The Pursuit of Family Perfection

By January 1, 2016

Is your family life not the utopia you had once dreamed about? Did your Christmas and  New Year celebrations not meet your dreams, your hopes, your expectations? Where are we going wrong?

According to the Pew Research Center both moms and dads are working full time – up 46% since 1970. What is driving this? The econonic culture is one big reason. More couples find themselves better off financially if both parents work outside the home to achieve these standards, these dreams. But the question arises: Is family life suffering?

The answer is yes… families are definitely feeling out of balance, each family member stressed out with the demands of the pursuit of perfection that only leaves us paralyzed. This is the real problem, the vision of utopia.

I saw a license plate the other day that said “Busy Mom.” It made me question why she put that message on her plate. I came to three probabilities:

  • She was giving a warning to other drivers to be aware…she is so busy, she might not be a careful driver. Oops…watch out!
  • She was being prideful and bragging…saying, “Look, I have this wonderful family and I am one of those “cookie moms” who have it all put together…My kids are in the best schools, and in all the after school activities like sports and music and I have to run, run, run to keep up this level of perfection!!
  • It was a cry for help!

Many families are crying out for help. We travail under both economic and cultural changes occurring at such a rapid pace, it feels like we are spinning out of control. I liken this to Dorothy caught in the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. She wants to find HOME. We too want to find HOME, yet when we do, it is not peaceful…family members are frazzled, stressed out, tired and cranky. This leads to selfishness, each one literally “screaming” to have his/her desires and needs met which leads further to discontent and confusion. Like three blind mice…see how we run… running in every direction except the right one.

Dr. Siegel mentioned on Fox News recently that the mortality rate for the white working class Americans age group 45-54, not college graduates, has increased 22% since 1999. The cause is due to drug use, alcohol abuse and suicide driven by economic issues. These issues can be resolved if we stop striving for that vision of utopia in our homes and in our families.

What are some solutions?

  • We can re-evaluate our choices: The Pew Research Center’s results showed that the annual income for both parents working is around $102,000. With the father working full-time and the mother part-time, the annual income is around $84,000. When the father works full-time and the mother at home, the annual salary is around $55,000. As we study these options, we can ask ourselves: Can I make financial sacrifices? Is it possible for us to live on $55,000 a year while the children are pre-school age, and then consider one partner working part-time until the children leave home?
  • If I stay at home, is it possible for me to take on-line courses to improve my level of education so that when I do return to work, it might be at a higher salary level thus making up the difference at some future point in time.
  • Is it possible that my children do not need to be in the best schools and all the after-school activities? Would they benefit more from some down time? The ability to be creative and energized using their own imaginations and their own decision-making skills might be every bit as valuable as organized activities?
  • If I am at home and available to them, can I teach my children as much and/or more than they learn in organized activiites?
  • Ask self: What is truly driving me toward this endless pursuit of perfection? Am I trying to please others, worried about what others think, or trying to compete with my girlfriends or guyfriends? If our answer is yes to these questions then we are living our life for all the wrong reasons.

In my book “Island Girl: A Triumph of the Spirit” I share that there is nothing, nothing more valuable in this life than coming to understand the true meaning of God’s love for us…that pleasing God is more important than any other pursuit we can undertake in this life.

I encourage mother’s and father’s to give up the endless pursuit of perfection and strive instead to help our children develop a good, moral character, to love one another without displaying anger and bitterness, speaking tenderly rather than shouting at one another, and learning patience and joy. This is where the true balance in family life begins and ends.

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Photo:Barb Hickey Photography, Kensington, PEI

As wise King Solomon once wrote: “My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1: 10b-11, NIV).

Let’s start 2016 with an emphasis on loving God and  one another rather than trying to reach some utopian level of perfection that only paralyzes us and leaves us feeling like we are chasing after the wind.

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