Consider this: Family Mission Statements

My wife attended a baby shower yesterday for some new friends of ours. Upon entering their home, she noticed a curious framed document on the wall. Actually, everyone noticed it. One mother was almost brought to tears.

“It” was a family mission statement written before the couple was married five years ago. Before their 3-year-old son was born. Before their baby girl who will arrive in two weeks.

It reads:

[Last name]‘s Family Mission Statement

We are compassionate and kind.
We are committed to family.
We will be caring in our relationships with our family and friends.
We want to be role models and guides for our children.
We will encourage creative expression in each other.
We will lovingly support each other as we strive to reach our individual potentials.
We will grow old and wise together.

Our home will be filled with love and laughter.
Our sanctuary will inspire and renew us, enabling us to contribute our best to the world.
Our home will be a haven for our family and friends to gather and share life’s ups and downs.
Our home will be a nurturing place for children and animals.
Our home will be a safe and comfortable place for self-expression.

We enjoy helping others in our daily lives.
We strive to work with passion and discipline.
We want to bring the love and positive energy from our relationship into our careers and the world around us.
We will live our lives in a manner that is free from harm to other living beings.
We want to bring the peace within our home to our world community.

The baby shower was an old-timey girls-only shindig, so when my wife came home gushing about (Erin and Kiran’s) mission statement, I had to call ‘em up and learn more. I interviewed them separately.

Why have a mission statement?

Erin — It was Kiran’s idea. He saw beyond the first rush of love, and wanted to take those feelings and articulate them. It’s how we envisioned our life to be while we were steeped in those feelings. [Remember, they wrote it before they were married.]

— We wanted to, like any other venture, whether it be a business or a group working on a project, to have a mission statement that focuses the people involved in a common goal.

How do we see ourselves living our lives? When we wrote it, we were doing or trying to do those things [listed in the statement], trying to bring out the best in each other.

[Lest you think Kiran has an MBA, I'll divulge what he usually doesn't tell people because he doesn't like a job title to define a person. He's a family practice doctor.]

Tell me about writing the mission statement

Kiran — We were living in southern California at the time and wrote it at the beach. We started by thinking of qualities in other people that we really liked. Who do you admire? What qualities of those people do you admire? If you admire it in someone else, you probably have it in yourself.

For example, I admire my mother because she has integrity. I feel like I have integrity. If it felt true, it became a word we thought about including in the mission statement.

If we couldn’t identify with something, such as, “We are magnets to money,” then we didn’t feel that was true for us. But if we say, “We value feeling abundant,” then it’s not necessarily about money. It can be about love and having access to opportunities.

We did this part separately with two pieces of paper, individually exploring what we value. Then we brought the papers together and circled the things that were in common and worked them into our mission statement.

[They also adapted and explored questions posed in a book intended for crafting a personal mission statement. Here are a couple online resources I dug up...]

Erin — We also had a series of questions about writing a generic mission statement. We read the questions together at the beach and brainstormed answers, and culled the most important, combining the things that were similar into more inclusive statements, and paired it down to the most basic ideas.

We later read it at our wedding, right after we kissed in the ceremony. We took turns reading each sentence while facing the congregation.

Tell me about your including children and animals in your statement before you were married.

Erin — I had a cat before I met Kiran. She peed on him all the time and we had to give her away. But we always knew we were going to have pets and knew we were going to have kids. We imagined having a nurturing kind of environment.

Kiran — Both of us liked animals, but the cat didn’t like me and would pee on me while I was sleeping. We had to grapple with wanting animals and being loving and caring to them while the cat didn’t like me. So, for our future, we wanted a positive environment for animals. And also, we’re vegetarian.

We definitely planned on having children and wanted them to have a supportive environment. It’s not that our parents did a bad job with us, but we’re aware of things we wanted to do better. We wanted to keep that in mind when we started parenting.

After five years of marriage, is there anything you would revise or add to the statement?

Erin — The mission statement is broad enough to carry us through whatever stage of life we are in. Back then we said we wanted to have an open home; I feel we don’t have that yet.

Kiran — I don’t know if we’ve lived up to everything yet. One of the things we wanted to do is have our house open to people — friends, family… We’ve moved a number of times, and our home hasn’t been a gathering place like we envisioned it being. That’s something I’d like to strive for in the future.

Where is your mission statement displayed?

Kiran — When you open the front door, it’s to your right. It’s the first thing you see walking in the house.

Erin — It’s there so we can see it when we come and go to remind us of how we want to be in the world, and what’s important to us.


What do you Thinga-readers think of all this?

Also see previously: Thingamababy’s longest article: How
to Raise your Children to be the Type of Adults You Want Them to Be
(Parenting Vision Statements: Useful or a Bunch of Hooey?)


11 Responses to “Consider this: Family Mission Statements”

  1. thordora says:

    While I love having the discussions about all of that with my husband, having a mission statement on my wall would make me feel like I was at work. Where the mission statements are all talk.

    Much more comfortable rediscovering our wants, needs and dreams every so often, and reiterating what we want in our lives. This is just too businesslike for me.

    June 9th, 2008 at 4:10 am

  2. Ticia says:

    In a class I took, they talked about family mission statements or constitutions. As they talked about it you made it after the kids were born and everyone agreed and signed it. Rather like the country’s Constitution when it was made. They also encouraged revisiting it from time to time to see if it’s still what your family wanted. It’s helpful because it’s what the whole family agreed to and the kids can’t say they didn’t know the rules were there. I think we might do one at a point where our kids are a little older (read not 3 and 18 months).

    June 9th, 2008 at 5:18 am

  3. Stephanie says:

    I wouldn’t take this as being like work, but rather like a different kind of poetry. It refocuses your attention on what is really important and what your priorities are. If it isn’t something you really inspires you, then of course it’s going to feel like work. It’s like a prayer without being preachy. When you took marriage vows (which are very similar), did you feel like it was work? I think it’s nice to have something to go back to as a reminder of what you aspire to be as a family.

    June 9th, 2008 at 6:28 am

  4. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    I love this!
    Another bloggy friend of mine, also has a family vision statement. There’s is on their blog.

    I wish we had such a thing (and I don’t think you need to wait to have children and them be old enough to contribute. IT is never too early or too late to figure out what your family is going to be about.

    Sure, if you are doing it with children, include them. But a family is a family before the children come along and after they move out of the house too.

    June 9th, 2008 at 8:15 am

  5. bombaygirl says:

    Sounds very Landmark Forum to me.

    June 9th, 2008 at 8:01 pm

  6. kelli says:

    I like this “family rules” painting. Sort of along the same lines:

    June 9th, 2008 at 9:02 pm

  7. Rachel says:

    I kinda like this. It’s hokey on the one hand, but it’s a nice type of list of affirmations for the family, something to take a little time out and reflect on on occasion when things get hectic or you’re having a bad parenting day. Those things happen to the best of us.

    PP is right in that it sounds Landmarkish in a way, but I don’t think everything coming out of that or similar types of “Self-work” practices are bad at all. Take what is useful, leave the rest, which is pretty much my philosophy in life all around.

    June 9th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

  8. Darby says:

    I think it’s great. I find it akin to putting beautiful, expressive photographs of your family, children, friends and pets on the walls of your home. We do at our home, and just looking at our photos brings all the same things to mind that their mission statement does.

    Also, I am reminded again of why I am NOT a cat person.

    June 10th, 2008 at 5:45 am

  9. Joe says:

    My wife & I have kind of an ongoing chat about this, where we discuss what we like in the world and what we don’t like, and how we can incorporate and avoid the likes & dislikes.

    I laughed when I read the comments about being at work, because I agree… hanging inspirational things on the wall sort of robs the words of the inspiration after a while. But reading it for the first time is very nice!

    June 10th, 2008 at 7:28 am

  10. Sara says:

    While I would probably never write down, frame and display a mission statement for my family (not really my style), I think this is something that is an important discussion for every couple to have and have often, before kids, with infants, with teenagers, etc. Often we get sidetracked with all the busyness of our lives and we can lose focus of the big picture. As you discuss these items with your significant other/spouse/family, it reminds you why you do certain things and why you don’t do others. It unites you in one purpose. My hubby and I have mini-mission-statement-like conversations all the time, and usually in response to an issue that comes up in our day, at work or on the news, etc. It sparks discussion, we talk about viewpoints, and conclude how we would like our family to be. Such important things, and an ongoing conversation we would never end.

    June 10th, 2008 at 8:09 am

  11. jodi says:

    We lived in Raleigh when we were first married and had friends who had done the same thing…theirs was beautifully displayed combined with a black & white photo of themselves…I loved it. I still think it would be a great idea for us to do now, we’ve just never taken the time. Thanks for the reminder!

    June 11th, 2008 at 12:12 pm