Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

United States


I blog about my Catholic faith, my prayer life, good books and good movies.

On Using My Government Degree To Run A Family

Abigail Benjamin

I'm in a place in my life where all my weaknesses as a leader show up daily inside my life. I'm 40 and I've got a new six month old baby.  I'm coming off of survival mode. There are a back-log of projects that are piled up in my life and usual "just smile and go with the flow" style of leadership isn't cutting it anymore. 

I need to lead!

I haven't seen a domestic leadership structure inside the Catholic church that works for some of my "hard to lead" children in my life. I've seen the top down "You must obey me" type of leadership style. I have one child who that type of authoritative command style just invites a major power struggle. It becomes this massive time suck in my day and I feel an emotional hangover afterwards that can last for hours. 

The opposite technique that I've seen is a quiet nurturing of a love for obedience from birth. As an experienced Mom, I can see myself growing in the ability to teach this skill. I've found out that there really is a window of time under age 5 where almost anything is fun to do with Mom, so I can teach "this is how we help Mom get good vegetables at the grocery store." There is so much natural learning going on with shapes, and colors and smells and the science of nutrition that asking my 4 and 3 year old to help me put the vegetables in the cart is an easy addition.

If a family was a business, the pre-school set would be the young intern eager to learn and my husband is fellow Manager who is incredibly kind and competent, but never around. I'm left directing the 3 smart, junior level employees who all have much more interesting things to do than listen to me tell them what to do.

I'm stuck in this awkward space where we have way more work than a regular two kid American household  but I'm down to one arm because I'm carrying a baby. We're late to the game so we didn't start "best practices" for good attitudes at birth.

Here's the thing I've never read before on another blog, I discovered that smart kids are hard to lead. My smart kids wake up with a firm agenda for their day, and its not easy for me when I interrupt their plans for world domination by asking them to help me unload the groceries. So my tendency was to do practically all domestic work by myself because it wasn't worth the hassle to ask for their help. The I would ask for their help in an emergency like situation and be totally frustrated that this wasn't an easy "listen and follow my directions because I'm the leader" type of situation.

In the middle of this chaos, I started using my Government degree.  If I get into a situation in ordinary life where I'm overwhelmed--such as I've got 10 bags of groceries to feed a family of 8, a grumpy teething baby, and kids who are in open revolt about helping me unload the car, I stop and hold a Town Hall Meeting.

I go for "consensus government."  I sit down. I get everyone to focus around me. I lay out the general problem and suggest a goal. Then I step back and let my kids creative talk and solve the problem themselves.  I call it "getting buy-in". They call it "not getting told what to do."

It takes time.  I need to be inside our house (which makes things safe and not time sensitive.) Yet I'm always shocked when better ideas come out of a consensus Town Hall style meeting, than either me or my husband can generate alone.

For example, unloading groceries from the car. I thought that I'd ask my 3 kids age 12,10, & 8 to help me unload my car all at the same time and put groceries away at the same time. Yet in the meeting, my kids decided to specialize in the food products that of most interest to themselves. Alex is handling all the meat and diary, which have the highest risk of spoilage if we accidentally forget them inside the car. Hannah is excited about her height, so she nominated herself "Tall Shelf Girl". Maria is the "Vegetable Girl." 

My kids asked me "Who are you?" I said "I'm the manager!" My son said "No Mom, you're our sidekick!" and he gentle hugged me to his side. I thought to myself, "This explains our problem. I think I'm in charge of you and you think that I'm your sidekick."

At first, I wanted to fight with that depiction because I felt like "Mom are supposed to be in charge of their kids!" I looked around my family and I saw this joy and this comfort with me. I thought "I can work with this!"

I'm thankful that reading a lot about government theory, helps me be more flexible in my thinking about authority. I have definite goals for where I want my family to move. Yet I can allow for greater creativity in how we move forward.

What I don't want to do anymore is argue about "fairness" because no everyone has the same definition inside my family about what counts as "fair." 

No matter how tired I am, I always have the energy inside to chair a committee meeting. If I can't be consistent in my discipline. If I can't be organized enough to never need to go grocery shopping midweek without my husband's help. If I can't have any other skill that will show up reliably regardless of my distraction due to my allergies, my  babies teething, or my neighbor's barking dog, at least I always have my Government degree. That inbred philosophy is enough to get me through the hardest of days.

Thank goodness for the practicality of a liberal arts education!