Fred wiped the sweat from his brows. His vision clouded as the tears filled his eyes. He dabbed the tears from the corners of his eyes as he needed to clear his vision to see the road. He couldn’t believe what Clara had just told him at home.
She was leaving. She insisted that they no longer had a future and it was too risky to continue to live with him as his wife. No, she hadn’t met someone else but her business was struggling and she didn’t want to drag it down any further. The financial load she had carried for 18 months was becoming unbearable. She had certainly done her best but she didn’t want to be submerged under financial woes.
Fred had pleaded with her that things would get better soon. He would soon find a job as he accepted that his business had flopped. He still owed his office staff 12 months’ salary and many had left, accepting sundry equipment in exchange for salaries owed. He had stopped being the provider at home, he didn’t have any sustenance and the kids knew he wasn’t the parent who paid their school fees. They asked their mum for school needs and gave her their school report at the end of each term.
Sex had become history between them as she certainly was tired of a man who couldn’t put food on the table but who could get a hard-on at night. Her energy was needed for her business, not her matrimonial bed. It was certain that for Clara their vows didn’t hold sway any longer.
With no fight for the marriage left in him, Fred called up his friend from school, Emeka. Emeka told him to come over. He was away from work for the week. He had taken a few days off because he was stressed and tired. He’d wait for Fred at home.
’Hello, my man’ Emeka greeted his friend from school with a high five. Fred struggled to return the greeting. Emeka noticed his bloodshot eyes but decided he’d wait to hear the story. Fred told him the whole story in as much of an emotional-but-fault-avoiding way as he could. Emeka felt sorry for his friend. He asked him just one question ’Why did you get married?’
How many of us are truly able to answer that question? If we were sincere we would have such answers like ’she was pregnant’; ’it was the next thing to do’; ’we were in love and wanted to spend our lives together’; ’my mum liked her/him’. The answers would be as mundane as the thoughts behind them.
Marriage is an enterprise and it ought not to be taken lightly, irreverently or without much thought. It is a life commitment and a great emotional investment. That is why only adults are allowed by law to get married. It requires a plan and a purpose. A good marriage doesn’t always happen without a lot of work. It’s important to have a plan for your life as a married couple. Every enterprise has a vision so why not your marriage?
As with our businesses and even personally we all have a vision for them so why not for our families? Stephen Covey in his book titled, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, describes a family mission statement as ‘’a combined unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about ……and the principles you choose to govern your family life’’.
Family vision statements encapsulate a family’s idea of the good life and lays out its purpose, goals and standards. All members of the family have a hand in articulating these values and all agree to live by them.
When we were growing up, many of us were constantly reminded or cautioned to remember the son of who we were. Other than recalling it when we were among friends, in caricature of our parents, we hardly gave the statement further thought.
People who thought about this statement have commented in words like
‘It helped me select friends because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents by my actions’
‘There are some practises we don’t do in our house because they don’t align with our family values’.
‘They didn’t tell me but my mum would always say don’t go with people who do not fear God’.
‘Not like written down principles or something discussed but its a large family and as we grew up we saw how our parents behaved. Cautions and repercussions too’.
‘Values for me wasn’t spelt out but we saw it through their actions as we are involved e.g. kindness, my parents were heavy on this’.
The curious thing in all the respondents who gave answers to what they understand by and are reminded concerning the son of who they are was that no one told them what values or standards they were expected to hold up to. They learnt by trial and error and were punished or reprimanded when they stepped out of lines they didn’t know existed.
Many families do not have a vision. They play family by the ear. A family vision statement is more than a subtle threat to children or family members about good behaviour when they do not understand or know what the aspirations of their families are.
Marital vows are powerful and shouldn’t be restricted to the day they are taken and forgotten the very next day. They need to be studied and discussed by a couple either before they get married or as soon as possible afterwards. It should form a guide to the crafting of a family vision.
What basic areas of family life do we need to view to carve a family vision statement? This article can only look at the basics as each family have their own peculiar circumstances and would need to bring such special circumstances into the discussions of their family vision.
Time has passed in parenting when we read the rules to the children. Discussion and co-creation of such intentionally and participatorily seems to be what works today. That way, every member of the family takes ownership of the family agreement. They are constantly reminded about what they have joined together with everyone else to create. It creates a destination in the minds of every member of the family, making provisions for times when plans go awry but most of all creating a guide for each member of the family when no one is watching.
A child should be able to gauge his father’s reaction to this behaviour based on the family guidance agreement. A husband should be able to sit with his wife and build a family budget and war chest, in the eve of job loss or financial reverses. This would change once the children start to come and start to grow and have their own call on the family income. A couple ought to plan the number of children they will have, what would happen if the desired gender does not come and what kind of future they want for such children. This would involve how they want to meet their financial and moral goals.
It must always be remembered that a family vision statement is a dynamic document which all family members affirm loyalty to. Egos need not be allowed to get in the way. When we are committed to a family vision statement, with the values and directions of our family, our vows will definitely make more sense than the statement that is forgotten right after the wedding ceremony.
It’s time to get your family together to discuss issues surrounding money, how to sync your personal goals, third parties, discipline, health or sickness, estate planning, integrity and even empty nest. When are you going to do so?
Make your vows count, craft a family vision and write it out for all to run with.