Peeling Potatoes For a Purpose

By Jordan Langdon

Growing up, I never truly appreciated why our family was always on the go, helping people.  

“Let’s go, kids! We’re going to help Evelyn rake up her leaves this morning”, my dad would yell up the stairs.  With loud groans and a sigh, we would all reply back with whatever dream we had for that particular Saturday morning, being crushed.  Without an explanation or flinch, our parents would repeat “come on, let’s go” and we would reluctantly follow and do as we were told.

I was raised in a small, rural community- 1,200 people to be exact. There was always someone who could use a warm casserole for dinner or help with snow removal or yard work.  My parents had plenty of their own yard work and snow removal to do too, maintaining a large corner lot they took pride in. But still, they pressed on, meeting the needs of neighbors and friends.

As I look back, I see a set of parents who ordered their priorities and built their weekly activities around just that - family priorities.  Helping others had to have been in the top tier. If I ask my parents, they never really had a formal discussion about the top 3 or top 5 priorities they wanted to cling to in marriage and parenting.  But, somehow, it was understood between both of them.

If I had to imagine their unspoken list being an intentional conversation and commitment to these priorities, early on in their marriage, it may have sounded something like this:

Tim: “You know, ...There are a few things I think are really important in life that I want to pass on to our kids.

Connie: “Ok, what are they?”

Tim: “Helping others and filling in the blanks wherever it’s needed.  You know, I’d like to volunteer my time singing and playing guitar for different events around town and for church.  And I can just imagine you being along with me preparing good hearty meals and helping to organize these events and make sure all the gaps have been filled in and the event is enjoyed by everyone.  You’re such a good cook and helping people have good meals to enjoy is something your mom always did too!”

Connie: “Ok, but I like to garden and be outside, too.  Let’s sign up to be on the Chamber of Commerce or be in charge of a community clean up day in the spring and fall, too.'“

Tim: “And I’d like our kids to have an appreciation for the outdoors.  Let’s continue to go hiking and biking when we have kids.”

Connie: “I would love have our kids hiking around the buttes with us, exploring nature and building huts out of tree bark.'“

Tim: “And both of us grew up going to church.  I want to continue to go to church and to be active in the music ministry and for us to be the family who is making meals for funerals and cakes for weddings.”

Ok, let’s stop right there.  Again, this was not a conversation my folks ever had.  But imagine if it were. Imagine if, in marriage, couples talked about their top 5 Priorities for family life.  And what if, in priority order, those priorities looked something like this:

  1. God

  2. Spouse

  3. Kids

  4. Extended Family & Friends

  5. Career

Before you stop reading, thinking… “What?! Career is #5? Not a chance!”, stay with me.

How many of us struggle with “balance” in our lives? As parents, it seems we are constantly evaluating whether we have enough “down time” or whether we have our kids in enough sports or if we are seeing our aging parents often enough or are putting enough effort into our businesses.

And there is never an audible, booming answer to the question of balance in family life.

But what if, every time we had that feeling of confusion about making a decision  about whether to do something or to say Yes to another commitment, we set our eyes back on our list of 5 priorities and asked ourselves, “Where does this fit, in the list of our priorities?” Perhaps, the confusion we were originally feeling, would subside.  Perhaps, our collective “Yes” or collective “No”, as a family, would be rooted in confidence and a sense of peace.

What if we stopped looking outside our family unit at how other families spend their time and resources, and instead spent time looking inward and having meaningful discussions with our spouse about what matters to us?  

My parents never had the conversation outlining their priorities as a married couple or as parents.  What they did was utilized their individual strengths and talents to serve their family, friends, neighbors and their place of employment.  And that worked, too!

But what if they did have this conversation early on in their marriage?  Perhaps if they did and then shared those priorities with us kids, there would have been fewer Saturday morning grumblings from upstairs.  Although, I’m not delusional, thinking we would have jumped out of bed eager to help, but I wonder if we would have had a better understanding of the purpose behind them dragging us to rake leaves for the neighbors and helping peel potatoes for the church picnic.

If you and your spouse talked about the top 5 most important values, in your family, what would your list of Family Priorities look like?  How would you like to make visual, the priorities of your family, so they are front and center in the minds of your spouse and kids?

Jordan is a wife and mother to 3 children. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice, where she counsels individuals and couples addressing marriage and family issues. The family enjoys RV trips in the summer and college football excursions in the fall. Jordan also joins Sarah Newman for FB/Insta Live Videos every Tuesday at 11:30am MST to bring the realities of parenting front and center and offer support and suggestions for making family life fun again!

Jordan Langdon