Please welcome Abra to Primitive Roads! This is a fabulously meaty post with lots to ponder. Take it in and let it digest, then share your thoughts in the comments.
My head hits a mountain of clean laundry that is waiting to be folded on my bed. My whole body feels like a slug and all I want to do is crawl back in bed. I hear my toddler stirring in his crib. My daughter calls to me from the bathroom; she needs help finding the toothpaste. I forgot to run the dishwasher last night, so I need to wash plates and forks for breakfast. The toaster oven is smoking. 7:15 on Monday morning, and I am completely exhausted.
“Housekeeping” is the management of the home. For many of us, this is the mission field God has assigned to us. It can include (but is not limited to): Cultivating a healthy marriage, nurturing and training children so they can eventually start their own households, organizing events, providing food, setting the general tone, and bringing beauty and order to the home. That is a lot of responsibilities. The truth is, housekeeping never really ends. What it looks like today will change as we grow older and go through different stages of life, but the work itself is endless. Most of us just pick some arbitrary time to stop and go to sleep, and then the next day we picked up where we left off, which usually means picking up the same toys, cleaning the same dishes and sweeping the same floors as we did yesterday. Two steps forward, 3 steps back. Housekeeping can easily become discouraging and mind numbing work. When that happens, I find that I need to focus on three things to remedy the problem:
- Perspective: As Christians, our ultimate purpose is to glorify God. This is done by believing His promises and allowing our belief to change us (Matthew 16:24-26). As we are transformed, we will begin to bring glory to God in many ways, one of which is loving others sacrificially (Mark 12:30-31). Jesus was born so that He could die for us. We imitate His example every day by putting other’s interests before our own (putting our selfishness to death). Moreover, we can sacrifice our desires for the well being of those around us joyfully, knowing the sacrifices Christ has already made for us. Those of us who are blessed to be stay at home mothers have a multitude of ready opportunities to practice this art. We do laundry so our husband has something clean to wear to work. We scrub the toilet so whoever needs to use it will be blessed and not offended by the experience. We change dirty diapers because we want our baby to be healthy and comfortable. The very repetition of a housekeeper’s sacrifice can deepen our understanding of the gospel. To protect yourself from discouragement, remind yourself of Jesus’ sacrifice and give thanks for the many opportunities to mirror it daily. Don’t forget that every time you wash a dish, you are not only testifying to the worth humans have as God’s children, you are also enacting a micro-image of the gospel. Dish duty seems boring to those who don’t recognize the theology incarnated in it.
- Priorities: As a wife and mom, our top three priorities should be God, Husband, and our Children – in that order. You are subject to your husband under God. Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord”. That last part is extremely important. It tells us that our husbands are subject to God, which indicates that God should be numero uno in our lives. There should be no question about where your loyalties lie. Your husband should know that you will joyfully submit to him – in so far as he submits to God. He should know that you will not ignore sin in his life, but strive to respectfully point him towards Christ. As for children, your husband should always rank higher. You were a wife before you were a mother – which is the God created order. Your husband was with you before your children were born and he will be with you after they have grown up and left your home – emphasize your relationship with him. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should neglect your children. Your husband loves you and your children and he, too, should sacrifice his own interests on his family’s behalf. You are both working toward the well being of your home. My point is that we should not use our children as an excuse to neglect our responsibilities as a wife. The greatest gift you can give your children (and your husband) is a home where Mom respects Dad and Dad loves Mom. If you have to choose between quality time with your husband or making a nutrient rich meal – order pizza! Don’t offer up the dregs of yourself to your Beloved. Setting up your priorities this way will help you fight off the feeling of being overwhelmed. Prioritization (especially when it is coupled with God honoring physical intimacy) has a way of keeping your perspective clear and your day ordered. What is the first thing you should do in the morning? Offer up prayer and praise to God. Second thing, tell (or show) your husband you love him. Thirdly, bless your children. When something comes up and you don’t know how to handle it, ask God to guide you and listen for His answer. How to handle tantrums, what to clean first, whether you should be planning meals or winging it – all these ordinary questions have an answer that can be found through applying God’s principles offered in the Bible.
- Passion: This is tied into Perspective, or perhaps, an extension of it. True gratitude brings joy. Joy will be your shield against frustration, hopelessness, boredom and anxiety. Joy is the garden in which healthy passion is cultivated. Housekeepers, be passionate about your work! Become a student of the home. Ask questions, seek knowledge, always be pushing yourself to be a better cook, to be a better cleaner, to be a better mommy, to be a better lover. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by the wealth of information out there and remember to use moderation (perspective and priorities – burn out is often avoidable by thoughtful prioritization), but joyfully continue your education and you will never get bored. This sort of passion for your calling will greatly increase your quality of life – not to mention that your family will enjoy reaping the benefits of your new expertise. You will bring glory to God by praising Him and diligently seeking excellence in the vocation He has blessed you with. This will also prevent you from side-long glances that obliterate contentment. You will minister to your family and friends with your joyful spirit, welcoming home, delicious food, and best of all – your godly husband will see your joyful offerings and find you even more irresistible.
I am going to be perfectly honest with you, friends. I have not mastered godly housekeeping (not even close). Our work as homemakers will never end. With each new sunrise, most of the chores we did yesterday are undone and there is always room for improvement. I know this can be discouraging and overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be. With God as our strength, we can become the type of housekeeper Proverbs 31 encourages us to be. Not through sewing purple clothes or investing in real estate, necessarily, but by tending our hearts with similar respect and care with which they were created by our Father. In our lives, there will always be seeds to sow and feed and weeds to pull – and this will take a lifetime – and that is okay. We have a lifetime to spend on it.
I encourage you to start small: Pick one “P” from above and work on it tomorrow. Start by praying for God to give you energy, joy and discretion. Find the time every day to study your Bible – that is your guidebook, but it won’t be much help if you aren’t familiar with it (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Secondly, connect with your husband. Ask him for his input. Ask him what aspects of housekeeping are most important to him. What chores bless him the most and which ones can be put down lower on the list. Also ask your husband to pray for you daily and don’t forget to make him second only to God when you prioritize your time and energy. If finding the time to pray for your husband and fellowship with him means the laundry doesn’t get folded, that is ok. The laundry will still be there tomorrow. Thirdly, when you start to feel burned out, step back and re-prioritize. Remember that God rested on the seventh day and so should you. You need to rest in order to be fruitful. I recommend putting the un-necessaries on hold for a day or two and reading Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. In it DeYoung offers several different causes of an overly-busy life and points us to freeing, Bible-based solutions.
There are no step by step tips and tricks to make you a good housekeeper. But there are principles, like the ones I have shared, and below you’ll find a couple tips I have found helpful. However, what works for me may or may not work for you. I can tell you one of the most useful things I have learned was to stop seeing inconveniences as a bad thing. G.K. Chesterton said. “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” The first thing motherhood taught me was that I needed to learn flexibility if we were going to survive the adventure. One of the primary stressors in the life of a stay at home mom is the lack of free time and mental stimulation. I had four children in 8 years. There have been seasons of pure chaos and seasons where free time abounds. I don’t know what season you are in, but maybe some of these ideas can help usher some rest and sanity into your life:
Set your alarm for 15 minutes before you need to get up – this means you need to go to bed on time whenever humanly possible. Smart phones use an LED light which studyies suggest suppress melatonin, so I use mine to stimulate alertness when I’m groggy. I have a short devotional loaded onto my phone. My sweet husband brings me my coffee in bed (I know, I’m so spoiled!) and I sit there reading my devotional and infusing caffeine into my body before my feet ever hit the floor. I pray and then I get up. My husband and I try to do our Bible reading together and then we pray before he leaves for work – on days this doesn’t happen, we do it when he comes home. This practice has helped us start and finish our day with a united focus and healthy attitude.
Accomplish as many do-ahead/make-ahead chores during your most wakeful time of day. I am a night person, so I get the coffee maker ready, lunches packed, clothes laid out and occasionally even breakfast in the slow cooker before I go to bed at night.
Create free time for yourself. No, seriously, you can do this. Make nap time or quiet time sacred in your home. Encourage your children’s independent creativity. This might mean completely child-proofing a room in your house where they can play safely without supervision. Older children need to understand that one way to show mom respect and love is by giving her some time of quiet privacy. One way we start to teach them this principle from a young age is by not allowing them in the bathroom when mom is using it. Cultivating these types of little habits have a big payoff later. Alternately, a little TV won’t kill your kids! Find a movie or show that will keep your kid’s interests without destroying their brains – not all shows are created equal. With your new free time, make a priority of studying your Bible first and then spending the remaining time doing something you love (reading, painting, sleeping). The discipline of quiet time is good for your children to learn and the quiet time is good for you. You will also find yourself less flustered and worn out when your husband gets home from work, which will enable you to cultivate a better relationship with him in the evening. Everyone wins!
Make a chore list and then be reasonable with your expectations. Figure out (this is a good time to ask your husband for his thoughts) which chores are the most important and use that as a starting place. Delegate if possible. You are not a maid, you are a housekeeper. Even Jesus and the Proverbs 31 woman had help. Children need responsibilities and there is no shame in asking your husband for help when you need it. Right now, I’m using a chore app on my phone. It has a way to schedule which chores pop up on which days and the list is arranged in a manner that is efficient (thanks to professional maids who blog!) so I only have to do each chore once a day.
Audiobooks! I love them. They help keep my mind busy while I am doing routine chores. I put one earbud in my ear and leave the other ear open to hear my children as they play. There are lots of free books available to download through Librivox.com and your public library. This is also a good time to go back and re-listen through last week’s sermon that you only heard parts of because you were taking care of your kids in church. :-)
I am always on the hunt for new ways to improve my housekeeping abilities. What tips do you have for making the most of homemaking?
Abra and her husband, Ben, live in North Idaho where she stays home with their four young children. She is passionate about pursuing God and her hobbies: reading, archery and eating cheese. You can find her at her blog, on Facebook and Twitter.