It has been two months since I shared with all of you that I have struggled to adjust to motherhood when it comes to managing my home and everything that goes with it. Here are some specific ways I wanted to grow in this struggle at that time:
- Getting up one hour before my son. (And going to bed earlier!)
- Developing a chore routine & learning to incorporate my little one.
- Finding a meal planning approach that works well for my family.
- Learning to be okay with unfinished projects & returning to them as time allows. (This will be difficult for me, but it is so important.)
- Better utilizing my husband’s days off without feeling guilty about missing “family time” or asking for his help.
I am so grateful to sit here today with a report that some of these things have been getting better. A lot better. At the time I wrote that post, I was very discouraged and feeling like quite a failure. I was looking at all of my missed opportunities to improve in these things, and feeling convicted of the laziness that was a part of it all.
I was tearful and, as I shared yesterday, brought face to face with my own pride in how I had approached these things in the past. Despite the unpleasant feelings that sometimes come in these times of humbling conviction, I am so glad that I found myself in that place. God used it to renew my mind and inspire change in my life, and today I want to share a little bit of what has been happening around here.
By no means am I cruising on easy street at this point, but I have been able to sustain some helpful changes and new habits that have impacted my entire family. I will simply take each of the points listed above and share some of the practical things that have been making a difference.
Getting up one hour before my son. (And going to bed earlier!)
I’m getting there on this one, and daylight savings time helped a lot. (I never expected to say those words, like ever.) Changing the clocks always forces me to adjust my sleep with the rest of the adult world, but thankfully my son doesn’t pay attention to a clock when it comes to his wake-up time. This has meant that he is waking up around 7:30 each morning, rather than 6:30, and I am finding it much easier to beat him out of bed.
There are still mornings that I sleep in against my better judgement, and there are many nights that we miss our ideal bedtime of 10:00 by a longshot. My husband sets a crazy good example by getting up before 5am each morning for prayer and Bible study, no matter what time we get to bed the night before. I, on the other hand, do not wake up so willingly after a late night, which makes the early bedtime so, so important in my routine.
I realize that the new baby in September will completely disrupt any progress I make in these efforts, but my hope is that it will take me less time with this baby to adjust to a routine. (I can dream, right?)
Developing a chore routine & learning to incorporate my little one.
I have tried to “figure out” a chore routine that works for us so many times, and usually it changes from week to week. I still can not claim to have figured out a great routine, as my son’s naps continue to vary in timing and length and we have a schedule in which no two days are ever alike. BUT, I have been working on some habits that help the weekly chores feel less daunting and more under control.
- I timed myself while completing a variety of tasks. Knowing approximately how many minutes it takes me to fold a load of laundry, empty and/or fill the dishwasher, scrub the kitchen floor, vacuum, etc. has helped me manage my time more responsibly. I found that I had a very wrong estimation of how time-consuming each task actually is, and that caused me to put it off because I felt I would not have time to complete it. When I realized how quickly I actually complete these things, I found myself getting them done in the windows of time that I had often let slip by without being productive.
- I plan more effectively for interruptions. My response to interruption in the past has been to feel discouraged and throw in the towel on the task I am trying to complete. This was not working at all with a little boy who still needs his mommy’s help to reach things, climb things, and open things in addition to the unexpected messes he makes, diapers he fills, chemicals he tries to drink, and rules he tries to break. I have been trying to be more intentional in handling interruptions quickly and patiently, meeting whatever need arises, and then involving the little ones (there are days I babysit another toddler) as much as possible as I finish it. It has been a trial and error process, but being more intentional in how I handle interruptions has helped both me and my son feel less grumpy about chores!
- I ask myself what’s next and I do it. Marci at Thankful Homemaker shared this advice for mothers of young children, and it has helped me immensely: “Do the next thing.” It’s so basic, but it’s exactly what I need when my mind is spinning in a million different directions while caring for little children.
Finding a meal planning approach that works well for my family.
I’m really excited about this one. Meal planning has been something that I’ve REALLY struggled with throughout our marriage. In our first year of marriage I was cooking most of our meals at home, but I was spending upwards of $250 on groceries some weeks. (Seriously!) Because we were both working full-time, we were able to manage that cost into our budget. I was planning meals, but I wasn’t doing it the smart way and the result was unused food going to waste each week and many lost dollars.
Transitioning from two incomes to one required me to think smarter about the money I was spending on food, but again I didn’t approach it the smart way and I hadn’t gotten any better at cooking inexpensive, healthy meals. I struggled to make one grocery trip worth of food stretch through to the next one, and we were often having to dip into other parts of our budget to add to our food budget. We were also eating out more than we could afford, and that was affecting our ability to save money and pay off debt as needed.
Since February, I’ve started using Plan to Eat and it has changed everything. This online meal planning software has been exactly what I needed to help me approach meal planning the smart way. I am spending less, seeing less food go to waste, and cooking a greater variety of healthy foods. In the month of March, using this software, I did several things I had never done before: stayed under budget in our food category, stayed (well) under budget in our eating-out category, tried a new recipe every week, and cooked with yeast.
I am a visual processor, and this software has helped me visualize my meal options, schedule, and grocery list all in one place. It fits my style, and it fits my family’s needs. I feel more equipped to plan meals effectively, and the benefits of that have trickled into our budget & our health as well as reduced the stress we have felt in the past at the “what’s for dinner” question. After using Plan to Eat for a thirty-day trial, we felt that it was well worth $37 for 12 months, as it saved us far more than that in one month alone.
Here is one of the most important things I changed in addition to using this software: I stopped planning the core days of my ”cooking week” on Monday through Friday and instead planned Friday through Monday as major cooking days. As a family in ministry, our schedule during the week includes several rushed dinner hours. By taking that into account, it made much more sense for me to cook large meals throughout the weekend while my husband was able to help with things, use the crock pot on Mondays, and use Tuesday through Thursday for left-overs or sandwiches.
By changing how I approach the meal schedule, we have been far less tempted to eat out & my husband has also had the convenience of more leftovers for his lunch throughout the week.
Learning to be okay with unfinished projects & returning to them as time allows.
This one continues to be a work in progress, as they all are. The things I have already mentioned above in the chore routine section have helped me with some of this, especially figuring out ways to incorporate my son into some of these tasks when possible.
Much of this is a spiritual battle for me, as I see a great deal of my own pride welling up in the moments when my plans are interrupted and I am left with no choice but to set them aside. I have been trying to notice these moments of anger and frustration as they happen and pray for patience and humility.
It is amazing how much better our days go, for all of us, when I respond gently to the more difficult moments.
Better utilizing my husband’s days off without feeling guilty about missing “family time” or asking for his help.
The more my husband and I talked about this one, the more I realized these “guilty” feelings had very little to do with him and a lot to do with my own insecurities. The truth is, my husband LOVES cleaning, and I am well aware of this.
He grew up in a spotless home and cleaning actually relaxes him. Of course, the opposite is also true – excess mess makes it difficult for him to relax. While we both agree that our goal is not spotless, we do appreciate keeping things as neat as we can in our living space.
That being said, I had let the pressure of knowing he likes a clean home stress me out, but I had not talked through it with him enough to better understand his expectations and utilize his love for cleaning. It turns out, he had no idea I was feeling so stressed out about this stuff, and he was pretty sad to know I was feeling this way.
So here are some things I’ve been trying to do to involve him without feeling guilty:
- I declare the occasional “deep clean day” on one of his days off. This probably doesn’t work in every marriage, but when you have a husband who loves to clean this can be as exciting as a wife saying, “why don’t you go play football with your friends all afternoon.” I’ve set aside the guilty feelings and started to view these days of tag-team parenting and to-do lists as a special version of quality family time. The benefits carry over for a couple of weeks into my daily routines, and when they run out I just declare another one.
- I let my desire for “fun” family time motivate me to be more diligent in finishing chores first. While before, I would procrastinate the chores as I enjoyed our time together over morning coffee and slow mornings, our days are so much more “fun” when I just get things DONE and then relax with my family. Again, this might seem like common sense to some of you, but it has required me to think intentionally and take action when I feel like doing nothing.
- I’m learning to take joy in listening to my husband and son play together without being involved. I used to feel like I was missing out in these moments, but I’ve realized there is something so sweet about observing from a distance. Cooking has become much more fun for me as I chop vegetables and stir pots while soaking up the sounds of my son and husband giggling, jumping, reading, etc.
I realize none of the things I’m doing are new or revolutionary in the world of home and family, but it has been a work of grace in my life that I am able to look back on the last two months and see evidence of progress. As basic as these things may be, I spent far too long feeling frustrated with my failures, and yet I never took serious steps to move beyond them and grow in my skills.
I have finally started to experience joy and freedom in my homemaking efforts, and I know that this would not be true if I had continued to lean on my own strength and pride as I had for most of my son’s life. God is so good, and I am looking forward to continuing in this journey as I lean heavily on His grace and power.
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