Monday, September 13, 2010

Growing as a Homemaker (Learning to Tackle the Nitty Gritty of the Home)

Today I want to get real about homemaking in the life of a young mother.

Each time we have added a new person to the family (like our recent addition, Moses, the precious little person to your left), something has had to grow or change in the way I approach the care of our home. I definitely was lousy at this in the beginning (I'm not being falsely humble here), and for years, I've settled for feeling adequate. I'm only now (8 years into being at home full-time) starting to feel a real sense of competency at homemaking.

When I had our first son, Ethan, it really was just basic survival. Our home was constantly messy. I'm not saying this to glorify it, just telling you the truth. I remember talking with a friend of mine who had five kids at that time and quite literally believing that my laundry task rivaled hers. It just seemed so monumental and mountainous! The dishes almost never got done... I was constantly behind (thank God for a compassionate husband and mother!). And my "meals" were almost entirely composed of convenience foods + meat and/or butter and/or milk. For me, early motherhood combined with homemaking was simply survival. And yet, we somehow made it, and enjoyed ourselves in the process!

When we added Baxter to the mix, I got better at managing laundry. Somehow, though I had another person to care for, I got a little better. I realized that it really doesn't take that long to throw in a load of laundry, so I should stop putting it off, and do that regularly. And I began multi-tasking, sitting next to a little person crawling or playing on the floor and folding that laundry. Don't get me wrong, the house was still a mess most of the time and the meals were still composed of convenience foods, but the laundry was mostly caught up. This felt like a huge achievement!

When we had our daughter Maranatha, we had also recently moved overseas. So laundry was being hung (no longer had a clothes dryer) and language was being studied. But somehow, even with adding in a new person, I got better at cooking, out of necessity. No longer could I rely on Hamburger Helper to help me along. No longer could I regularly use "cream of ______" soups to feed the hungry people in my home. I actually had to learn to cook from scratch, to use ingredients to put together a meal that we would all want to eat, and to do it 3 times a day. Cooking seemed to take FOR-EV-ER (and that year, I spent upwards of 3 hours a day in the kitchen), but I got better at it. Even my sister-in-law (domestically gifted one that she is) commented on the improvement my cooking when we returned for a few months after living abroad-- that felt great!

Just before we added Silas to the mix, I came across a "Supermarket Savings" online course and the best thing I took away from it was making up a 4-week meal plan. So I basically tackled my meal-planning and turned it into something that was a no-brainer part of my life. As opposed to the "fly by the seat of your pants and buy whatever you happen to want" or the "sit down and plan out the week" methods of grocery shopping, it now takes very little effort to know what to buy and to know what to cook. I continue to use this plan, and re-work the details of meals/ingredients every 8-10 months or so.

Because I'm more of a laid-back messy, rather than a "place for everything and everything in its place" sort of gal, it's taken me this many kids to really start to have to have a plan for cleaning. And anyone who's been in my home can probably testify to the, well, lack of shinyness around here. :) But we're happy. Nonetheless. It's to the point now that if I did nothing all day, the living room would have dozens of books strewn about, at least one toy set littering the floor, colors and color books found at random points in the home, and play doh bits scattered across the floor under the dining table (and thus, soon, tracked through the whole house). And more. (Every mom can testify to the pain of stepping on legos and the frustrations of plates and juice spills left on the table!)

All that to say that we have reached a point that regular, planned cleaning is an utter necessity. No longer will spot cleaning here and there do the trick. So I have a master task list where I listed out every single thing that needs to be done (cleaning wise) in the house, and then parsed those things out, in logical groupings, to a day of the week. Now, I'm still not organized enough to actually carry out each job on the day of the week that it falls, but for the most part, most things get done at least once every couple of weeks. And for now, that's good enough. I care about cleaning more now, but I still can't be OCD about it, ya know?

I just want to give you freedom. Freedom to be who you are and exist in the stage of life that you are currently in. I didn't have it all together, and we survived. I still don't have it all together, and we're doing just dandy. Our little boys leave the toilet seats up sometimes. Dishes still all-too-regularly litter our countertop. I don't even own "Nourishing Traditions", and I "bake my own bread" (aka throw some ingredients into the breadmaker) about 4 times a year. The bedsheets get changed when I remember. There are strengths in my life as a homemaker (meal-planning, laundry), and there are weaknesses (organizing, dishes).

I hope no one would ever come to Making Home and think, "wow, this is a woman who has it together," or, "this comes easy to her, she was probably born doing this stuff!" or feel that you have to achieve everything all at once, simply because you see someone with more children, ten or twenty years into motherhood, doing many things capably. Do what you can, and keep learning. Feel God's pleasure as you learn what you can, but don't take on guilt for what others can do that you may not yet be able to do, or may have no desire to do.

Motherhood, budgeting, homemaking, meal planning, homeschooling-- these things aren't easy things. And particularly in our mobile, emotionally distant society, these things are made more difficult because we don't have community/societal support as we learn these things. I just want to encourage you to keep on keeping on. Galatians 6:9 tells us "let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up". I think just as this principle applies to spiritual reaping and harvesting, it also applies to learning and growth as a wife, mother, and homemaker. Keep applying yourself to doing good. Do good for your husband, do good for your children, do good for your home, do good for the Body of Christ and your friends and neighbors around you.

Keep on doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up!


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