Judge Yourself Less

I just had a baby. She’s my fourth. I’ve learned a thing or two about having babies and what works and what doesn’t. One thing I’m sure of: there is no one right way to care for a baby. It can be hard to face this fact when we want to do the very best for our kids, but the real world is never as simple as a theory or a method.

In the end you have to trust your gut and try with confidence. Yet confidence is often the last thing we give other mothers. We love to pass down our knowledge and experience without knowing if our experience applies well to the situation before us. Every family is different. Every family needs encouragement.

That’s why I blog. I want to encourage parents and give back some of the confidence society unwittingly takes away.

In that spirit, here is a quote I left for myself for after my baby’s birth to remind me of what’s most important.

I’ve learned a thing or two about having babies, not the least of which is to keep encouragement like this close at hand because sometimes the way is dark and discouraging.

Judge other parents less, love them more.
Judge yourself less, love yourself more.
Worry about less, love that baby more.
Study parenting methods less, love that baby more.
Love that baby more.
Love that baby more.

-Tamara Rice

Read the full poem Hope Fully Known.

Judge yourself and others less, and love your family more!

Creativity in Family Life: The Possibilities are Endless

Last week we introduced the fourth and last step in the Four Actions Framework: Create.

Creation is the key aspect that makes each Blue Ocean family uniquely attractive and successful so it’s also the perfect place to encourage each other in Blue Ocean building.

Creating something new is also less likely to cause social stress than raising or reducing an element common to most families. An activity uniquely tailored to our own family doesn’t lend itself well to direct comparison, so with it we can build our Blue Oceans with less temptation to slip into the Red Ocean mentality.

It doesn’t mean society will approve of us. We’re still breaking out from the norm, which is always difficult for society to accept, but our creative additions are less of a direct threat to existing standards, and thus slightly easier to tolerate.

There are so many ways families can create without causing any trouble to anyone else. Here are the ideas we came up with together over the week. Thanks for your input!

  • Create family traditions – Family traditions aren’t just fun, they serve an important function in binding the family together (and don’t underestimate the power of wacky!)
  • Support the unique interests of our children – really listen to what they share and provide materials and opportunities for them to blossom
  • Pursue our own interests – we may think personal work is not as valuable as our family responsibilities, yet if we take time for an activity that energizes us we’ll have more to give back to our families and our children will see our model of active engagement and self-initiative
  • Support our spouses in their their interests outside of work
  • Make homemade decorations and clothes; play music together; tend a garden – the things we make together can bless our home, be full of meaning to us and pose no threat or pressure to others to create the same thing
  • Pick and choose ideas from other sources “like flowers from many gardens to make unusual bouquets”
  • Recraft an unquestioned norm, like the yearly vacation. Ask questions like “What’s the main purpose?” “Do we achieve that purpose when we participate?” If not, why not, and what alternative could serve that main purpose better – or is that main purpose something we don’t personally care about? It may turn out that taking a weekend every month to do an activity the kids have been asking to do is more refreshing and builds family togetherness better than a stressful two-week Disney vacation. Note: This idea combines all four actions steps together: eliminate, reduce, raise and create.

Please share your own ideas!

Blue Ocean Creation Step Four: Create

We’re nearly finished with our first look at the steps in the Four Actions Framework. So far we have examined Eliminate, Reduce, and Raise. One might expect that “add” comes next, but I love the choice of “create” to complement the “eliminate” of step one.

Create, make something new, break boundaries, be unfettered in shaping your family culture. This call to action is not about picking and choosing from a line of offerings, it is about finding our own voice and making something out of the scraps we have that has never been done before.

Don’t worry about being original, though. I love this quote about how creativity and authenticity is not the same as originality.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” -Jim Jarmusch

Let’s take our authenticity and creativity to our families where they can have the biggest impact. It’s true family can be harshly, if innocently, critical, as when my three-year-old told me ”Mommy, your bottom is too big,” but they are also innocently appreciative of our attempts to bring beauty and meaning into daily life, as when that same three-year-old enjoys reciting the King James Version of Psalm 24 with us.

Where do you see potential for creativity in family life?

Please share in the comments (or contact me) and next week I’ll compile a list of all our ideas.

Blue Ocean Roadblocks: Lack of Clarity

No sooner do I confess to reducing the standard in the hygiene department than several unpleasant consequences and a few accusations come my way.

It’s human nature to see the negative more than the positive, which means people are more likely to notice when we reduce than when we raise, and more likely to say something discouraging.

The negative comments forced me to re-evaluate my decision about hygiene, and I realized I had not properly defined for myself exactly what level I was willing to accept, so each unpleasant consequence that could possibly be related to our family hygiene was a weight on my heart.

As I sat pondering how we might change our lifestyle to include more time for cleaning, my almost five-year-old and nearly two-year-old sat at the keyboard together belting out “Deck the Halls” with gusto. “People are more than a pile of germs!” I shouted to the accusers in my head.

I don’t believe that health is number one. It’s important, but human connectedness and meaningful work is more important for a fulfilled life than perfect health. Maybe it’s a false dichotomy, but I refuse to take too much time from investing in my kids’ growth just to keep a few more germs out of the house. I refuse to stop visiting people or playing in the sandbox because we might get sick.

But truth be told, I really wish my kids would wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating, and I really, really wish they’d use tissues instead of their T-shirts.

And what I wish for most of all is friends who see the people behind the germs that cover my children and who appreciate them for the wonderful individuals they are.

Wait – I DO have friends like that! The people who matter most, like my husband and my mother, care deeply about the work my kids are doing, and support me self-sacrificially in my work at home. And it doesn’t stop there. There are more supportive friends and family in my life than discouragers, and those who care about me are more positive than negative, so why do I let myself get tied up in knots about a few less-than-glowing comments?

I can’t pretend to understand it all, but certainly one important aspect to being able to handle criticism is clearly defining the areas in which we choose to lower the standard so we can remain at peace even in the face of criticism and negative consequences. It was obvious from my original confession about hygiene that I had not done my homework.

“I could feel guilty about it, or I could decide to focus my energy on building the things I do very much care about, and be at peace with being below industry standard in the hygiene department, at least for now.”

Well, now didn’t last long and it’s time to define just how low I’m willing to go and be happy, and figure out a way to raise the family standard to a level I can be at peace with.

I have the feeling this kind of work will never end, as our families and the world around us are ever-changing. It’s not about making a Blue Ocean once-and-for-all, but about continually being conscious of our choices so we can stay in our Blue Ocean peacefully and not get sucked back into the Red Ocean of guilt.

What roadblocks have you encountered since trying to raise and reduce? Please share!