Keep the fun alive while living together and getting things done.
I'm a homeschooling mom of three with a husband who works a lot from home. As a result I've spend a lot of time and trial-and-error figuring how to live together almost continuously so that we all still like each other. What I've come to realize is this:
Don't bug the people you live with.
It's easier said than done sometimes. Dishes. Groceries. Garbage. Maintenance inside the house. Maintenance in the yard. If you have kids or animals or live-ins? Talk about even more maintenance. You get it. You know it.
Living together means working together.
This sounds like an obvious concept but I didn't know the extent of it before I got married. Maybe you didn't either.
After over 16 years of family life I'm convinced that not understanding the work-life balance inside the home is where so many families go wrong. It's where kids stop reaching out to their parents to chat. It's where spouses disappear into the garage or their friendships or their iPhone. It's where people roll their eyes and stop listening.
So what do you do? How do you get things done in the house and for the household (and have your kids, partner, roommates, whoever you live with also get things done) so that you still want to be together?
It boils down to three simple rules.
1. If it has to be said that red hot minute and someone else needs to do it, do what you have to do. Say it, yell it, repeat it. If someone is late and they have to let the dog out... use your words. Sometimes loud words.
2. If it does not have to be said that red hot minute and you can say it in a way that keeps it fun, lighthearted, and positive, go ahead and say it if you want to. If you find that your comment about loading the dishwasher puts a damper on the dinner conversation, next time use rule #3.
3. Communicate non red-hot minute work issues through work channels. There are many choices.
But what about general conversation?
It's always a good rule of them to ask someone if they are ready to have a conversation or answer a question. There they are, sitting there reading something. Ask them before you launch into your daily download or find out if they took out the garbage to the curb. "Is this a good time to talk about...?" They may say yes. They may say, "let me finish this chapter".
My point is: work is work and we all need a break from it. A mental break. An emotional break. A physical break. A safe break.
Allow your audience to get into "work mode" before you talk about work. Let them shift gears. Set aside time for it. Make a work-flow. And ask those you live with to give you the same courtesy.
Once you separate (when it’s a burden) the business of living together from actual life together the stress levels in your house and in those live-in relationships will decrease. The people at home–you included–will relax more without those unnecessary (and sometimes just downright unpleasant) interruptions.
What happens when you don't fear the interruptions?
You will play more together. Reach out to each other more. Enjoy each other’s company more.
You will love living together more even while things still get done.
Most of the time. ;)
This is one of the most profound parenting principles there is:
Sometimes big cures and wide-sweeping change comes in tiny packages.
This one is only 3 seconds big.
I'm a talker. If you are like me your mouth opens instantaneously. When I'm in a good mood the Mouth is lovely.
"You're awesome!" "Thanks so much!" "Hey, I love you!"
But when I'm not in a good mood the Mouth is not so nice...
"No!" "You're making a mess!" "You can get more paper only if you clean it up."
Living with a bad Mouth can make anyone tense.
(Have you ever tried to NOT make a mess when you were tense? Have you ever tried to NOT forget something when you are tense? It's a set-up that readers can see from page one. You know the main character is going to get it in the end. Or your kids, and that's no fun for anyone.)
Not wanting to put up with my own Mouth anymore, I tried to fix it.
I tried to only say nice things. I tried to get more sleep. I tried many, many, many things but they only made me feel worse because they centered on the fact that I'm not always as nice to my kids as I want to be. :(
But even worse, they didn't work.
So I looked at the problem from a new perspective. Instead of trying to fix it so that I'm always in a good mood or always thinking nice thoughts (tall mountain to climb, ya think?) I realized that it doesn't matter if I'm tired, it doesn't matter if I'm cranky, it matters what I say.
So one day I decided to add 3 seconds - just 3 seconds - of silence before I answered a question, said anything or opened my mouth.
This small thing changed my life. It changed my kid's lives.
Instead of knee-jerk "no's" or stress-induced "nagging" I made conscious choices before I spoke. I could say, "Let me think about that one for a moment before I give you my answer". Or I could simply clean up the spilled water without a fuss.
Noticeably and quickly the atmosphere in the house rose but do you know what else happened?
I was in a much better mood and I thought much nicer thoughts! Ha!
The best part yet: it was so easy to implement compared to "fixing" myself. I didn't have to change me. I didn't have to become a better person. I just had to add 3 seconds.