Top 10 Things I’ll Never Like Doing

Vacuuming, Cleaning Toilets, Exercise: Things I Hate Doing, But I Do Anyway

I once heard that the definition of maturity is deciding to do things you don’t want to do because they need to get done. If that’s the case, then I’m super mature. Because I feel like I spend a lot of time doing things I have to psyche myself up for. In fact, I think that’s why I was so exhausted at the beginning of this summer–I feel like so much of my life for the last few months has been slogging through instead of doing things that I actually wanted. This summer I took some time to relax and go camping with my hubby and I feel ever so much better.

But I asked on Facebook last night, “what do you do that you don’t like doing?” And I got some great responses!

So today I thought I’d share ten things that we do that we don’t like doing, and likely never will like doing, but have to get done–along with some thoughts on how to get these things done faster and easier!

1. Cleaning the Toilet

The #1 answer on Facebook was cleaning the toilet. We just don’t like doing it. And when you have little boys (or several big ones) it gets even grosser. But there’s something about having a bright, clean white toilet bowl that makes you just feel better.

How to lessen the pain: Keep the toilet bowl cleaner right next to the toilet, and any time you notice that it’s getting gross, just squirt some cleaner in and move that brush around, and it won’t ever get to the disgusting stage. Also, little kids really love cleaning toilets. Maybe not every little kid, but enough that I’ve noticed a trend. If you can catch them when they’re around 5 or 6 and get them started, they may start to adopt it as “their” job. There’s something about scrubbing with that brush and making all those bubbles. So teach your children to clean a toilet! Leave a basket of rags by the toilet along with some safe cleaner so they can wash down the toilet seats, too. We may not like cleaners being visible, but I always figure, if it’s within reach, it’ll get done more often!

2. Vacuuming

Perhaps ironically (given the title of this blog) this is my big one! I hate vacuuming–especially vacuuming stairs. And I think the problem with vacuuming is that feeling that it’s never done. You know that as soon as you vacuum, someone’s going to trek through and make more crumbs.

How to lessen the pain: Invest in a quality vacuum cleaner that does what you need it to do! If you have mostly floors you need a different vacuum cleaner than someone with a bunch of rugs. You may find that you actually enjoy vacuuming if you have one you love. And those see-through ones where the dust whirls around are really fun for kids. So check out your vacuum cleaner options.

Another thing: clean out the vacuum bag often, and if you have a central vac, clean out the unit. When I bought my first house I didn’t know you had to do this. I’m not sure where I thought all that dust went, but after six months of the vacuum not working I thought to ask my hubby where the central vac emptied. And sure enough, it was stuffed.

3. Doing Dishes

We hate dishes because they’re gross and they don’t go away. You wash a load and tomorrow there will be just as many.

How to lessen the pain: Have a rule that if you make dinner you don’t do dishes! Get kids involved. And here’s one that I’ve found works: aim to have the counter cleared before you go to bed. Even squirt some cleaner and shine it every night. If you see a clean counter, you feel so much better!

4. Making Breakfast

Probably the #2 thing mentioned on Facebook that people hated to do was cook. I hate it being 5:30 and not knowing what I’ll make for dinner. That’s torture. But I actually enjoy cooking–dinner, that is. I hate making breakfast. Mostly because I hate breakfast foods, and so does my youngest daughter, who is usually the only one home with me at breakfast time. But I know we have to eat! But if I don’t cook, I tend to head for the chocolate cake. Even this morning I ate one of Katie’s chocolate chip cookies she was given yesterday by a friend for her birthday (sorry, Katie, but you weren’t awake yet. So there). The problem is that we need protein at breakfast, but if we can’t think of what to make, we’ll tend to go for the simple sugars (which is what most muffins and cereals are).

How to lessen the pain: Think outside the box! You can eat leftovers for breakfast. And I’ve started making more “lunch stuff” for breakfast. I do hummus and pitas. I do those mini-pizzas on English muffins. And if you have any ideas for other creative breakfasts, I’d love to hear them. I’m just not an egg, pancake, oatmeal, or cereal gal.

5. Responding to Email

I get a ton of email everyday. Maybe some of you are in the same boat. And I hate it. For you it may not be email that you hate; maybe it’s paying bills. But it’s anything that is at the back of your mind, nagging you, saying, “you have to do this” and making you feel guilty. Email makes me feel guilty because there are always things I’m supposed to do. And I don’t like that.

How to lessen the pain: Whether it’s bills or email or other paperwork, set aside a specific amount of time you’ll spend everyday. Rather than leaving it in one chunk, do fifteen minutes a day (or whatever it takes). I find if I set the timer and try to get through as many as I can in that time, I’m quite productive. And then I can say, “well, if I didn’t get to that person today, it’s because other things took priority”. And that’s okay.

6. Getting that PAP Smear/Mammogram

Let’s go to our happy places, people, and put our feet up in those stirrups and try to ignore what’s going on. Or let’s go get squished!

As someone who has had to have an annual mammogram since I was 30 due to family history of breast cancer, I can tell  you it’s not fun. But it’s better than the alternative.

How to lessen the pain: I don’t think you can, really. For mammograms, take a Tylenol an hour before. For Pap smears, just live through it. Relax as much as you can (yeah, right). And remember that the new guidelines say that if you’ve only ever had one sexual partner, and he’s only ever had one, then you really only need one every three years (yay!). For those of you in that situation, you can tell your doctor it really isn’t necessary. Unfortunately, for those of you in the other camp it is, because cervical cancer is really dangerous. And it was through a Pap smear that they first found all the polyps and other things that were causing me bleeding issues, so it is important.

7. Exercising

I will never, ever like exercising, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who say they don’t feel happy if they don’t jog five miles a day are lying or deluding themselves. I have gone through periods of intense exercise in my life, and even then I didn’t like it. I just don’t. But I know it’s necessary.

How to lessen the pain: I’ve only found two things that work: listening to a sermon/speech/podcast while I jog or watching Netflix while I’m on the stationary bike, or else exercising with someone else. I bit the bullet and shelled out the money for a personal trainer for three months (had my first session yesterday!), because I just need the accountability. I also am starting to jog with my hubby again. Doing stuff together makes it more likely to get done.  I think admitting you’ll never like it, and stopping feeling guilty for not wanting to exercise, helps a ton. Just do it, and know you’ll hate it, but that’s okay.

8. Putting Laundry Away

I can do laundry. I just hate folding it and putting it away. It’s never ending.

How to lessen the pain: Fold it directly out of the dryer, rather than dumping it somewhere (or fold it as it comes off the line). Then you just need to deposit it in people’s rooms. Have older kids do their own laundry (or at least put away their own laundry).

9. Working Outside the Home

Here’s a sad one. I had a number of people on Facebook saying that they so wanted to be stay-at-home moms, but they needed to work for the income.

Sometimes we do need to work, and that’s still a service you’re doing your family.

How to lessen the pain: Learn as much as you can about how to save money on your big ticket items, like mortgages, insurance, cars, and groceries. Downsize as much as you can. Learn to live with less. Save as much of your paycheque as you can manage. Create a plan. If you can see that in five years you can start to work part-time, or that if you downsize you can afford to be home more, that can help tremendously. But get a plan for the whole family so that you can see how your work and your husband’s work contribute, and what you’re aiming for. You’re in this as a family, and you don’t need to feel like it’s all on your shoulders. And sometimes when you take a look long-term, you can see how it may not always be like this.

10. Battling in Prayer

I’m surprised no one, in the almost 200 comments so far, mentioned this one, but for me it’s a biggie. I know no one actually says online “I find doing my devotions hard” or “I find praying hard”, but I’m not afraid to say I do! It’s difficult to sit quietly and concentrate on reading the word. But I’m still way better at that than I am at praying. I can conversation-pray all day (and in fact I do). But you know that prayer where you’re going to battle, and you need to pray hard for something? Sort of like the prayer in Daniel 10 where Daniel prayed for 21 days, not realizing a huge spiritual battle was going on in the heavenly realms at the same time? I really battle with that. I can talk to God like He’s my Daddy for sure, but to get serious? It’s tough.
To Love, Honor and Vacuum

How to lessen the pain: Have a pen and paper handy so you can write things down as you pray. I find that helps me to focus and stops my mind from wandering. Have a different place you sit when you pray like this, so you’re not tempted to grab a book or glance at the computer. Use a prayer book, like the book of common prayer, as a guide for how to work through a prayer. And I’d love any suggestions you have in the comments section!

There’s my list of the top 10 things I hate doing! Many of these I’ve minimized by delegating to others, and if you find that you’re doing all of these yourself, you really need to get a hold of my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. Family is a team, a unit, it’s not mom doing everything while others do nothing. And if you feel like you get a bit of a break, your family will be a more fun place for all of you–while your kids also learn responsibility.

Now let me know: how do you lessen the pain of some of these things? Leave your one best solution in the comments (or more if you have them!)

Some of the links in this post are sponsored or are affiliate links. I just upgraded my server, which costs quite a bit, so these help to pay for the site so I can get you quality content!

Reader Question: How do You Prepare for Marriage Long Distance?

Reader Question of the WeekCan a long distance engagement work?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it–and invite my readers to chime in, too. Here’s one from a woman in a long distance relationship wondering about engagement:

A few years back I met a guy from several time zones away. We got to know each other through facebook/skype/texting/etc, and saw each other in person for a month or so each year. The last visit (3 months ago) we both admitted that feelings had developed beyond that of “just friends”, and we want to try a relationship with a purpose (neither of us want to just casually date).

What kind of advice would you give to those in a long-distance relationship? We are neither young nor desperate, and are willing to take our time. Even so, I don’t want to miss a huge red flag (or HIM to miss one!) that would be completely obvious if we were living close to each other.

This is such a common scenario today, and here are a few thoughts I have on having a healthy (and productive) long distance engagement:

Long Distance Engagement: Making it work

Long Distance Engagement = Skyping with a Purpose

This reader has hit on something really key–when your relationship consists mostly of Skype dates, how do you make sure you’re not missing red flags? When you see each other on a regular basis, you can figure out if they’re lazy, if they’re good with kids, if they’re kind to strangers, if they take care of their home, and other things like that. When you don’t, then all you see is the persona that the person uses online. How do you get past that?

You Skype with a purpose!

And by that I mean that when you do Skype, you aren’t just talking about “safe” things that make you feel close and all luvey duvey. You don’t just bond over childhood memories or favourite movies or things like that. You actually have to ask the hard questions and make an effort to get to know each other. That can be a difficult thing to do, and the first step is doing exactly what this reader did–clarify the expectations of what this relationship is.

What Are We Doing?

One of the problems with long distance relationships is that, especially in the early stages, you’re always guessing about what the person feels about you. You text and they don’t text back for a day. Does that mean they don’t care? You were hoping to Skype tonight but he’s too busy. Does that mean you take the relationship more seriously than they do? And because you can’t really see body language in the same way, it’s inherently insecure.

Long distance relationships for just that reason have the capacity for a lot of heartache. I’ve seen my girls and other kids I know agonize over long distance relationships because it’s just not clear where it’s going. One person may just have fun chatting while the other is really invested in the relationship. And how do you take it to the next level?

It isn’t worth obsessing over someone long distance for too long. I think we owe it to ourselves to clarify what we’re doing. So once you have some degree of confidence, ask, “what are we doing?” And it’s fine to set some ground rules, like, “if we’re going to talk long distance, I don’t just want to be someone you turn to when you’re bored. I expect that we’ll connect twice a week to get to know each other. If you’re not comfortable with that, I’d like to move on…”

Many women assume they’re in a long distance relationship because they have a guy that they like that they skype with every now and then. But he may not see the relationship the same way. So you do have to talk about it, and be prepared to move on if he isn’t that into you.

Once it’s apparent that you both do want to date with a purpose, then it’s time to do some interesting things while you talk online!

Do Some Personality Tests

Early on in your relationship I think it’s fun to take some personality tests online and figure out some basic things about each other. What is your love language? What is your MBTI type (this is my favourite personality test!).

Ask Some Hard Questions

If you’re moving towards engagement, you have to really know each other. But it can be tough and awkward to ask the hard questions. So I’d recommend getting a book, like 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged, that you agree to work through together. That way if a question’s awkward, you can say, “well, we did agree to work through the book….”

Some people have found the book a little negative–like he’s giving you all kinds of reasons NOT to get married, which can solidify someone’s decision who is commitment-phobic. Perhaps I’d agree in some cases, because I do think commitment is one of the hugest issues in marriage, and you’ll never find that “one perfect person”. However, because of the inherent riskiness of long distance relationships, I’d really recommend a book like this, because you do need to discover those red flags.

Some of the key things you’ll want to know: how does He serve God? What has God been saying to him lately? What is his relationship like with his family? What are his career goals and how is he moving towards them? How do you handle money? When’s the last time you looked at porn? Yes, they’re tough, but you need to know!

Get Other People Involved

As much as possible, use Skype to create some interactions that you would normally have. Meet his parents. Meet his friends. In fact, as often as possible Skype with other people involved, too. You want to become part of his social circle and he should become part of yours.

Once the relationship has become serious, it may be good to set up a Skype meeting between a pastor and the two of you.

And take other people’s concerns seriously. When you’re in a long distance relationship, it’s easy to think of the two of you as living in your own little world, but if you get married, it won’t be just the two of you. It will be your friends, your family, your co-workers. You have people who care about you–listen to what their instincts (and even the Holy Spirit) may be telling them.

Set Up a Schedule to Talk

If you’re moving towards engagement, then you should be skyping/texting/interacting regularly–I would say at least 2-3 times a week for an extended period. If you only talk once a week, then it’s easy to just put on your best face. You want to see them in real life as much as possible–and they need to see you like that, too.

Do A Bible Study

Read and study the Bible together and pray together. Now, some people aren’t really comfortable with in-depth Bible study. That’s not their way of relating to God, and that’s okay. But you can still read a Psalm together. You can agree that “this month we’re going to read through the book of Acts”, even if you don’t do a word study on it. And you certainly can pray together! Make sure that your spiritual life is part of your long distance relationship, even if you can’t go to church together.

Plan for “In Person” Visits

I know it’s expensive, but you simply must spend the money and be together in person several times before you get married. It’s cheaper to do that than to rush into a relationship that’s wrong. Ideally these visits could be for a few weeks, but even a long weekend is better than nothing. Meet his family. See where he lives. Go to church with him (do people know his name? Do they greet him?). The hard part, of course, is where do you stay, since you likely don’t want to stay overnight with him. That’s where meeting some of his friends on Skype beforehand can be good. Or perhaps you can stay with his parents! It may be awkward, but it’s actually good to get to know his social circle and his family anyway.

Once you do get engaged, I think it’s important to move to the place where he lives, or have him move to where you live. Obviously sometimes immigration issues may make this impossible, but if it is possible, be with him on a daily basis before you actually tie the knot.

I know many couples who have married after a long distance engagement, and they’re all still married and still happy. My daughters did the hair for one wedding last year that was just a blast–she was from Pennsylvania, and he was from Saskatchewan, and they met in Bible quizzing. I’m not against long distance relationships at all. I just think you have to be super careful and super wise, and go in with your eyes wide open. But in this day and age when technology makes long distance engagements possible, it opens up a whole new world, and I think ultimately it’s a good thing.

But I’d like to hear from you–what would you add to this list? If you married after a long distance relationship, what’s the one best thing you did while dating? Let us know in the comments!

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnd, of course, if you’re getting married, I can’t recommend The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex highly enough! I wrote it for any engaged or married woman, but it’s really my prayer that more engaged women will read it, because I think if you understand sex better from the beginning you’ll save yourself so much heartache–and you’ll have so much more fun. I’ve got a special chapter in it for the wedding night/honeymoon, so please read it before you get married!

Genetic Curse?

Genetic CurseIs the genetic curse real–are we destined to copy our parents?

In my quest to take a bit more vacation this summer, I’m rerunning some older columns. This one, which addresses this whole “genetic curse” issue, first appeared January 14, 2005.

When I was a kid my mother was always telling me to stand up straight. I really wish I had listened to her. A few weeks ago I threw my back out yet again, and the chiropractor and the massage therapist (no, that’s not as fun as it sounds) both came to the general conclusion—surprise, surprise—that I need to stand up straight.

My father and my grandfather were both very stooped. I get my body shape from them, and so I’m genetically predispositioned to slouch. Plus I’m at the computer way too much, which does very little for one’s posture.

I have two approaches to this problem. I could shrug, say, “what are you going to do?”, and go back to slouching, condemning myself to decades of intermittent pain. Or I can bite the bullet and cause pain now as I try to relearn how to stand up. I’ve chosen to go back to the toddler mode and boy, is it difficult. But at least I can walk again.

Our parents bequeath us many things, like hugs, smiles, love, and Christmas decorations we made when we were 7. But they also pass on a number of bad things.

Maybe it’s a tendency to gain weight just by looking at chocolate truffles. Maybe it’s a predisposition to alcoholism, health problems, or receding hairlines. Or perhaps it’s a personality issue: you’re too shy, too angry, too impulsive, too scared.

Unfortunately, at the same time as I have noticed the traits that my parents passed on to me, I have also noticed those that I have bequeathed to my own offspring. I am blessed with one daughter whom I love to pieces who is also the spitting image of me (minus the slouching), both physically and emotionally. All of the things that bug me about me I see in her, too. And I don’t want her plagued with my problems!

The funny thing about our personalities, though, is that our strengths are also often our greatest weaknesses.

For instance, my daughter Katie has a real ability to make people laugh. She’s a ham, and sometimes when you’re in the middle of disciplining her she comes out with something that is so funny you have to leave the room so she doesn’t see that she’s broken through your stern composure. At the same time, Katie is also the one who is hard to take anything seriously, or to work hard. While Rebecca is our little perfectionist, Katie would rather put on a ridiculous looking skirt, stand on a table, and twirl. I want Katie to learn how to be appropriate in different circumstances, but I don’t want her to lose her playfulness. In fact, I want to encourage her, because she has the gift of making those around her smile. But it needs to be steered in the right direction.

In the same way, my older daughter is a perfectionist, and takes life too seriously. Speaking as one who can identify, this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you tend to be a high achiever. It’s a curse because you make yourself miserable in the process. Learning to give yourself a break, to allow mistakes, to see areas where you’ve stumbled not as huge personal failures but as simply being human is vital to growing up without giving oneself an ulcer.

As parents, we’re the ones who can best see where our kids may be heading in the wrong direction, especially if those weaknesses are also in us.

But when we do see those weaknesses, we often over-reach in our criticism because we’re so sensitive about them. We don’t help our kids grow; we just make them feel ashamed. Let’s resist the temptation to lash out and criticize. Remember that every fault that we see probably has a flipside that’s positive. The best way to break this “genetic curse”, for lack of a better term, may not be to purge it altogether, but to steer your child see towards the positive aspect of this characteristic. Then you can help them minimize the negative. And now you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve been sitting at the computer too long and I have to do my stretching again.

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Reader Question: How did YOU Homeschool Through High School?

Reader Question of the WeekI don’t talk about homeschooling much on this blog. I have homeschooled both my children from kindergarten to high school, but I know that most of my readers don’t homeschool.

But every Monday I like to answer reader questions, and I’ve received a number of questions lately about how I homeschooled. One, in particular, asked what I did through high school. So I thought I’d take a day to dedicate to homeschooling, talking about two things: homeschooling through high school, and then an AWESOME deal for homeschoolers that’s going on just this week.

If you’re not a homeschooler, forgive me, but “regular programming” will resume tomorrow.

What We Used to Homeschool Through High School

We used Saxon math right through to the end. They finished with Algebra 2 (the green book). One thing I really liked: the marking keys are all there, so it’s easy to go over the problems with the kids.

For Bible/English, etc., we used Omnibus from Veritas Press. They have six different Omnibus books. In Omnibus I you look at books from the ancient world and study the way the ancients (Greeks and Romans) thought. In Omnibus II you look at the Middle Ages, and in Omnibus III you study modern literature and history. My girls really liked Omnibus III; it started with Pride & Prejudice. Omnibus IV-VI redo all the historical periods, but with different texts.

Omnibus I starts in grade 7; you finish all six by grade 12. We did the first four and then started university online (see below).

I loved it because they read the classics, and the questions and exercises are very well designed. I really felt like I had an understanding of how history and thought flowed after reading through Omnibus. There was a big emphasis on American history, so as Canadians we did substitute a few books, but not many.

It is extremely rigorous, and many seventh graders likely couldn’t handle Omnibus I. But I did the readings with them (which, yes, was time consuming), and we really enjoyed it.

Homeschooling Through High SchoolI tried Sonlight curriculum one year, but found it much harder to understand in terms of what you’re supposed to do on what day. Omnibus was laid out better, and the study questions and exercises were better. We went back to Omnibus by mid October.

For Science, we tried a variety of things. We tried the Apologia science, but it didn’t work well, and Keith, as a doctor, didn’t think it was that rigorous. It was written as a conversation, and Science isn’t a conversation. It’s more like Math. The textbooks are written so that kids can do it on their own, but our girls found it just odd and they couldn’t get into it. We tried Alpha Omega Science, but that was a little off, too.

Finally we put them in an online school offered through our board of education, and that was all right. I didn’t like Grade 9 & 10 Science, because so much was wasted time, but once you got to upper years Biology and Chemistry it was done very well.

Once the kids were 16, everything changed. Athabasca University, out of Alberta, is an “open” university, meaning that anybody 16 and over can take their courses as long as they pay the fee. Every University in Canada (and in the U.S., I believe) accepts them as transfer credits. Since I didn’t learn anything in first year university that I hadn’t already taken in my final year of high school, I figured that university courses basically are senior high school courses, so why not get credit for what you’re doing?

The plan was for the girls to take their first year of university online, and then to enter university as a transfer student into second year. That’s what Rebecca did last year, and that’s what Katie’s in the middle of doing (she’s finished half of her first year, while she also takes other courses at home). So they did 2-3 courses a semester, which ends up being 10 courses over two years. Then when they’re 18 they go to university.

Athabasca is A LOT of work. I hate that they don’t have online lectures. You teach yourself out of the textbook and then you do the assignments and write the exams. I have a lot that I wasn’t happy with, but at the same time, they do get university credits, and it makes that whole “getting accepted to university after homeschooling” thing no problem. They don’t go in as homeschoolers; they go in as transfer students. Becca even got a scholarship to the University of Ottawa!

So that’s what we did. Now some general thoughts.

Considerations When Homeschooling High School

Don’t stay away from courses you don’t like/aren’t good at

I dropped Science after grade 10. My husband, of course, didn’t, but he wasn’t home to homeschool the girls. I was. And I couldn’t mark the science or teach the science. I tried with Physics; I figured I could do the course alongside Katie and learn it that way. But that didn’t work either, because eventually I got confused, and when trying to mark her stuff I’d have to wait for Keith to get home.

That’s why we eventually went online.

I’ve seen many homeschooling families give up on the things that the parents don’t do well, and instead just do the stuff they enjoy. And then they end up not being academically rigorous.

We switched Science curricula about four times before finally giving up and putting them in a course online. Sometimes you have to do thatEvery child should at least have an introductory knowledge of basic areas of study–at least to the level they’d get in school. Here kids aren’t allowed to drop Science until grade 10, so all students should have at least a grade 10 Science background. And this goes all the more for Math.

Be realistic about marking and get others involved if necessary

The hardest part of high school is checking up on your children’s work. I know one boy who was given a textbook in September and told to work through it, but his parents never checked. He’d always brag that he was done his work by November.

I never bought it.

Katie is great at Math, but when marking her daily work, she’d often only be getting 70%. If I didn’t mark it everyday, after a week she’d be getting 55% and skipping lots of questions, because if you don’t properly understand a concept, it snowballs.

If you stay on top of it, though, you can explain the issue right away, and then her marks would go up.

You have to mark everyday or you don’t know if they’re getting behind or if they really understand it. If you can’t commit to doing that, then it’s better to get your children to take some courses online. Veritas Press offers Omnibus online; Apologia offers Science online; Write at Home offers Essay Writing online (my oldest did this; it was great). And, of course, as we found, some Boards of Education offer normal high school credits online.

Make sure you have a plan so your child is qualified to continue in some way

When homeschooled properly, I believe that children end their education with a better knowledge level than if they went to school. My kids know way more than I did when I graduated high school, and I was top of my class and got scholarships to university. Omnibus was wonderful for that. They actually learned more important things than I did even through four years of university.

However, it’s all too easy to be lax when you’re homeschooling. Especially when you have a large family, it’s easy to leave the oldest to do their work on autopilot while you tend to the younger ones, and then the older ones may not work that hard or really get an education. I’ve seen families I know where the kids finish homeschooling but aren’t qualified for anything, and can’t even pass the GED (the equivalent of the high school diploma). If you’ve homeschooled through high school and your child can’t pass the GED (and also doesn’t have a learning disability), then you’ve done them a grave disservice. They can’t even get into community college!

Homeschooling should expand horizons, not limit them. My girls were able to take advanced piano and lifeguarding and worked a ton through high school, something they couldn’t have done if they were in school. That’s where homeschooling is good. But kids must be qualified at the end to be able to move into more schooling or to move into a job/business where they can earn a living.

If your child can’t, then please, put them in school online or send them to school for their senior year so they can get a diploma or something that will open doors. Don’t close doors for your kids.

An Awesome Deal!

This week, Build Your Bundle has created an awesome opportunity for homeschoolers!

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You can purchase a bundle of homeschooling curriculum that you build yourself–targeted to the ages of your kids or to themes. And you can even get 3 for 2–so if you purchase three bundles in different age ranges, you only pay for two!

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Wifey Wednesday: Are Boundaries Biblical?

Setting Healthy Boundaries is BiblicalSetting healthy boundaries: Is that biblical? Or is it modern psychology given a Christian-sounding twist?

That’s a question that’s been asked a lot on this blog lately when I’ve talked about the importance of setting healthy boundaries in marriage and in our extended families. I’ve had several commenters say that boundaries are not biblical, a position that I find a little bit strange. If boundaries aren’t biblical, what is the alternative?

This is the launch week for my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the revised & expanded edition), and in it I talk at length about the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries. And so I thought today it might be worth going over why boundaries are so crucial in our relationships.

Boundaries tell us what is our responsibility and what is someone else’s responsibility

Here’s Galatians 6:2-7, which talks about boundaries:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

We’re supposed to carry each other’s burdens, but we’re also supposed to carry our own loads. Think of a load as something which is manageable–your daily to-do list. But when something out of the blue hits someone that they can’t handle themselves, then we’re supposed to help them. We aren’t supposed to carry each other’s loads–only their burdens. And you won’t be able to help someone with their burdens if you’re simultaneously trying to carry your family’s loads.

Here’s something else about boundaries: we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others, and we’re not supposed to worry about other’s opinions. We need to test our own actions, and only rely on God. And finally, and perhaps most importantly,

A man reaps what he sows.

God set up the world so that our actions have consequences, and we are supposed to bear those consequences. If you take responsibility for things that aren’t yours–by not having boundaries, for instance–you put a roadblock into one of God’s best teaching instruments He has for His children. Let’s say your husband is prone to rages. He’s sowing discord and anger. But if you and the kids walk on tiptoes around him, trying to placate him, and then when he does yell, you apologize and try to repair the relationship, you’re the ones who are reaping that discord, not him.

TLHV New FB AdWe aren’t to carry each other’s loads, and we’re supposed to let people bear the consequences of their actions. We are each responsible for our own stuff.

Boundaries tell us our limits

In Exodus 18:14-23, we read this interaction between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro:

14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

I love what Jethro says: “what you are doing is not good…You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.” You cannot do everything.

Similarly, Jesus set limits on Himself. He didn’t heal everyone all the time; often He left areas where there were still people who needed His help because it was time to move to the next place. He carved out time to pray, away from His disciples, to spend time with God. He carved out time away from the masses, just with His disciples, to train and minister to them.

If Jesus had let His schedule be determined by what people needed Him to do rather than by what He was called to do and what He was able to do, His ministry would not have been as effective. He needed time alone to rejuvenate and time alone with God, and He took it. He knew that He couldn’t do everything–even if other people needed Him. He had His limits.

Boundaries show us where the moral line is

Boundaries are also necessary to show us where we have transgressed. Indeed, the word “trans-gression” literally means to “cross” a limit.

Moral boundaries allow us to make judgments about what is right and what is wrong. They let us say, “what you are doing is not right and we need to deal with it.”

If we have no moral boundaries–let’s say because we believe in a mistaken idea of submission where we must obey our husbands completely–then we will follow them into sin, or we will end up enabling sin. On the other hand, Matthew 18 clearly tells us that if someone sins against us (and that could be your husband, or your friend, or your mother), you’re supposed to go to them and tell them that they have crossed a boundary. If they refuse to repent, then you’re supposed to go and get one or two others involved. The Bible is clear that we don’t ignore moral transgressions of those close to us. We confront them and we urge them on to more godly behaviour. As James 5:19-20 and says,

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

It is neither emotionally healthy nor moral to live without boundaries.

When we do that, we push ourselves too hard and often exhaust ourselves. We allow wrong behaviour to continue. And we enable people to act selfishly by becoming a cover for their actions.

When people join Al Anon, or the support groups for other family members of those suffering from other addictions, one of the first things they are told is that you can only change yourself, and you must not take responsibility for changing another person. But at the same time, you must also allow that other person to reap the natural consequences of their actions, or they will not have impetus to change. You must stop enabling bad behaviour.

To Love, Honor and VacuumAl Anon gets it–and they aren’t even Christian (though the founder was). Why is it that Christians now think that being a pushover, or letting others get away with wrong behaviour, is Christlike? It isn’t. In Romans 8:29, Paul wrote,

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

God’s will is that we look more and more like Christ.

And so I want to challenge you today: In your family, are your actions encouraging others to look more and more like Christ, or are they covering up and enabling others to look more and more unChristlike? If you aren’t setting healthy boundaries of responsibility, then it’s quite likely that others will be looking less and less like Christ, rather than more and more like Him.

That’s the message of To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the book), though it is of this blog, too! And if you’ve really struggled with this, I encourage you to check out the book, where I help you see how we can live out God’s design that all of us look more and more like Christ–not that we serve so much so that we give others cover to act poorly. And remember–the ebook version is just $2.99 until Sunday! So pick it up today.

Christian Marriage Advice

Top 10 Reasons Women Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and a Mom

Taken for Granted Moms: Why you sometimes feel more like a maid than a wife and a mom--and what you can do about it.

Ever feel taken for granted? Most moms and wives do at some point.

TLHV New FB AdAnd that’s why I wrote To Love, Honor and Vacuum. I wanted to help moms who feel unappreciated rethink how they do family so that instead of feeling like a maid, she can feel like part of a healthy family unit that’s all working towards the same goal. And a revised and expanded To Love, Honor and Vacuum is being launched this week–and it’s only $2.99 in ebook format until Sunday! So pick it up today.

On that vein, I thought I’d share the top 10 things that we wives and moms do that we think are helping, when really they can actually make our family situation worse. Be sure to read through to #10, because that’s the most important one–and it’s the root cause of all the other ones.

I asked on my Facebook Page last night, “when do you feel most like a maid instead of a mom?”, and many of these 10 things were mentioned! Now, of course, you could answer that question with “when my husband ignores me” or “when my husband sits on the couch all night and does absolutely nothing”, but I think it’s more helpful to give women strategies they can use to actually change things. We can’t change someone else; we can only change ourselves. So let’s look at the things that we women do to undermine ourselves, here on Top 10 Tuesday:

1. Doing all the housework yourself

One woman on Facebook says that she feels most like a maid when she’s doing the dishes–for the fifth time that day. I totally get it! Housework is exhausting. It’s never ending, it’s tedious, and no one really says thank you. So why are you doing it all yourself?

You cannot keep a perfect home and raise kids who are active and engaged all at the same time. Something’s gotta give. And one of the best ways to help you not feel like a maid is to make sure that from a very young age kids are doing chores, too. Tie the chores to an allowance when they’re young. If it’s a struggle with teens, change the password on the wifi everyday, and don’t give it out until they’ve completed their chores. Require your kids to work.

A 3-year-old can dust a coffee table and can clean the bottom kitchen cabinets. A 5-year-old often LOVES cleaning toilets with that toilet brush thingy. An 8-year-old can clean a bathroom well and can certainly do the dishes. So don’t do it all  yourself.

Here’s an article on age appropriate chores for kids.

2. Not asking your husband for help

Many men do very little housework if they work outside the home and you stay at home. My husband always worked long hours, and when he got home, I didn’t want him doing dishes. I wanted us spending time together as a family. So I didn’t ask him to do housework (though he always picked up his clothes and took care of his own messes). But if you both work outside the home, you’re definitely going to need some help. Even if you do stay at home, you still will need help with the childcare (and men need to spend time with their kids) and you’ll certainly need help on weekends.

But too many women don’t ask for help. They assume that the men should know what to do, and if they’re sitting playing a video game or if they’re goofing off, they’ve actually decided not to help you. That may not be the case. I asked on Facebook a while ago how many women had actually asked their husbands for help, and I received story after story of women saying, I stewed for ten years about how insensitive he was, and yet when I finally asked him to do the dishes after dinner, he did them no problem. He just never knew I needed help!

Try asking. It doesn’t always get you the results you need, but don’t be resentful if you’ve never even asked. Men often think that because we have systems for things, we would find their help more of a pain than anything else. If you want help, don’t expect him to read your mind. Ask.

3. Allowing your children to treat you rudely

From an early age, make your children say “please” and “thank you”. If they talk back, discipline immediately. If they ask for anything rudely, they never, ever get it. Do not let them treat you with direspect.

When my oldest was five, another five-year-old once stayed with us for a week. That little girl whined all the time. It was her default setting–and I can’t stand whining. So I stopped giving her anything if she was whining. “Can I have some mi-i-i-lk?” she’d whine. And I would say, “when you can ask in a proper voice.” After three days she had stopped whining. I honestly don’t know how her parents stood it. It would have driven me beyond the bend if my kid talked like that all the time. Within a few seconds of her mom walking in the door, though, the whining had started again. Don’t ever reward whining or rude behaviour, or they’ll just keep doing it.

4. Picking up after everybody

Do you spend your life putting stray socks in the hamper and picking up toys? That’s exhausting–and can easily fuel resentment.

But people will keep leaving stuff everywhere if you keep picking it up.

If your ten-year-old comes in the house and drops his coat on the chair and his backpack–with his lunchbox inside–on the floor, and you pick those things up and clean out his lunchbox, you’ve taught him to treat you with disrespect. But not just that–you’ve also taught him to ignore the mess he’s making, so that he likely doesn’t even realize that he’s inconveniencing you.

Don’t pick up people’s stuff. Require them to pick it up–and have consequences if they don’t. For husbands, have a corner of the bedroom/house where you can put stray items if they drive you nuts, so that they can be his responsibility again.

Here’s an article I wrote on how to get kids to pick up their stuff!

5. Rescuing everybody

You’re running late, you’ve got to get to work, and you get a text that your 13-year-old forgot his lunch at home. So you drive back to get the lunch and drop it off, making yourself even more frazzled. Or  you mentioned to your husband that he really needed to send that birthday card to his mom, and he didn’t, and you notice it on the counter the morning after it should have been sent, so you run to the post office and send it express. You had to squeeze it in between appointments, but you did it–and you were only mildly late for the kids’ piano lessons.

Do you rescue everybody? There’s no problem with doing it occasionally, out of love. But if family members start assuming you’ll rescue them, they also stop taking responsibility or even making an effort. They’ve taken you for granted. That’s going to make you feel like a maid, too.

6. Overscheduling yourself and your family

If you’re busy and exhausted, you’ll feel like a maid. If your life is spent chauffeuring everybody, but rarely in the things that feed our souls, like down time with those we love, we’ll go through life with this chronic malaise like something’s wrong.

Beware of overscheduling your family.

Here’s an article on the time crunch with extra-curricular activities

7. Being disorganized

Are you the kind of laid back person who goes along life just fine for about five days, letting the messes get worse and worse, but having fun with your kids, until you finally realize OH MY GOODNESS THIS PLACE IS A PIGSTY and you go ballistic? And then you feel like you need to spend twelve hours in a row cleaning?

Sometimes the best way to feel less like a maid is to get a little more organized, so these crises don’t happen!

8. Asking your children to do things instead of expecting it and following through

When you ask your kids something, do you make it a firm command? Or are you wishy washy?

Compare this:

Johnny, it’s getting to be time to clean up your toys, okay? It’s almost time for dinner.

To this:

Johnny, start cleaning up your toys now. You have five minutes before we eat, and I’m setting the timer now.

In the first case, you haven’t actually asked Johnny to do anything. You’ve just made a statement about the time. You may feel like you’ve asked him, but you haven’t. And so he’s unlikely to listen and do anything, and you’re likely to get your blood pressure boiling! If you want them to do something, make it very clear. Ask firmly. Set a deadline. Expect follow-through.

9. Eating in a rush–and not at the dinner table

You’ve spent an hour making a great meal, but everybody sits at the table, rushing through it, with their phones on. Or else someone grabs it and heads to their room. Perhaps you all sit at the table, but the kids are whiny and picky and don’t like it and the meal is over in five minutes.

Make dinner a family time. Keep conversation starters at the table. Ask trivia questions. Have everyone say their “high” and “low” for the day. Start some family traditions where you really connect and talk over dinner. It’s an important family time–don’t waste it.

Here are some tips on getting picky eaters to eat!

10. Thinking that the goal is to make your family happy

Finally, here’s the most important one: You think that your job is to make sure your kids and your husband are happy. In fact, that’s likely why you do each of the nine things already mentioned. You want them to enjoy life. You want them to smile. You want to avoid unpleasantness. But in doing this, you’re likely inadvertently causing your own unhappiness, because you’ll feel taken for granted. But even more importantly, you’re missing the point.

To Love, Honor and VacuumGod’s priority is not that your kids are happy; it’s that they look like Jesus. And He wants that for you and your husband, too. If you set up your family in such a way that you’re enabling selfishness, laziness, and ingratitude, you’ll be miserable because you’ll always feel put upon, taken for granted, and like something’s off kilter. But the rest of the family will also not learn what it is to look like Christ.

That’s what To Love, Honor and Vacuum is about–it’s to change our perspective so that in everything we do, whether it’s housework or childcare or paid work or even how we do marriage, we’re encouraging Christlike behaviour from ourselves and those around us, rather than encouraging people to take us for granted. It’s amazing how the way that we do the little things in our home, like chores and dinner and school, can have such spiritual ramifications.

So be careful that happiness doesn’t become your goal. If it does, you’ll almost guarantee that everybody will be miserable. Raise a family to be responsible, though, and you’ll likely find that peace and joy you really want.

If this is resonating with you, pick up To Love, Honor and Vacuum! It’s available in paperback, too, but the ebook version is on major sale for $2.99 until Sunday. Don’t miss it!

Now tell me: when do you feel most taken for granted? What have you tried to do about it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Reader Question: How Do I Stop My Child’s Meltdowns

Reader Question of the WeekWhat do you do when your child has meltdowns that disrupt the whole household?

Every Monday I like to try to answer a reader’s question, and this week we’re going to look at meltdowns in children. I’ve written before on how to handle temper tantrums in toddlers, but this is a little different because this reader’s child is older. She writes:

I have read a couple of your articles but wondered how you would approach meltdowns when things are simply not playing out how my daughter had envisioned. She is 5. For example, she had been wearing a particular t-shirt all day and it had gotten really dirty. Grandparents were coming over for dinner and we decided to bathe the kids before they arrived. I threw her t-shirt in the hamper on top of some already wet clothes. The problem started here because my kids normally put their own clothes in the hamper and so it may have been an indicator to me that she planned on putting the t-shirt back on. Anyway when it came to get dressed the t-shirt was not an option. (I am normally quite lenient when it comes to my kids picking their clothes) There was moaning and rolling on the bed. I tried to identify with her disappointment, identify what exactly about the t-shirt she liked – there may be one similar etc. but then also have her understand she needed to push though and choose another t-shirt. My question is – what is my goal? Ideally I’d like her to name the disappointment – help her figure out what she needs to press through it and move on. I know she is young but I feel that ‘coaching’ in the early years will make her able to coach herself later. Any thoughts? I should also add that these meltdowns–the moaning episodes and sobbing–can completely break the peace in our home and I want her to acknowledge this, too. Perhaps you have written on this?

I can picture what that’s like, because my oldest daughter used to find it difficult to control her emotions, too, though perhaps not to this extent. It does totally wreck your household, and it is absolutely infuriating and exhausting. So what do you do?

To Love, Honor and VacuumThis is launch week for the second edition of my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and I thought this was an excellent question to start with, because the premise of that book is quite simple: too many women feel like maids rather than wives and mothers because we’re always working FOR people who take us for granted, rather than working WITH people to create a fun and nurturing home environment that points to Jesus. This mom sounds exactly like the kind of moms I’m talking to: you want to do a good job and raise great kids, but there are times that you just don’t like your kids that much and when you’re absolutely fed up.

Here are some thoughts on handling meltdowns in kids:

1. You cannot reason with a child in a full-blown meltdown

This woman is asking how to help her name what she’s feeling and thus help to work through the disappointment in a healthy way. I understand the desire to do this, but I don’t think it will work when the child is in the midst of throwing herself on the ground and screaming and sobbing. She isn’t thinking clearly, and trying to talk to her will likely escalate everything. You’ll get frustrated, she’ll get more mad at you because you’re giving her attention without giving her what she wants, and it will all get louder and give you a migraine.

2. Stop giving the child any attention

Tantrums are caused essentially by a combination of two things: kids can’t control their emotions and their emotions overwhelm them, and they get attention. That combination is so dangerous, because it can mean that the more that you acknowledge the tantrum or pay attention to it, the more tantrums they have.

How to stop your children's meltdowns (and bring peace to your home again!)Some children DO have an issue controlling negative emotions, and they do need to be coached through it. However, that coaching can’t be done at the time, and often being taught that tantrums are not acceptable is the first step. If they learn that they can’t just scream and cry when they’re upset, then, and only then, can they learn alternative things to do.

So I’d do this: if she starts to cry and flail and scream, pick her up and remove her from other family members. Put her in the bedroom and say, “I see that you’re upset, but the rest of us don’t want to hear this. When you’re calmed down you can come out again.” And then shut the door. Another option is to leave her where she is and then tell other family members, “Jane is being loud and rude, so let’s go somewhere else that’s quiet until she calms down.”

This doesn’t need to be said loudly or with a mean tone, but you need to give this impression:

What you are doing is NOT acceptable, and absolutely NO ONE will pay any attention to you while you do this.

If you are at a party and she does this, you either leave or you pick her up and put her in the backyard or the car until she calms down. You can even stand outside the car while she screams. If you’re in a store, same deal. Be absolutely unwavering in this: you cannot scream in public.

Then, when she is finished, tell her she should apologize to you and her siblings for creating a scene. (I don’t force apologies because I think they should come from the heart if we’re to teach real repentance, but I would seriously recommend that she apologize, and I would require her to acknowledge that she hurt the peace in the house.)

3. Make sure there is not an underlying issue

One caveat: meltdowns are a common feature of many conditions like autism or Asperger’s, because children just can’t process things not going the way they thought they were supposed to. Children need absolute order for the world to feel safe, and if the order is broken in some way, they don’t know how to handle it. It may be a good idea to see a physician to make sure there isn’t some sort of processing disorder going on.

4. AT A DIFFERENT TIME, coach your child on how to work through difficult emotions

When your child is calm, that is the time to help coach them on how to handle disappointment. Talk to them about identifying what they’re mad about, and about taking deep breaths, and about saying, “I’m sad” rather than screaming. Teach her to pray and say, “Jesus, help me to not be so mad.”

But I don’t think this can be done at the time well, and it is such an important skill to learn how to self-soothe (to talk yourself down from a tantrum). Making children do this isn’t being mean to them; it’s forcing them to learn to act appropriately, and actually is giving them control over their emotions. They have to calm themselves down, which means that they have to get control of the anger.

5. Be careful of letting your child set the tone for your house

To me, this is perhaps the most important and also most forgotten point. It is YOUR home. Your children should live by your rules. You have the right to enjoy being at home, and I’m afraid that all too many parents don’t enjoy it at all. I remember a couple I knew when my oldest daughter was 6 who had their 6-year-old in six (!) different after school activities–one for every night of the week, and one on Saturdays. And the reason? When their daughter was at home she was a terror, so they tried to keep her busy out of the house as much as possible to wear her out so that she wouldn’t have meltdowns.

But they were wearing themselves out, too!

We need to get back to the idea that adults have the right to expect certain behaviour from their children. You shouldn’t dread coming home. You shouldn’t dread having hours with the kids alone. You should be able to laugh at the kids, not mentally prepare the day so that nothing will happen that will set your child off.

This is your role. Your children should not hijack it, so don’t let them. You don’t have to apologize for wanting your life back. You don’t have to feel guilty for saying, “I can’t handle when my child is acting like this, so I’m just going to disengage when they do.”

Your child is acting inappropriately, and you have the right to expect them to act otherwise. You really do.

Now go, and set the tone yourself. Don’t let your child do it for  you!

In To Love, Honor and Vacuum I talk a ton about how we’ve gotten mixed up about what our role is at home, and we women often wear ourselves out while everyone else has a relatively easy life. If you’re having trouble creating a good tone in your home, pick up To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

And please stop by my Facebook Page tonight at 8 p.m. EST for a special announcement!

Are Children Worth It? When People Forego Parenting

Kids Are Worth It: What happens when society decides that remaining childless is better?

Are children worth it? That’s a question many adults are asking today, and as they look around at mortgage debt and popsicle mess and day care woes, many are deciding they’re not. I think kids ARE worth it–and if society doesn’t agree, we’re in trouble.

I talked about this back in a column in 2005, and I thought I’d rerun it now. I understand some women don’t have children, even though they desperately want to, because of infertility issues, and this column is definitely not directed at you. I know how painful that is. But more and more are choosing not to have kids, and I wanted to address that today.

I’m really not sure why I had children, except that I was supposed to. I wanted someone to love me, and I wanted to love in return, but I didn’t think about it much beyond that.

Fifty years ago, that would have been true for just about everybody. Today it’s not. More and more people are choosing to remain childless (and more are childless not by choice, but that’s another story). In Canada our birth rate now hovers around 1.6, far below the replacement level needed of 2.1. And it’s not because families are getting smaller; it’s because more people, even those in committed relationships, are choosing not to have families at all.

While for an individual couple this may be the best choice, for a society it certainly isn’t.

If we want Canada as a nation and a culture to survive, we need a higher birth rate. So why is it plummeting?

I read recently on Steve Janke’s blog the proposition that it’s because children no longer have value. Before you jump all over me, let me elaborate. At one point, Janke explained, children were your retirement savings plan and your health insurance. They took care of you if you were old or sick. Once the government stepped in into these roles, we didn’t “need” children in the same practical way we did before.

I would even go one step further and say that in those glorious “olden days” when people walked to school uphill both ways, children would have added economically to your household. They were expected to help on the farm or the business. Having children enabled you to have a larger house, a larger farm, and generally prosper more than you would have otherwise. Today it’s the opposite. Children don’t add; they subtract. We live in a child-centred world where it is us who are expected to work: we must drive our kids to lessons; sacrifice time to help them with homework; save a fortune for their education. When we have kids, we have more work, not less work.

And so I think there’s something else going on. If you’re a young adult surveying the parental scene, you see harried parents chronically short on cash because hockey costs so much this year. You see them tying themselves in knots because their toddler won’t sleep through the night, their seven-year-old can’t read, or their teenager has gotten into the wrong crowd. It looks like a recipe for an ulcer.

The one thing you can’t see is what’s going on inside those parents.

You don’t see what happens in the heart the first time you hold your baby. You can’t see what being a parent does to you; how it makes you love life so much more, care about the world so much more, or brings a richness to your life you never believed possible. I am not saying that non-parents can’t experience love; only that being a parent is a joy like no other, and cannot truly be comprehended until one experiences it.

There once were enough societal and economic pressures to have children that people tended to make that choice, and so they did experience that joy. Today, with those pressures gone, how many will decide not to procreate, and in so doing lose the joy that we only realize once we’ve already taken the plunge?

At one point parenthood was one of the experiences that we all had in common.

We had all gone through labour in some form or another, or stayed up all night with a child with croup, or kissed a boo-boo. Even if language or religion or culture or class separated us, we were all parents. When we lose these shared experiences we lose a shared culture. Parenting is hard work, and it requires more sacrifice today, perhaps, than it did a century ago. But it is still worth it. I know some will always choose to remain childless, and that’s okay. But I hope our country as a whole does not turn its back on parenthood. Babies are our future, and they really are irreplaceable.

After this column was out, I was interviewed on CBC radio and asked on a TV show to talk about why kids are worth it. You can see a little clip from that TV show here.

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Where’s the Dad?

Child PovertyI’m taking life a little easier this summer, so I’m rerunning some columns I wrote a few years ago. Happy July 4 to all my American friends!

As I write this, two teenage girls are on trial in Toronto for murdering their mother.

Entered into evidence was a taped conversation in which the older girl explained that murder was really the only option since her mother wasn’t a mother anymore. So, with the knowledge of her younger sister, she allegedly drowned her in the bathtub to free them and their brother from the nightmare.

To kill one’s mother is obviously wrong; and yet, as I read the account, I felt little sympathy for the woman. By all accounts she was a hopeless drunk, and her daughter got one thing right: she wasn’t a mother anymore. Yet as I thought about this sad scenario, one question kept haunting me:

Where’s the dad?

Immaculate conceptions aren’t common, so there’s a man—or men—somewhere who is responsible for these kids’ creation. Would their lives have turned out differently if he had stayed on the scene?

Obviously we know nothing about this particular family, but all too frequently dads are out of the picture long before any labour pains. They spend an evening, if that, as part of a woman’s life, and they’re gone.

While this may not have much of an impact on these men’s lives, it certainly has an impact on the children’s. For years governments have been vowing to end child poverty, but it’s doubtful they can make real headway until we change our behaviour. Over 52% of children in single parent homes live in poverty, compared with 11% of children in two-parent families. Child poverty is not an economic issue as much as it is a family issue. When men leave, their kids grow up poor.

And their kids may also grow up with unstable parents, as these kids certainly did. In a home with two parents, if one starts feeding an addiction, becomes abusive, or exhibits a mental disorder, there’s another parent to step in. When there’s only one parent, the kids are held captive to that parent’s whims. But it isn’t just having a dad that makes these kids better off. Dads, you see, bring something else to the equation. With a dad often comes another set of grandparents, along with various aunts and uncles and cousins, and chances are at least a few of these relatives will have their heads on straight.

It seems this family lacked those safety checks, as far too many families do.

I can’t help feeling, in reading stories like this, that our society takes the act that creates these children far too cavalierly. If you’re not willing to commit to look after any children that may come out of a brief relationship, then you should not be having a brief relationship. It’s incredibly selfish to put your own fleeting pleasure above the well-being of children you may bring into a rather desperate, and grim, situation.

Many men, I believe, have lingering doubts as to whether there are little juniors running around out there. To investigate, though, is a big risk that could disrupt their lives and their bank accounts. However, don’t we owe something to honour, loyalty, and duty? Why not pick up the phone? You don’t have to become a super dad if you don’t want to, but at least make sure the kids are okay, and that they have enough money to get by. Some women, of course, may resent the intrusion or fear your motives, but your kids still deserve to know they are valued. Their lives may have started off by accident, but they don’t need to be defined that way.

If we treat kids, and the act that creates them, with the care and respect they deserve, we’ll all be better off.

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Reader Question: How Much Do I Tell My Kids About My Past?

Reader Question of the WeekHere’s the scenario: you have quite a past–whether it’s drug use or alcohol or past sexual activity–and then you got married and you cleaned up your life. But now your kids are growing up, and you’re trying to teach them to do the right thing. How do you start telling them about your past?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and try to answer it, and today’s is one I’ve heard many variations of:

I have two teens (14 & 15) who like to push my buttons and test boundaries. They’re good kids, but I there’s a lot of tension with them. So now I’m wondering: what should I tell them about my past?

I’m not embarrassed by it because God did an amazing transformation of my life, but I already told my son just a little bit–that I smoked when I was a teen–and now whenever he wants to do something we don’t want him to do, he says, “but you smoked and you turned out okay.” And that was just smoking! What if I told him all the other things I did? It’s like he now feels like he has permission to do the things I did. How should I handle this?

That’s tough, isn’t it? Telling your kids about your past does open a huge can of worms. So here are a few of my thoughts, but I’d really like yours, too! So after you’ve read some of my thoughts, please leave yours in the comments as well!

How Much Should You Tell Your Kids About Your Past?

1. Secrecy Doesn’t Tend to Work Well

I’ve never found that secrets work well in a family. The kids pick up on it anyway, and you’re always tense that they’ll find out.

So I tend to be a big advocate of telling kids your story–at age appropriate levels, and with only the necessary detail (if you went too far with a boyfriend when you were 14, for instance, you don’t have to say EXACTLY what you did–only that you did too much.)

2. Remember that Your Story is Really God’s Story

I think we’re often embarrassed to tell our kids our story because it wasn’t pristine. Yet this is really a problem the early church didn’t face. In the early church (at least with the Gentile converts, not the Jewish converts), EVERYBODY had a past. Nobody had had a pristine pre-Christian life, and so they were able to say, “Thanks to God who saved me from so much!” They knew the difference between having God in your life and not having God in your life, and they were grateful.

And because everybody had the same messed up past, it wasn’t a big deal to talk about what God saved you from.

The problem today is that we’re trying to raise our kids to make good decisions from the start, and then if you didn’t, it’s like you’re giving them permission to do things you’d rather they wouldn’t.

But perhaps that’s because we’re still seeing living a Christian life in terms of our strength rather than God’s strength. Maybe we need to get back to the mindset of the early church, which basically said: it doesn’t matter what kind of past you had; what matters is what God did with it and how He redeemed you! If we frame our whole lives like that, then our stories become God’s stories.

I have a dear friend that I’ve known for several decades. I knew her when she first became a Christian–rather dramatically. She had hit rock bottom with drugs and relationships, and swore to God that if she made it through the night she’d follow Him. And she did! She stopped her lifestyle and did the most dramatic 180 turnaround I’ve ever seen. She is the most transparent worshiper in church, because she truly knows the meaning of grace.

She married a wonderful Christian man who DIDN’T have much of a past, and is raising a whole pile of teens now.

But she had never really shared with her teens the details of her past until someone else, who did know her past, asked her for advice. It all came out in front of her oldest, and her oldest really grieved. She knew that her mother had “a past”, but she didn’t know what it was. And she wanted to know the details. “How many men did you sleep with? What did you do?” Etc. etc. There were a lot of tears, and her daughter grieved for what her dad had missed out on, too.

It was an emotional time, and my friend didn’t share all the details. But she did bring it back to God. “That’s why I love Jesus, because I know what He did in my life, and He helped take away the shame.”

It’s not easy when your kids no longer see you as this perfect person to look up to. But maybe they were never supposed to in that way.

3. Let’s Always Talk About What God Has Done

If we frame it in terms of God–He rescued me, He helped me live with my scars, He gave me strength to quit drinking–then we do our kids a favour. We teach them, “Christianity is about a relationship, not rules.”

Then your story can’t give them permission to follow in your footsteps. If your child says,

But, Mom, you did all this stuff, and you turned out fine.

You can say,

No, I didn’t turn out fine. I still have scars. God has healed me, but the scars are still there. It leaves a mark on you. I suffered. And I don’t want you to do the same. God came and brought me out of the life I was in, but that doesn’t mean that I would have much rather avoided it altogether. I saw what it did, and I don’t want that for you.

And you can tell them about the scars. I think once a child is old enough–say 16 or 17–you can say, “it was really hard in our marriage to feel free sexually because my old boyfriends were always in the back of my mind, and I felt dirty,” (or however you want to word it or whatever sexual baggage you struggled with). I think telling our kids the truth is perfectly fine and healthy. And then you can say, “But God has worked in me and I understand the difference between real intimacy and just sex. And I know why God wants intimacy for us, and that’s what I want for you.”

The whole “you turned out fine” argument seems powerful, but it really does fall apart if you look at it. My mom had cancer 25 years ago, and she’s okay now. But she went through a lot of pain and a lot of fear and she still has physical struggles. Sure, you can turn out okay, but that doesn’t mean you’re as good as you could have been otherwise. So tell your kids the truth–and show them that God saved you anyway.

4. Swallow Your Pride

For a lot of us, this is the big issue. We like being that mom to look up to, and we’re worried that we’ll lose that if they know the truth. But there really isn’t room for pride in the Christian life. It’s about what God has done, not what you have done. You don’t really want your kids to think of you as this amazing, wonderful, perfect mom, as much as you want them to look at God and see a loving Father who wants to protect and guide them, do you?

Let’s let our kids want to walk in Jesus’ steps, not in our steps.

Those would be my thoughts, then–from an early age, let your kids know that God rescued you from a lot. As they get older, fill in some details (but not ALL. Your kids really don’t want to picture you in bed, for instance). And always, always say that it was God who rescued you, and it’s because of God (not your effort) that you have turned your life around.

But I’d love to hear from someone else who has to go through this. What did you tell your teen? And when? Let me know in the comments!