is all serious.

At this age it’s just exploring your body. So saying something like, “I know touching your penis/vulva can feel good, but that’s really something that we don’t do in public. And lots of things feel good!”–and then start a tickling match or something.

We’re often told: we should educate our kids sexually as they are ready for it and as opportunities arise. We should grab those opportunities! But I’d just really caution that this may not be the best one, because it’s really easy to confuse and mortify kids. Remember, we’re supposed to grab opportunities, yes–but this, though it may look sexual, really isn’t sexual. So it’s not our typical “opportunity”.

What If It Doesn’t Stop?

Rebecca stopped carrying Teddy everywhere pretty quickly. What if your child doesn’t stop after a few weeks? What if it becomes a serious habitual problem?

For most kids it will stop. And for most kids, when it becomes habitual it’s because there’s something else going on–a lot of stress in their life, a lack of physical affection from parents, a condition like Asperger’s or ADD where they have difficulty dealing with emotions, etc.

But what if those things aren’t in play (as it doesn’t sound like it is from this mother), and it’s still happening?

Here’s what my husband (the pediatrician) says:

It honestly does usually stop constantly happening after a few weeks. If it doesn’t, go see your pediatrician. After all, maybe your kid isn’t masturbating–maybe he/she has a rash there! Or maybe it’s a urinary tract infection. Or maybe in some way you’re feeding the behaviour and you just need someone to talk to about it.

So there you go. Don’t freak out. Don’t treat it sexually. Name the body part. And if it continues constantly, seek help. But usually it will die down. It really will.

Now I’d love to know in the comments: Has this ever happened to you? How did you handle it? Let us know!

Don’t forget–the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle is gone, as of today at midnight! If you haven’t checked it out yet, you don’t want to miss it. Almost $2000 in resources for just $29.97! It was this bundle two years ago that got me on the right road towards making TINY changes that have resulted in us saving money on groceries, losing twenty pounds, and quitting Diet Pepsi for good. And my house smells wonderful, too!

Check it out here.

Cyberbullying: Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen’s Cell Phone

Today please welcome Amy Williams, who shares her wisdom about raising teens in a time, when cyberbullying is so prevalent.  It’s time to get armed with tactics to battle bullying is all its forms.

Cyberbullying- Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen's Cell PhoneDid you have any nicknames growing up?

Unfortunately, in the fifth grade I had the pleasure of earning the moniker “Dog” from a boy named Kenny. The name stuck and followed me until the middle of seventh grade. It was the cherry on top of a heaping dish that was already filled with adolescent angst and incredibly self conscious feelings about my red hair and freckles. After Kenny blessed me with this new title, things only got worse.

Did I tell my parents or seek help from a teacher?

Of course not! That would have been a wise decision on my part, but I struggled through this bullying episode alone. I relied on tears cried behind closed doors and I avoided Kenny and the other boys in my class at all costs. Looking back, I wish that I had stood up for myself or found a healthier way of dealing with this issue.

My own experience with bullying is one of the main reasons why we chose to actively monitor our teenager’s social media and cell phone activity. The early 90’s were a trying time for myself, but at least I didn’t have to worry about technology and cyberbullying. Today’s generations are growing up in a very connected and viral social media firestorm that can quickly escalate bullying into a full fledged assault of mean, hateful, and derogatory remarks.

The Prevalence Of Cyberbullying

My own children have had a few run ins with a class bully or two and, just like their mother, they avoided seeking adult intervention until we personally witnessed the bruising and tears. Granted these were isolated incidents, but with the information available on cyberbullying we couldn’t hide our heads in the sand and blindly hand over a cell phone or tablet without some safety measures in place.

Many experts believe that cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on our children. There has been proven correlations between victims of cyberbullying and the suffering from anxiety, depression, and attempted suicides. Even with the known problems associated with cyberbullying, teens and children still continue to digitally harass or embarrass their peers.

Here are four cringeworthy cyberbullying statistics that support our choice to monitor our teens:

  • One in every three children have been the victims of cyber threats.
  • More than 25 percent of teenagers were repeatedly bullied via their cell phone or the Internet.
  • Some studies estimate that over half of our children have experienced cyberbullying in some form with 20 percent experiencing digital aggression on a regular basis.
  • Only one out of ten children will seek help for cyberbullying!

Why Monitoring Was A Choice That Worked For Us

Our children have been secretive in the past about bullying and a recent study by McAfee noted that 70 percent of teenagers have hid online interactions from their parents. This creates a digital divide between us and our children, making our jobs of keeping them safe that much harder. To compound this problem, many teens use “dummy accounts” to keep their real social media activity a secret.

With all this secrecy and very real dangers lurking online, we knew we wanted to be aware of what our children were seeing, experiencing, or doing on the world wide web. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that bullying often stops within ten seconds 57 percent of the time when a bystander intervenes. That fact alone encouraged us to pursue monitoring as a viable choice in our parenting.

How To Monitor A Teen’s Cell Phone

We are open and honest with our children about monitoring their activity. There is no snooping and sleuthing occurring, but we do have regular conversations about social media etiquette and hot topics like cyberbullying. In fact, monitoring a teen’s phone has led to many heart-to-heart conversations and learning opportunities to prepare them for life.

Listed below are four suggestions to help monitor a teenager’s Internet and cellphone activity:

  • Be honest! I can’t stress this enough. We don’t hide the fact that we check in on them and they know there is always a possibility that we will see anything they post.
  • Know a child’s accounts, user names, passwords, and sites frequented.
  • Teach social media etiquette, talk about cyberbullying, and teach them about the potential problems associated with sexting. We avoid lecturing, name calling, and yelling while actively listening to our children.
  • Choose an app that allows you to keep all of our child’s accounts in one location. This helps us sift through multiple sites, text messages, and more with ease. We took advantage of TeenSafe’s free trial period and were hooked.

Cyberbullying is just one facet of the big puzzle of social media and cell phones, but it was enough to warrant our attention. I know that a lot of people don’t agree with our choice and it isn’t always popular with our kids, but this solution works for us.

As parents, we naturally want things to be better for our children. Bullying can leave scars behind, they just aren’t visible to the naked eye. I don’t wish that experience for anyone’s children, let alone mine. I feel that monitoring allows me to take a proactive approach and prevent unnecessary heartache down the road.

Would you consider monitoring a child’s cell phone? Why or why not?

Amy Williams Bio

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.


When Your Job As a Momma is Done (Almost!)

When your "momma" role is over

Next Monday we load up the last of Katie’s things, help the piano movers steady the piano in the truck, and head out on the highway to drop her off at university.

My job as a mom is done.

My youngest child is leaving home.

I know I am always a mom; my older daughter has needed lots of advice over the last few years as she’s been gone, especially around her wedding.

But I’m not a mom anymore. I’m an advisor. It is different. It’s lovely, but different.

I’m proud of my girls. They have both pursued Jesus wholeheartedly, and have a real relationship with Him that many times puts me to shame. They grew up in a healthier family than I did, and I can see the effects of it on them. They are more mature. More grounded. More willing to try new things.

This, again, is all lovely.

And I have a wonderful husband, and we’ve been working on our marriage for the last year, and figuring out new hobbies, and changing around work schedules, so that as empty nesters we won’t just be twiddling our thumbs and staring at each other, wondering, “who are you and why did I marry you?”

And that, again, is lovely.

It is lovely to have two children that you are so proud of pursue their dreams. It is lovely to see them make good decisions. It is lovely to know that my husband and I will stay close in this next phase of our life–and that this next phase will be an adventure.

But here’s the thing: I am going to miss Katie terribly.

Yes, I would miss her more if my husband and I were not solid. Yes, it would be much harder if she weren’t tracking with God.

But even so, I will miss her.

KatieSheila New York

And I will miss being a mom.

My role as mom was all-encompassing. We took Rebecca, our oldest, out of school after kindergarten and decided to homeschool them (Katie’s never set foot in a school; she’s going to get a picture of herself on the first day of university classes holding her backpack and her lunchbox and a sign that says, “First Day of School”.)

Girls Homeschooling Trailer

We didn’t do it because we were afraid the public school would corrupt them. We homeschooled because we felt that academically it would be better for them. And we pushed those girls. School was intense at our house–even if it was punctuated by marathon sessions of reading Anne of Green Gables out loud, or finishing Those Happy Golden Years (the last of the Little House books) in a day and a half “because we just have to get through it”.

We taught them Latin and Greek. They read the classics. We made them write essays and we pushed them in math. They are very well-educated.

We made them earn their lifeguarding credentials and at 16 they started working intensely at the Y. They made great friends, especially with the seniors who would come to swim during the day. One couple in their 80s even took Katie to a strawberry social last June and prayed over and blessed her as she goes on with her life. Their boss made the trip to Ottawa this summer and came to Rebecca’s wedding.

And we homeschooled because we wanted more family time. With Keith’s weird call schedule and my weird speaking schedule we needed time during the week together.

But the biggest thing was this: everyday, we’d go for a walk.

Sometimes even two! Whenever we started feeling restless we’d head outside and do our “loop”. So everyday, for the last ten years, I have taken a walk with one of my daughters. That’s when we talk, and when they open up, and when I learn about what’s happening in their hearts.

With Katie the walks have been intense lately, often lasting more than an hour. We’ve discovered new “loops”, and almost gotten lost several times.

When I visit Rebecca in Ottawa, the first thing we do is put on our shoes and go out for a walk by the river. It’s outside that we open up.

But now Katie is leaving.

Two weeks ago I decided to start taking walks by myself, to get used to the solitude. And I’ve turned them into quite intense prayer walks, replacing the time I used to spend talking with her to talking about her and for her with God. It’s a little nervewracking; I have a hard time praying without talking out loud, so my neighbours may think I’m nuts. But it’s real.

Because Katie is leaving.

Have I mentioned that yet?

It is not that I don’t want her to grow up. It is not that I don’t have a life outside of her. It is not that I don’t have a good marriage.

It is just that so much of my emotional energy has been caught up in my daughters for the last two decades, and now that phase is coming to an end.

I know I will still talk to her; Rebecca calls me twice a day. But it will be different.

And so I take my prayer walks.

I want the girls to still feel my support while they are at school, away from me. Part of that will be through prayer. Part of it will be through phone calls and texts.

But I want to share a fun thing that I was asked to review and tell you about. Kites & Ivy creates care packages for girls going away to college. It’s just little things to pamper college students: some beauty products, a healthy but fun snack, things to relax you.

Kites & Ivy Care Packages for College Students

They come four times a year: to welcome them in September; before they go home for Christmas; before Spring Break; and before Finals. And when you sign up, you tell them what school the recipient is going to, and they make sure the package gets there at just the right time for that particular school’s academic calendar!

Kites & Ivy initially hired Katie to talk about them in her videos. I told her about it, she shrugged, and said, “okay”.

And then the package came.

And she was so excited!

It had: some dry shampoo (because who has time to wash your hair during finals!?!), a yummy sea salt caramel chocolate bar, some essential oils to help you focus, some water flavouring powder, some natural facial wipes, a headband, and a neat water sipper cup. Katie loved it! Here she is talking about it: (the video is set to start playing where she starts talking about it, but if you want to see the WHOLE video of what she learned when she was 17, just rewind it to the beginning!)

And when she says that she’s just going to ask her mom to get it for her, she’s quite serious. She says, “as a university student I’m going to have no money to spend on myself! And opening the box was so fun!”

Here’s the box they sent out last year before spring break:


You can buy just one box and send it immediately as a gift, or you can subscribe so that a college student that you know (a daughter, a niece, a sister) can get a treat when they really need it. I think it would be great for churches to do this for their students leaving, too–to let those students know, “we’re still thinking of you and praying for you!”

(Shipping is free within the continental United States–other than that you have to pay for it. I know that’s tough on Canadians like me, but I do understand as someone who has to ship a lot across the border, too. It is much cheaper to ship within the U.S.!)

Katie enjoyed hers so much–she’s sipping from the cup from the 5 minute point in her new video on Christian romance novels! So I guess I’m getting her a subscription!

It is a cute way of bringing a smile to a college young woman’s face, and I was excited to partner with them. The preorders are going out now for the school year, and you can use the coupon code Sheila10 to get 10% off your order! If you’re a mom, this saves you the work and trouble of putting your own care package together–and the items really are unique and awfully fun.

Kites and Ivy Button

So that is what I’ll be up to this year–I’ll be missing my daughters. I’ll be taking daily prayer walks and remembering them before God. I’ll be talking to them whenever they call when they’re lonely (or when they’re on the bus and they’re bored, which is more typical). And I will be sending Katie Kites & Ivy care packages, too!

It’s hard when your job as a momma is over. I’m feeling it acutely. I know I did a good job–not a perfect job, but a good job, which is perhaps better. But now I need to take a step back, and perhaps that is what will drive me to prayer even more.

Let me know in the comments: how did you stay close to your kids (or your parents) when college time came (or moving out time came)? What did you appreciate from your mom?

I was compensated for this post, but the thoughts are entirely mine (and my daughter’s!)

On Sexual Double Lives, Josh Duggar, and Peace

Josh Duggar and Finding Peace

News broke Wednesday that Josh Duggar had been using the Ashley Madison adultery site to cheat on his wife. Yesterday Josh confessed, taking full responsibility and apologizing.

I found myself so happy reading it. Sad at what that family is going through, yes. But happy because he is taking ownership, and that means that now, in the midst of this mess, even though it doesn’t look like it–that family is closer to peace and redemption and healing than they have been in years.

The mess is so much better than the picture of perfection, because the mess is honest.

On Fridays I usually do a weekly roundup, and I have a lot to talk about this week–my new book was released; I’ve got some hilarious videos of my daughters post-wisdom teeth surgery; and more. But this is important, and needs to be addressed.

How Does a Sexual Double Life Start?

Josh Duggar has been leading a sexual double life. He admitted to being addicted to porn; he admitted to infidelity; and we know that he admitted to molesting his sisters.

I wrote a while back that I believed that the Duggar parents had not handled that molestation well. I had a lot of pushback–“But they’re such a good family, and everyone was healed!”

In many families, though, especially those brought up with extremely conservative sexuality, true healing is swept under the rug in favour of looking like we have it all together. And that’s what I was afraid was going on.

Picture a 14-year-old in a hyper-conservative family. He’s experiencing sexual feelings. He doesn’t know what to do with them. He can’t talk to his parents. And he starts acting out.

He’s punished–but no one deals with the sexual feelings that started this. He’s told those feelings are “only for marriage”. And so he sees sexual feelings as sinful, because people haven’t helped him sort out the good from the bad.

But those sexual feelings are affected in another way: young people are told “sex when you’re married is beautiful,” but they’re also told that kissing is bad and hand holding is bad. And so touch, affection, exploration of any kind is seen as the enemy. This does not magically change once one is married. Passion–that feeling of being “out of control”–has been the enemy for so long that sex in marriage is seen as something which must be clinical to be sacred.

I am not saying that everyone who grows up like this experiences this–not at all!

But many do. Sexual passion is scary, and when we try to bury it, we can easily warp godly sexuality. Godly sexuality is not “controlled”.

But these young people get married, thinking that marriage will control the “lust”–those strong sexual feelings. But it doesn’t, because in their minds, sex in marriage must be entirely about love and never about want.

Where does the want go? It gets buried.

  • In some marriages, a spouse becomes a control freak about everything, not just sex, because these feelings are so powerful they must be kept under wraps. That means working hard to silence your inner adventure-seeker, and it ends up silencing your true self.
  • In other marriages, a spouse splits into two: one half is pure and chaste and unadventurous in the bedroom; the other half is looking at the most outrageous pornography or searching out something daring online.

Denying sexual feelings is very common. I get letters from young people who grew up in families like that, and now they’re married and they are LOST.

There is far too much emphasis in some schools of Christian thought on trying to control someone’s sexuality, as if it is a threat.

To give an example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an adult deciding, “I am going to save my first kiss until marriage, and I am not going to have any physical contact until I am engaged.” God will ask different things of different people. To walk in obedience to what God is telling you is wonderful.

There is, however, a LOT wrong with a parent telling an adult child “this is what you are going to do.” That is a parent controlling an adult child’s sexuality, and it is wrong. It treats sexuality as an enemy, and it treats the adult child as a child.

We aren’t to control our sexuality; we’re to channel it. To channel it is to acknowledge it, to feel it, to name it, but then, at the same time, to say, “this isn’t for me to explore right now. So God, help me take all of this energy and put it somewhere else, to good use.

Being a PeaceKEEPER Rather Than a PeaceMAKER

And now I want to get to the heart of my message.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #6 in my new book that launched this week, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is asking us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

What’s the difference? A peacekeeper’s job is to keep the warring factions on their own side of the line. It’s to keep hostilities under wraps–simmering, but not erupting. A peacekeeper doesn’t deal with the root issues; a peacekeeper only deals with the expression of those issues, the fighting. A peacekeeper doesn’t solve anything.

A peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to bring the two sides together so that instead of being on opposing sides of the line, they can join each other on the same side. Instead of shaking fists they embrace. They become as one.

And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Being a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper

I believe the Christian church spends far too much time keeping peace, and not enough time making it.

Peacemaking Parents & Children’s Sexuality

Josh Duggar, and so many of my readers’ husbands, led a double life. He had two halves of himself that were at war with each other. I believe that Josh was likely heartbroken, mortified, and horribly ashamed not just when the news broke but for years. He likely hated himself and what he was doing. But he couldn’t stop.

We don’t want that for our kids.

As parents, we can be peacemakers hopefully by preventing the sexual splitting. We can call out what is holy and help our children name, admit, and deal with what is not. When a child cannot talk about struggles, a parent is being a peacekeeper.  A peacekeeping parent says:

  • Good girls don’t touch themselves there.
  • God doesn’t want you thinking about sex. That’s only for marriage.
  • If you love God, He’ll take away your temptations and struggles. Just lean on Him more.
  • We don’t do that sort of thing in our family.

A peacemaker has open conversations.

Peacemaking and Sexuality in Marriage

But now let’s turn to what so many of you are facing: what do you do when  you’re married to a Josh (and even overnight, I had three more comments on older posts from people in just that situation. “I just found porn on my husband’s computer…”)

Dear, dear heartbroken woman: how I wish I could give you a hug.

But please listen to me. Please hear me today.

If your husband has admitted to cheating, to using porn, to texting with someone: you are closer to healing right now than you were two weeks ago when you thought everything was fine.

You are closer to God right now, in this mess, than you were when everything looked perfect.

God is in the mess, because Jesus is in the peacemaking business.

So many of the comments I get are like this: “I discovered this by accident. Do I confront my husband or do I let it go?”

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Does that sound like a God who prefers things to look perfect, while sin festers underneath? Or does that sound like a God who is fully prepared to deal with the mess, because mess is better than dishonesty?

When your life blows up, don’t fall back on these typical “peacekeeping” reactions:

We just need to get past this and forgive.

You cannot forgive until you shine a light on the hurts and understand the gravity of what you have suffered. A rush to tell someone to forgive, or to take them through a forgiveness process, doesn’t do the hard but necessary work of the Spirit. And indeed, this was my main criticism of the original Duggar scandal; they made the girls forgive and they forgave Josh too early. The focus was on the forgiveness, and not on naming the hurt.

Let’s keep this just between us. Other people don’t need to know.

True repentance is humble. It does not worry about reputation; it worries about whether or not one is right with Jesus. True repentance asks for accountability. One does not have to confess to EVERYONE, but one does have to confess to a few people–and also give the wounded spouse someone to talk to.

Let’s just get back to normal.

You can’t go backwards. But even more importantly: you don’t want to go backwards. As comfortable as it felt, it was built on sand. Your “normal” won’t be your normal again. But that doesn’t mean that your normal won’t be something better. Let Jesus in to the healing process. You may find life messier. It will be more honest, which may initially cause more conflict. But in the end you will find that you are finally at peace, because you don’t have to hide those scary thoughts or suspicions.

And so, dear readers, I am glad Josh is in his mess.

I am sorry that Anna is. But they are now finally on the road to real peace. And for all of you who are walking in similar stories–peace is there, in the person of Jesus who so wants to redeem the two halves of your husband, and the two halves of your marriage, and make them one again. He can do it, if you both allow true honesty and true humility. That’s how we make peace. And you are never, ever alone as you seek it.

Dads Roll Differently (And That’s Okay)

I am so happy to share these great words of parenting wisdom from Arlene Pellicane about how dads parent differently than we do–and that is okay! This is taken from Arlene’s newest book, 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom.

Dads Parent Differently

My oldest child Ethan is in 6th grade this year.  I remember when he was just a baby and I had my first mom’s night out.  I pulled into my driveway at 10 pm, certain my little bundle would be fast asleep in his cozy crib.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the garage door to find my husband James’ car missing!

A few minutes later, James came strolling in with baby Ethan who needed to be fed because he was hungry.  AT TEN O-CLOCK AT NIGHT!  I was ticked.  James had taken Ethan to the mall, with no regards to Ethan’s normal bedtime.

My mind whirled and my face grew hot.  I was mad.  The dishes were piled high in the sink; Ethan was in his high chair eating baby oatmeal.

Can’t you just get him to bed at a decent hour and do the dishes? I thought as I glared at the supposedly responsible party.

James was calm as a cucumber.  He said, “Lighten up.  One night won’t kill him.”

31 Days to Becoming a Happy MomWell, I guess James was right because Ethan’s still around.  It took me a few years to realize that instead of being indignant about the way James’ chose to parent that night, I could have been grateful.  I could have chosen to say, “Thank you for watching Ethan for the last 5 hours so I could go to a women’s event and get re-charged.”

I could have said, “Not many men would gladly watch their one-year-old and even dare to take them to the mall, but I guess you guys had a great time!”

Our husbands may not enforce curfew and rules like we do, but our children are still living and breathing aren’t they?

Perhaps we would be happier moms if we stopped putting the emphasis on being right all the time – on being the “superior know-it-all parent.”

We can make our husbands feel incompetent as dads with our cutting remarks.  We may have expectations that they must parent exactly how we parent.  But if you can embrace the differences (two heads are better than one), and stop expecting perfection from your spouse, you will be a much happier mom.  Give your husband the same grace you’d like for yourself.

Just because he does things differently, doesn’t mean he does it wrong.

Just this weekend, I was out of town at a speaking engagement.  On Friday night, James took our three kids (ages 5, 8 and 10) to the park at 8:30 pm to play laser tag with their new toy guns.  They were out until 10:00 pm!  A five-year-old!

Now, that’s not a schedule I’d ever sanction as a mom, but you know what?  It’s a good thing I wasn’t home because they had a blast.  Moms and dads roll differently, and I’m so grateful for that.

When your husband parents differently than you, how do you respond?  Is there a way you could improve that response?

We are giving away a copy of Arlene’s new book, 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom. Watch the trailer below and share in the comments your parenting stories to enter and win!

31 Days to Becoming a Happy MomArlene Pellicane 600x600jpgArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband.  She is also the co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Gary Chapman).  She has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. 

Arlene lives in the San Diego area with her husband James and their three children.

To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit

I’m an Empty Nester

As of today, I am no longer the mother of children. My youngest turns 18.

What a strange thing! The main identity that I have had for twenty years now is over. I’m still a mom, but in a different way.

I’ve been leading up to this all summer, especially with my older daughter’s wedding, but it’s still bittersweet. My husband and I will be reinventing ourselves as a couple this year–I talked about it in this post (and don’t forget to comment there for your chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!)–and I’m excited about that. But it seems almost for the last two weeks like I’ve been walking through a shadow of ghosts. I turn my head and I can hear a little three-year-old voice laughing with her five-year-old sister. Somehow I hope those voices never entirely disappear.

Katie and I are spending today together in New York City. I took her here for her birthday.

Enjoying exploring Manhattan with my daughter!

A photo posted by Sheila Gregoire (@sheilagregoire) on

Needless to say, I’ve had the Taylor Swift song running through my head all day. 🎶 #WelcomeToNewYork A photo posted by Katie Gregoire🎶 (@katielizg) on

But the big reason we’re here is that she’s a musical theatre buff, so we decided to go see Les Miserables!

Les Mis

It was incredible. The 7-year-old who played Gavroche stole the show, as usual, but it truly was spectacular.

If you’ve never seen or read Les Miserables, it was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, about the poverty and desperation in France. But rather than being a primarily historical novel, it really is an exploration of the difference between grace and the law, represented by two of the main characters: Jean Valjean (grace) and Javert (the law). Jean Valjean is a poor man who was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour for an insignificant crime he committed to save a starving child.

Javert is his jailer. When Valjean is released, he skips out on parole and makes a new life for himself after being shown grace from a priest. Javert spends the next twenty years chasing him and trying to find him, while Valjean helps others and tries to make life around him better.

There is tragedy galore in this play; an abandoned woman must work in a sweat factory to support her daughter, but is thrown out on the street and dies. Peasants struggle for bread, and in the end die in a vain attempt at revolution. It is sad.

And the story of unrequited love–of a girl who gives all for a boy who loves another–is tragic in its own right.

And yet the message is that God weaves His own tale into the destruction and that in the midst of suffering people can find grace and salvation. You see it in the final song; the movie version below seems a little more political at the end than the feel of the Broadway presentation, but that great line–“to love another person is to see the face of God”–rings true (it’s at about 1:28 in this clip).

Wait for the Lord: Psalm 27:13-14It’s a profoundly Christian play, but it made me think again about a post that I shared on Facebook yesterday about waiting on God. I think as mothers we feel that our job will be done when our children’s lives are all set on autopilot: when they are married; when they have good jobs; when they have children of their own. Above all, when they are happy.

And we work towards that. We pray for it. And that’s all well and good.

But God could have a different plan, and maybe it is in the struggling of this life that that plan will emerge.

I think this is the hardest part of a child growing up–of realizing that you cannot control their life, you cannot fix things, anymore. They are on their own to make their own choices, and this is how it’s supposed to be.

And as I was watching the play yesterday, I realized I was excited to see what God will do with Katie in the next four years at university. I’m excited to see what choices she will make, and what friends she will make, and where God will take her.

I will find it hard to step back; the two of us are very close, and we talk about everything. But growing up is good, and no matter what happens, God is at work and grace is real.

It’s been a lovely trip in New York. We’re out to explore Central Park today and then we’re heading down to the World Trade Center memorial.

Here’s a post her older sister wrote to Katie for her 18th: 18 things I wish I knew when I was 18.

And if you want to give her a birthday present, I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you shared one of her videos on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest! Here are three of my favourites: Courting vs. Dating; Why I’m Not Dating in High School; and Christian Modesty, the Double Standard. Thank you!

Now tell me: what is hardest for you about your kids growing up (or thinking about them growing up)?