Every household has certain rules about how the house runs or operates. Some people have rules about how you come into the house – you take off your shoes and hang your coats for example. Rules about using the bathroom – do you leave the seat up? Or put it down? Even rules about setting and clearing the table. These rules may even be unspoken rules, almost undefined. It’s not until someone who doesn’t live in the house is visiting that you even realize these rules exist. They are more like habits or expectations.
If we think about them as rules though, it’s interesting to think about which rules are “frozen” and which ones are “fluid”. It can help everyone in the house if we distinguish which rules are which.
These are the rules that cannot be broken. Under no circumstances (well maybe some far off extenuating circumstances) can these rules be broken! They must be adhered to and everyone must do so respectfully.
These rules are adhered to, but there is some flexibility for negotiating and compromising on their timeline or definition.
Let’s assume hanging up coats upon entering the home is a frozen rule. It must happen! It doesn’t matter how badly you have to pee, how soon you are leaving again – you must hang up your coat. If it’s not done, there is pressure to do it, and someone is left unhappy, and the front area is messy.
Now, let’s assume hanging up coats upon entering the home is a fluid rule. You could negotiate how soon you hang up your coat if you do need to pee, or if you are stepping in for a few minutes then heading out again, or even if your coat is too heavy to hold because there are a ton of rocks in the pockets that were collected! Either way, there is opportunity to explain or talk about why the coat is not hung up yet. No one will make sure everyone does it, there is no pressure. Eventually the coats will either get picked up by someone or put back on the next time people are leaving the house.
The power of distinguishing the rules
When you distinguish which rule is which, the household will run more smoothly. It comes back to getting everyone on the same page. When a rule is made clear that it is frozen, there is a natural consequence of not following the rule. It may simply be that your partner is unhappy, or the house is messy, or kids don’t get treats etc. The idea is that some rules stay as fixed or frozen rules no matter what else is going on, and others are more flexible or fluid.
This does not need to just be about physical stuff in the house though. Where defining rules becomes powerful is when it pertains to everyone’s mental health. If you are one of those “I need to work out first thing” kind of people, then you can share to your family that there is a frozen rule that you need to work out in the morning. Everyone is aware, and knows that there will be a negative natural consequence if that rule is messed with. The consequence may translate into changes in behaviour. Maybe it means you get angrier quicker throughout the day, or have less patience to tolerate the ongoings of the day. It’s still a negative consequence that likely has at least a minimal impact on those in the household. Maybe you have a frozen rule about having some alone time to recharge and reset your mind so that you are ready to give a better version of yourself to those around you. Maybe you have a frozen rule about needing a break to transition between work and family time. Maybe you have a frozen rule about ladies or guys night every fourth Friday. Whatever it is, be clear and honest with yourself when defining what you need, so that you do indeed feel recharged and ready to take on the chaos.
It’s so important to freeze the rules that give you an opportunity to recharge!
This doesn’t just have to be for the adults, kids may need it too. Maybe they need quiet time for reading – the frozen rule could be, if you see them reading, be respectfully quiet. Maybe a kid needs a frozen rule about one on one time with a parent for a certain amount of time during the course of the week. You may be thinking to yourself, “great! Another thing to add to the calendar”, but, everyone will be happier because they are all doing a little bit for themselves and being respected for doing so!
There should be some family discussion about the rules and obviously agreement. You can’t say, “I have a frozen rule that requires me to be on vacation for 2 weeks while you all take care of the house”! Being reasonable and respectful when it comes to defining what you need, will help everyone in the family have some way of recharging their batteries, or of doing whatever it is they need to do for their own body and mind.
Mom’s have this terrible tendency to let themselves come in last, or to prioritize all else before themselves. But to really be the best mom you can be, you also need to give to yourself by making your down time or recharge time a priority.
Let your own personal light shine, and find that spark within you.
Freeze some rules, so that you are rejuvenated and excited to spend time with your own peeps!