7400.362 - Family Life Management
School of Family and Consumer Sciences
Instructor: David D. Witt, Ph.D.

Introductions & Overview of Course
Simply said, Family Life Management is the application of managment skills to many aspects of one's personal and family life. Like any skill, management skills require dedication, focus and patience - a kind of practice and commitment in order to develop facility at their application.

This course is about Family Life Management in both theory and practice. By discussing the concepts of Family, Life and Management, as separate ideas, then as a combined kind of hybrid topic, we will begin to see obvious reasons why the three should be integrated. Together they form a way forward, a method for identifying then achieving our goals while trying to live a rewarding and full life. In this class we will talk about ways to better ‘manage’ our life - in the short run and over time.

Life can either happen all by itself, or it can be managed. The aim is to stop existing and start living.
If life is a dark, foggy highway with many potholes and dangers, applying management principles to life is like turning on the headlights, slowing down a little, being careful. ... and learning from one's mistakes and experience.

This idea of perfecting your management skills is important now, and will only become increasingly important as you grow into an active professional and engage in bringing up your children in a bewildering society. We now know that little in life is definite, and the person who does not organize their life in order to "roll with the punches" it brings will quickly find they're in resource trouble. Like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who has to keep running to stay in the same place - the treadmill phenomenon. Those who do not step to the beat will get thrown off course!

In social scienc we have theories that define all this. According to Erikson's Epigenetic Principle, the last stage of life - Late Life - is when a person looks back
on the record of events and is either filled with Integrity that things were managed well or is filled with Remorse and Regret that important things weren't completed.
The theory offers a glimpse into the future for those who want to be the person with Integrity.

Generally speaking, management involves using resources to achieve goals, that is, management means using the means to an end in a planned fashion. Peter Drucker, a famous management expert, taught that management’s “task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant” (1989, p.229). This definition stresses the interpersonal aspect as well as skills aspect of management. Most people would agree that management somehow involves using our abilities/strengths to make the best of our resources and relationships.

Why manage? Elizabeth Goldsmith, the author of your textbook, asserts that there are quite severe consequences for most people who ignore even simple management. She notes that the basic principles of management are applicable at every stage and segment of our lives - day in and day out. Far from just a set of business best practices, management is the core concept of the disciplinary principles of Family and Consumer Sciences. By learning about management, we gain insight into processes such as decision making, problem solving, economic and social challenges, teamwork and planning. If these processes work in the world of business and finance, it certainly is applicable to our personal lives as well.

Who manages? And how? Everybody must manage - bosses manage workers, workers manage their time and performance, parents manage children, children manage their school work and chores. And the best part is that learning management skills and applying them early in our lives will result in increased savings in terms of time, money, energy and emotional resources. The best managers may be the ones that have had training, or have learned to manage through their personal experience. Obviously a balance between training and learning by doing is optimal. How people manage – a person's management style – depends on many factors, including the richness of their personal experience, their biology, cultural elements, their unique individual personality, and the efficient use of burgeoning technology.

While the specific management process may differ somewhat from one person to the next, their is a consistent, general pattern at work among successful managers, and it involes the following steps, in a feedback loop:

Each of these aspects of the management process will be covered over the course of the semester, but for now, let us clarify steps involving:

Identification of Problems, the Difference between Needs and Wants, and the Development of Goals.
Just by identifying that there is something we lack, or want, or if there is a problem to be solved, or something to be fixed, we have started the process of management..

To differentiate between the things that might start off the process, remember:

  • a problem could be questions we have, dilemmas in which we find ourselves, or the perception that something has gone wrong and needs correction.
  • a need is something we must have in order to survive -either a physical, social, emotional, or personal need.- wealth/monetary or the need for information
  • a want is something you may not actually need, but something you desire -something that will give you pleasure or satisfaction onc e possessed.
  • and a goal is the end result hoped for in management - that which we work toward by actions we undertake to move progress - something that you see as an outcome

RESOURCES refer to whatever one has to work with - to use to manage their lives or solve their problems.
These are the physical, mental, and emotional tools that we use to mak progress toward our goals. They may come in different forms – time, money, people, technology, information, and so on. Of course, the tool we all think of first is money.

Money can mean success, freedom, or power to control our own destiny to some extent. People who live beyond their financial means tend to worry more, experience more stress and more illness, have less perceived/real security, more tension and more conflict inside and outside the family. The term “DINKS” got famous a few years back – it stands for “Double Income No Kids”. It was a status many young and ambitious couples embraced, only to regret their lifelong emphasis on self and career as they moved into later life. As it turns out, money is a fickle resource unless it is tempered with balance. It may make more sense investing in a more dependable resource like your spouse, children, and your material wealth contained in your home, while paying attention to the family's bottom line. Put another way - money problems cause a lot of other problems and tend to get in the way of assessing our real progress toward our goals. However, used well, and invested carefully, money can assure a comfortable life that has also allowed a person to spend time and effort doing the things they love with people they love.

Time is a resource that is probably more precious than money. For example, how would you like to have one hour a day that is completely and totally yours? No interruptions, just your personal private time. College students may appear to older people to be free of commitments, but in reality most have already climbed on that treadmill referred to earlier. We've all seen more than one movie telling the story of the man or woman who worked very hard, all their lives, only to find that their children are grown and their life is almost over, and they haven't enjoyed themselves and they have few memories of the time they had with others.

We see this in real life as well. It is difficult to understand parents who couldn't wait to have children, had them without planning for their future, and almost immediately begin searching for someone to take care of their children. They feel they are overwhelmed with their lives which consists mostly of working to make ends meet.   Had they spent more time with their children and family - thinking, talking, creating, loving, teaching their children, they would be happier. And they'd likely not have incurred the debt they are working so hard to pay off.

Information - In an increasingly complex world, one of the best ways to stay on top of changes is to "learn how to learn". This isn't as simple as it sounds. Many college students go to class, memorize what they need to score passing grades, and accumulate a list of courses constituting a course of study. This doesn't mean they've learned anything. That's because the process of actually learning new material is a personal, intimate journey. And the factor that influences how we learn, almost more than native intelligence or aptitude, is personal motivaton.

Information is the currency of learning, but the mastering the process of finding, assessing and using information is the real trick. Further, once a person develops their learning style and method, it can be transferred to others, such as the next generation of learners. We get information from people, books, television, the World Wide Web, newspapers, and so on. We don't treat all information equally, nor do we ever make the attempt to read and understand everything. Waht we do is develop a way to shift through the mountains of facts, to find the information we think we can use. It can be overwhelming.  

  • Electronic Resources: includes online articles, books, internet, e-mail, websites, web-based services and products, and a mind-boggling variety of things you can do on the web.
  • The library constitutes another excellent resource for information, which many students realize only after they have graduated!!
  • Combining these two, are online references, like the ones listed below:
  • For the UAkron library, you can access anything through www.uakron.edu/libraries Ziplink lets you borrow items for the whole semester, while Ohiolink will allow you to keep stuff for a few weeks only, since these items are requested from other libraries in Ohio. http://www3.uakron.edu/hefe/lib1.html will take you to a page from which you can access the Library of Congress (which, incidentally, is at www.loc.gov, and has nearly every thing ever written here!), learn how to cite references, and much, much more!!

We know where the information resides - in our class we'll talk about methods for accessing, analyzing and acting on it.

Work Experience is a resource that should reach beyond finances.. We want to find a job we like - one that is both challenging and within our abilities, and one that will afford us the opportunity to grow our skill levels. The perfect job will also have to allow us the opportunity to get home to the people we love. Our culture is one that allegedly values the work ethic in individuals. The problem with the work ethic is that often people interpret it to mean paid work rather than enjoyable work. And people often overwork themselves - dual earner families contribute over 80 hours a week to their jobs, are underpaid, teenagers work before/after school and on weekends, people with two or more jobs. What if we were able to work less and still make ends meet? If we needed less we could work less, so this is a matter of appetite, consumption, and simplifying our lives. Less time at work means more time available for other things.

People in our lives are resources - family, friends, co-workers, even the bank clerk and the people at the local grocery store are resources for various things in life. The focus in the class is on family, but others certainly are important to us.  In fact, it could be a valuable approach to this resource to see ourselves as part of a larger collectivity of interacting people, as if building a community for ourselves would include family and friends, co-workers, an auto mechanic, dentist, family practitioner, a banker, and so on, until you have someone at the end of the phone who knows your name and is willing to be part of your life. For example, while at college each student should be developing a professional student/mentor relationship with one or more of their favorite professors. These are people who can advise outside of class on matters of further education, next steps after college, your future.

In terms of family, the Census Bureau defines family as a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage or adoption and residing together in a household. This limited definition is useful to the Census Bureau, but doesn't quite work in reality, Family members vary in terms of their age, gender, energy levels, experience and wisdom. Older family members may have less energy and acuity than younger ones, but they have enormous experience on which to draw and asvise.

For Family Life Management, family composition and dynamics are changing rapidly all over the world, and this calls for special care to see that this valued institution does not rot away. As Goldsmith puts it, “Life Management encompasses all the decisions a person or family will make and the way their values, goals and resource use affect their decision making.”

Our own Skills and Interests are resources.
Learn about your special talents and make time to follow up on these. What you can do that’s unique and special will often make you indispensable at work as well as at home! Not to mention give you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that you are using your gifts!

In conclusion, we need to use all our resources in a way that we live a life of well-being and satisfaction, with enough challenge to keep us interested, and enough organization to keep us comfortable.
We want to learn to achieve a balance between work and family and ourselves.

Balance - Harmony - Peacefulness - Love
Sounds like hippy-talk, but it works! What special thing(s) can we do that make us indispensable and vital to others.

So Management is the process of using what we have to get what we want. Using resources to achieve goals.