It seems like I always find myself in the same situation.
Two people in my little family want something different from me at the same time. And I want to meet both person’s needs or wants, but it is just physically impossible for me to do so.
Inevitably, this situation makes me feel frustrated and helpless. The automatic thoughts of “I’m not a good mom” and “you family will think you don’t love them” run through my head during these times where I want to please everyone in my family, but for one reason or another I just can’t.
Sometimes the situation is over something simple like my daughter Belle will want pizza for dinner while my son Patrick wants spaghetti – and they both really, really want their dinner choice.
But sometimes the situation is a lot more complex and involves more feelings than just a dinnertime battle. I’ve been put in the situation before when Belle will have an important function at her school on the same night that Patrick has something important at his school.
Which one do I attend?
Who do I disappoint?
Because no matter which decision I make, someone is going to be mad at me. One child is going to feel as if I like the other child better.
Recently, this kind of situation came up again in my little Modern Family. As many of my readers know, my Modern Family consists of my two wonderful kids, as well as other extended family members such as my sister and her family, my mom, and my ex-husband and his boyfriend.
Every year for the past several years Jeff and his boyfriend Keith take part in the AIDS/LifeCycle ride as a fundraiser for AIDS research. This ride is a week-long, 545 mile trek that starts in San Francisco and ends in Los Angeles – I can’t even imagine being on a bike for that long! The kids and I like to support Jeff and Keith by being at the finish line to celebrate with them.
The finish line festivities usually includes an all-day family outing that consists of yummy food trucks, live music and events, and a stirring presentation by the ALC staff about the fight to end AIDS and the courageous people who are involved in this fight.
The kids and I love to spend this day with Jeff and Keith, but I don’t think it’s going to happen this year. This year, Patrick will be taking the SAT exam on the same morning that Jeff and Keith cross the finish line, and since we live about an hour and a half away from LA, I just don’t see how I can make both things work.
So because i have been put in this situation of having to choose between two different needs/wants from my family members in the past, I have developed a system of compromise that seems to work for my little Modern Family. Here ar the steps I take in deciding how to comprise:
- Try to determine if one person’s need/want is more important than the other person’s need/want. In this situation, I think Patrick’s SAT exam (which hopefully happens just once during his lifetime) is the most important event on Saturday.
- Brainstorm all other possible solutions that might still meet the other person’s need/want.Can the SAT date be moved? No. Can the ALC finish line date be moved? No. Can Patrick find his own transportation home from the SAT exam so that Belle and I can go to the ALC finish line festivities? Probably.
- Will any of the ideas developed during the brainstorming process help solve the problem? Does this possible solution still align with your personal Passions, Values, and Beliefs (PVBs)? When considering my possible options, having Patrick find his own transportation home could solve this problem, but this does not align with my personal PVBs. My personal PVBs (which are mine – you probably have different PVBs) includes always meeting my kids’ needs first over extended family members; therefore, I think not being there for Patrick after such a big event is not the way that I want to parent.
- Make the compromise.This step is obvious, but what I want to point out here is that this step actually provides me with a little peace of mind. I know that when I communicate my decision to my family about the compromise, someone’s feelings will be hurt, but I feel less horrible about it because I feel like I have gone through a fair process of coming to this decision. This step is my of gaining some confidence in my parenting ability.
So, I know that Jeff and Keith will be sad that we won’t be there this year to celebrate their awesome achievement, but I also know that they understand why we are not there, too.
After using the above 4 steps over the years to deal with compromise in my family, I think my family has learned to trust me in these kind of decisions. Sometimes the compromise process work in their favor and sometimes it doesn’t.
The most important take-home message is that by using the above 4 steps, my confidence in my parenting abilities has improved, my relationship with my kids and other extended family members has improved, and I am modeling to my kids how to positively and effectively compromise – which is an important life skill that can be used even outside of the family.