Family Resolutions: Natalie and David

Family Resolutions: Natalie and David
This year, make family first your New Year's resolution.
"My family is just constant noise, constant motion, constant chaos," says Natalie, who's been married to David for 19 years. They have seven children: Jeffrey, 16, Daniel, 14, Thomas, 12, Madelyn, 10, Abigail, 8 and 3-year-old twins Robert and William. Plus, they care for over 40 animals. "Our kids are involved in a lot of activities. Everyone plays an instrument. The boys do sports, the girls do gymnastics. The boys raise pigs, goats, and turkeys. The girls raise the chickens," explains Natalie.

"Most of our family time is either running errands in the car or it's the chores. There's always something to fix. There's the gardening, the yard work, the mowing. Most nights of the week, our dinner is just a free-for-all," she says. "I'll either make something in the crock pot and leave it out on the counter. Or maybe it's frozen dinners. Maybe it's just peanut butter sandwiches."

Natalie says she felt like she had things under control until she had the twins. "They try to think of the most bizarre, naughty, messy, dangerous thing they can possibly do. And they like to strip too. They don't want to wear clothes. I always just feel like it takes one little thing and it will come crashing down. Everything's not OK," she says.
David agrees with his wife. "Ninety-nine percent of the time everybody is going in different directions and I feel like I've lost control of the family," he says. "It starts at 5:30 and then it goes until midnight. We just don't spend any quality time together as a family. We've got lists everywhere on how to organize this, but it doesn't quite seem to work out. We'd love to have dinner together as a family, but the table is too small. We can't all fit at the table. Some of us sit at the breakfast bar while the rest of us squeeze around the table."

David says raising twins has been one of the hardest things he's ever done. "One of them is up almost every night and comes and gets in bed with us. I have to leave. There's no room for all three of us in there," he says.

"I pretty much work 12-plus hours a day," says David, who's a teacher and a bus driver. "We'd love to take a family vacation together, but it's near impossible to do with this many kids. I feel like I'm operating with my head just barely above water," he adds. He also misses spending time with his wife. "Our relationship has been affected by the chaos. Without a doubt, something is missing."

David and Natalie ask Dr. Phil: "For 2005, can you help us find a way to spend more time together as a family?"
"Well first, let me give you a really good piece of advice: Stop having kids!" jokes Dr. Phil. "Seven kids. Are you done?"

"We were going to be done at six," says David. "We had five and we said, 'Just one more.' And we had twins. We're really done."

"We're talking about no kidding changing things in your home. And that's going to mean a couple of things. One is that nothing is sacred. You have to be willing to challenge everything in your life," says Dr. Phil. "Are you willing to do that?"

"Except give away a kid?" asks Natalie, laughing.

"You can keep the kids. You can even keep all the pets. But you've got to change your patterns. You got to be willing to challenge all of that. I made a list of interesting words in the letter you wrote me. I think words are really powerful about how people describe themselves and their own life. Here's what you said: 'Stressed out, overscheduled, out of control, chaotic, all different directions, husband doesn't deal with a lot of the issues, barely time to shower.'"
Dr. Phil continues: "And then you talked about the twins: 'Pennies in the VCR, scribbling on the walls, pulling all the bedsheets off so they can jump better, taking all the towels and stuffing them in the bathtub and then flooding the bathroom, throwing their lunch around ... our life is a house of cards that's toppling, I'm a control freak out of control so I'm sick physically, mentally, emotionally. Headaches, insomnia, sleepiness, weight gain, depression, totally out of control, laundry is never done, can't keep track ...'"

Natalie agrees.

"The reason I'm saying this is because you can't change what you don't acknowledge," Dr. Phil tells her. "If you acknowledge that this is really stacking up on you, then we can start changing it. And all of this is happening with a great hardworking husband and great kids. It's just that there's so much there that you just can't get it all done."

Dr. Phil tells Natalie how she is contributing to the problem. "I think you're a very loving, well-intended mom, but I think you're making a critical mistake. You said you were a bit of a control freak and I think you have problems delegating ... You try to do everything and that's admirable, but not doable. So you have to be able to delegate to your husband and to your kids."
Dr. Phil asked the kids what they could do to help out. Here are their New Year's resolutions:

Jeffrey, 16: Mom and Dad, this year, for my New Year's resolutions, I'd like to help the family by being a good example to my brothers and sisters. Try not fight with them and spend more time with the family by maybe sacrificing some of the time that I spend out with my friends.

Daniel, 14: Mom and Dad, this year, I'm going to try to not tease my brothers and sisters. I'm a good math whiz so I'd like to help my other siblings with math homework.

Thomas, 12: Mom and Dad, I'd like to help our family. If I see you guys stressed, I could calm down and be more of a help and listen to you.

Madelyn, 10: Mom and Dad, I want to help you by cleaning people's rooms because I love cleaning people's rooms. And I could clean your room and the baby's room and whatever you need me to. And I'll do the kitchen and stuff like that and then I'll make your day by helping you do things that you didn't think or didn't ask for us to do.

Abigail, 8: Mom and Dad, I would like to help you with the babies so you can get rest and so you can have more time to work and I would also want to help you with keeping the babies calmer and remembering to get up and feed the animals."If you want to turn chaos into harmony and rhythm — an energetic rhythm, but nonetheless a rhythm — You have be willing to delegate and have everybody take care of something so you don't have to be there overseeing it all," explains Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil also stresses the importance of family meals. "In this day and time, everybody says, 'Our schedules are crazy, we can't do all of this, everybody's racing around, life is too busy.' As leaders you guys have to stop and say, 'No, we are going to have some family meals every week. TV is going to be off. Telephone is going to be off the hook. Nobody is going to be distracted in any way and we're just going to sit down
and we're going to have conversation and a meal."

Dr. Phil presents the family with a new dining room table and 10 place settings from Pottery Barn, and urges them to make mealtime a family priority. The family joins him on stage to have their first meal of the new year together.

Dr. Phil also surprises them with a family vacation to Universal Orlando in Florida! Orbitz.com is providing the airfare and they'll be staying at the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. "While you're gone, we don't want the pets to starve so we got in touch with the people at Iams and they're going to give you a lifetime supply of pet food," Dr. Phil tells them.