Running a household and keeping a family organized is serious business. And the way you and your spouse approach it can sink you or save you. Today, I'm giving you a glimpse into how we jointly manage our household and what's worked for us.
The Back Story:
Shortly after we began a gluten-free lifestyle, we subscribed to a weekly produce box from a compilation of local farms. We chose what produce we wanted, and the box was delivered to our doorstep every week. It was incredibly convenient.
Except for choosing the produce each week. And then deciding what to do with it.
Brian and I share meal planning and cooking duties fairly equally. I didn't want to choose each week's produce and plan meals by myself. But trying to make the 2:00 p.m. Tuesday order deadline for our Saturday delivery was becoming a problem.
At the time, I had been writing at a local coffee shop many afternoons, and I suggested a Saturday morning visit so my husband could try their nitro cold-brew blend (amazing, btw). On a whim, I suggested we take the computer and order our produce box for the following week to get it over with.
A tradition was born - and it's taken on a life of its own that we never expected.
Take Over the World:
Our weekly meeting is now comprised of everything from the tactical (meal planning, schedule comparisons, budget reviews) to the emotional - problems we need help solving, fears that are plaguing us (okay, me), or particular support we need from the other. Our weekdays run so much more smoothly when our meals are planned and our schedules and expectations are aligned as much as possible.
We christened our get-togethers "Take Over the World" (or TOTW) meetings, because taking care of loose ends and being prepared for the week ahead made us feel like we could conquer anything - aka, take over the world. Plus, we love to travel.
Adding one more thing to your calendar may sound like a huge undertaking, but have no fear, sweet friend. Today, I'm sharing a few tips that have been helpful to keep us organized and connected as our lives have changed (any other new parents reading this??). I hope these tips are helpful for you if you're looking to get more organized in how you approach your schedules and responsibilities.
Keep the meeting. This is critical, and unfortunately, the most difficult. Find a day or night of the week that works for you and your spouse, where you're both rested, receptive, and focused. For us, that's Saturday mornings, but you can do it anytime that works with your schedules. Once you've decided on a date, put it in the calendar - every. single. week. And stick to it. We've done TOTW meetings even if we're out of town. We've done them in the car. We've occasionally moved them to Thursday or Friday nights if needed, but we always have a brief meeting every week.
Keep a running agenda. I don't know about you, but trying to get my husband to focus at the end of a long workday is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. If I have a question about a bill or want him to take a look at something, Tuesday night is not the time for me to ask him about it. I keep a running list of things I want to discuss in my planner, and I bring it all up on Saturday mornings when he's refreshed and focused. That way, I don't feel like a nagging wife, and he doesn't have to do little tasks bit by bit - we can take care of everything at once and move on.
Keep it simple. You need nothing fancy: just a notebook or some paper, a writing implement, and two focused and committed hearts and minds willing to work together to make running a household a little bit smoother. Don't get bogged down in the details. I use my planner to house our agenda, and we have a separate notebook for planning meals. That's it. The point is to make things easier, not to add more pressure to already-busy lives.
Keep it flexible. Our meetings have evolved quite a bit, especially with the addition of a little one. When we started holding our TOTW meetings, getting out of the house and away from distractions (the TV, our barking dog, etc) was critical. Now that Graham is in the picture, it's easier to have our meeting at home while he takes his morning nap, instead of going to a coffee shop and trying to focus while also dealing with a tired, fussy five-month-old who hates sleeping in his car seat.
Also, know that no matter how much you plan during your meetings, it is just that: a plan. Those have a tendency to change. We've had weeks where we've dutifully planned meals, and exactly none of them have worked out (see image above). We've synchronized our schedules, but a business meeting threw a wrench into things. Give yourself a whole lot of grace. Running a household is an art, not a science.
There have been a lot of insane things we've tried - and failed at - in our day (juice cleanses, anyone?), but our Take Over the World meetings are one of our success stories, and they will be a Stevenson family staple for years to come. The times we've skipped meetings (particularly the meal-planning part), oh, how we've regretted it! We get to Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, and we're going, "Ummm, what do we do now?"
Our TOTW meetings have even become a strange sort of date for us - although it's businesslike, we really use the time to go heart-to-heart. Discussing a chore schedule isn't quite as sexy as a romantic candlelit dinner, but I feel closest to Brian when we're sharing our goals and working together for the good of our family and home. We both know we can bring up any ideas or problems and they will be received with an open heart and mind.
As he gets older, we plan to include Graham in the meetings, as appropriate. We want to take a look at his schedule - any extracurricular activities he's got going on, any school projects that are due (anyone else always forget to tell their parents about big projects until the night before? Just me? Okay, then).
He won't get to make the final decisions - we are the parents, after all - but we will value his input on what he might like for dinner one night. We want to know what chore(s) he might be most interested in and how best to use his talents and interests within our family framework. Brian and I both feel more empowered by coordinating our family together, and we want Graham to feel that same investiture. Our family is our number one priority, and this is the best way we've found to nurture that gift.
I'd love to hear from you! Do you and your spouse have any kind of regular meeting to discuss what's going on? What's worked for you? What hasn't? Let me know in the comments below!
Computer photo by Neil Soni on Unsplash