One of the few times I watched Jon & Kate + 8, a topic on that broadcast, discussed somewhat incidentally, was the fact that this family had created a mission statement.
[Note to self: please refrain from indulging in judgmental thoughts about the probable level of family collaboration involved in creating the aforementioned mission statement.]
I was impressed during the broadcast at the concept of actually taking the trouble to formulate and verbalize a family mission statement and I decided to do a little research with my best friend, google. What I learned was not surprising. A number of family therapists cited in the search results recommend that couples (my research was limited to couples since I’m not a mom) not only participate in the exercise of creating a mission statement, but also define the values that guide your lives, both as individuals and as a couple.
I love methodology and in one of my previous volunteer assignments, led a few organizations through strategy building workshops similar to this. The participants begin with some trepidation, but quickly gain confidence and make rapid progress. It always sounds more difficult than it really is.
Anyway, Cristy and I took the time last year to explore our values in life areas such as faith, social pursuits, daily home-life, financial management, holiday and family celebrations, professional-career pursuits, etc. I think we defined 10 or 12 general categories. The values we verbalized were those beliefs we held about who we were as individuals in the distinct life areas and how we each felt we needed to participate as a couple in order to feel whole, validated and cherished.
Not all of our opinions were aligned, but we tried to negotiate through some ideas about behavior that would meet some important needs for us both.
It was useful. Performing that exercise together made us feel as though we had established a broad set of basic agreements for the way that we would interact in these areas of our lives. Because we had made agreements, a large degree of ambiguity about who we were as a couple evaporated. It was as if we had completed a private rehearsal of sorts. While I cannot predict the future, I feel my chances of being blindsided by something unexpected that conflicts with one of my core living values, is greatly diminished.
Nothing is guaranteed. Disasters can happen, garbage disposals can erupt, as ours did this week. We only hope that the practice of finding common ground around the values that are the most important guiding principles of our lives will help us combine our strengths in times of stress, sorrow or sickness. The practice of negotiating behaviors in advance will help us feel empowered to ask for the supportive behavior that we need from the other to offer that extra support when we’re not quite feeling whole. The practice of exploring and envisioning will open our minds to the possibilities that exist for enriching our own lives as well as the lives of others with whom we interact.
All things considered, I’d have to say that Jon & Kate, or at least the producers of Jon & Kate, set a very good example for which I am truly grateful.