A new house, a new family.
If one member of a team changes, it becomes a whole new team. So says a basic tenant of Change Management Theory, an “organizational process aimed at helping change stakeholders to accept and embrace changes in their business environment.”
This concept applies to a family just as much as any other team. So if a new member enters the household, like when a baby is born, or one leaves, as in goes off to college, the team needs to be examined anew. This means roles may need to be redefined and work restructured.
This seems like an obvious truth to me. Growing up I was the youngest of three kids with a total of ten years between us and my dad and mom separated when I was 11, so there were a lot of changes with respect to who lived in the home. Now, as a parent of two, I have also seen firsthand just how much dynamics can change when a new child comes into the family. I suspect if my dog could talk she could write her dissertation on this.
But what never occurred to me, until now, is just how much this rule also applies to the house itself. I realized it pretty quickly though, when we moved from the home in which my kids were born and raised recently and I saw just how many of our dynamics had to change based on our new layout.
For one thing, the new place is split level with three floors, each set of stairs being only about a half of flight each. But the old house was well under a thousand square feet and there was truly nowhere in the house where I couldn’t hear most every breath my two daughters took. I never realized how much I parented by sound—usually depending on a certain kind of silence mothers everywhere seem to recognize as a sign that the kids need to be checked in on because “it’s just too quiet in there.”
Too, that distance created a whole new way of communicating via yelling. This took me over a week to call a family meeting about but we now all try our best to use our feet to find someone rather than our voices. It’s still a tough one though.
Most disconcertingly, the girls now have a shared bedroom and playroom upstairs with our kitchen and living space downstairs. Of course a ridiculous amount of my time is spent in the kitchen. Sometimes I think if I just put up a cot there I could do away with my bedroom altogether. But this means I can't easily keep an eye on much of the tricks and trouble going on while I’m in the kitchen, water often running, boiling or swishing through the dishwasher. This totally changes the ways in which my two girls, ages 5 and 2, now interact with each other and their things.
For instance, they both know that although I do try to let them work things out on their own, sometimes an adult's help is needed, and this may come a bit later now that I'm so far away. This seems to have made my youngest a bit louder and quicker with her reactions. Whereas my eldest, at times tries to test just what she can get away with a bit more, and at others helps her sister far more, playing her 'Little Mama' role more than ever with no real mama in sight.
My friend Heather Caliri moved over two years ago now and she concurs, “When we moved to a place with stairs it was a whole new ballgame. The kids felt isolated and I felt worried. I don’t even know if I've gotten used to it yet, it still sometimes feels like two different houses.”
Somehow, just understanding that this is something others have also experienced makes it a little better. Too, looking at it from the perspective of Change Management helps me realize that this has not just been a layout change, or change of address. This new house is like a new member of the team. We need to look at all of our roles, work, and ways of operating together anew and make sure that it's all working as it should be. To recognize this and begin to approach a restructuring with a method makes it much more manageable.
We’ve only moved four blocks away, in terms of location change, it’s nothing. But now I know, a new house means a new family and it's time to get to know one another all over again.