Harvest House Publishers
The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of
more importance to
the soul than their simplicity might suggest. —Thomas Moore
All of us want to be there for our children—we just don’t want to lose ourselves in the process. One of the most difficult aspects of staying home is the loneliness and isolation. Any woman can easily be launched into pity-party territory when she faces never-ending laundry and dishes and very little adult interaction. Michelle, a mother of three in Indiana, wrote, “It’s very easy to get tired and then start feeling sorry for yourself. ‘Poor me, stuck here at home.’ Everyone else’s life looks more glamorous. Don’t fall into that trap—our job is most important!”
Shelly, a mother in Texas, told me, “It is very difficult to have adult relationships. My husband gets tired of hearing about homemaking only. My friends are either working or too busy with more children than I have. I sometimes feel like a boring person.”
We are afraid of losing our own identities. We secretly wonder, I love being a mother, but is that all I’m ever going to be—someone’s mom? A young mother of a two-year-old boy said, “I often forget who I am!” Nancy, a mother of four, echoes this feeling: “I am a different person than I used to be. I change as quickly as the children—I can hardly keep up to know who I am.” There is no getting around the fact that our lives are not the same after children.
But what can we do about our isolation? How can we truly love our days at home? It is my goal to encourage you, inspire you, give you some practical tools to organize your days, provide you with some jumping- off points for your own wonderful creativity, and to love you through these pages.
Allow me to give you an overview of some things we’ll journey through in this book:
Be productive. Choose to do things for others. Volunteer selectively. Send notes of encouragement. When baking for your family, make extra for a neighbor, shut-in, or friend. Read a book. Learn a new skill. Make time for exercise. Make a point of getting dressed, really dressed, first thing in the morning. For many women, the way we feel and our productivity are tied to the way we look. Give yourself that boost.
One of the biggest potential time-wasters for every homemaker is the television. Have it off much more than you have it on. Mothers tell me about two struggles on this front. One group struggles because they leave the television on all day just for the background noise of adult voices. My heart goes out to them. When my husband was on the three-to-midnight shift at work, I had huge chunks of the evening to myself after the children were in bed, and I struggled with waves of loneliness. I craved the low hum of voices and the psychedelic blink of the screen too.
Yet another group struggles because they adore soap operas. One mom actually requested prayer; she really wanted to break what she felt was a wasteful, and possibly negative, habit. I shared with her how I broke my former habit (purely by accident). One day, I had the television volume turned way up so I could hear my favorite show (okay, it was Santa Barbara) while I was off in the kitchen trying to finish the dishes during a commercial break. I happened to hear the last few minutes of the previous soap opera before mine was scheduled to begin. But, I couldn’t see the players.
Why is this significant, you ask? Because without scenes, costumes, and actors, the poorly scripted dialogue is flat, the voices melodramatic, and the plotlines lame. Doorbell rings in background. I imagine a ridiculously well-dressed woman (supposedly a stay-at-home mom) or a maid in formal uniform gliding to the door. A male voice anguishes, “Oh, Angelina, are you still pregnant? How can this be? I thought that when you rode with my cousin and accidentally witnessed that mob killing you miscarried!” Loud, heart-wrenching sobs break out—I assume from Angelina. “Oh, Trenton (or some other impossibly soap opera-ish name), I didn’t think you’d (dramatic sniff, hiccup) find out—it’s not our baby. It never was— it’s…” At that point I was laughing so hard at the utter ridiculousness of what I was hearing that I snorted my Coca-Cola up my nose—and that awful burning sensation broke me of my habit forever!
While television does offer some great stuff, the bulk of it is shallow. It breeds dissatisfaction with your own life by making you compare your body/house/meals/love life to that of unrealistic, impossibly beautiful, over-made-up people who can afford haircuts every two weeks. Many of the talk shows are depressing and degrading, if not downright immoral. Don’t let the television babysit your children either. Offer alternatives: Simon Says, books, marbles, puzzles, colors, play dough and cookie cutters. Most of the television watching in our house is done with the VCR and DVD players; that way we choose the programs.
Get out of the house. I used to meet girlfriends twice a week at our local mall to walk. We arrived before the stores opened to avoid the crowds and the temptation to shop. With our children tucked in strollers and baby joggers, we walked laps, visited, laughed, and de-stressed. Aside from the health benefits (well, since we sometimes snacked and often got so involved in our conversation that our strides turned to shuffles, those might be minimal), the adult conversation and the contact with others who are experiencing similar circumstances is awesome. One of our walking crew was a brand-new mom who hadn’t gotten off the couch or out of her jammies until we dragged her out. She told us she couldn’t believe the difference in her outlook when she had the walks to look forward to. If you’re experiencing a housebound week, invite a friend over to talk while your kids play together.
Establish and maintain female friendships. It is both unfair and unrealistic to expect our husbands to meet every need we have. Develop healthy interests and friendships of your own. I have talked to so many women who want nothing more than to get out of the house after having been stuck there all day. Their husbands long for nothing more than a quiet evening at home, remote control in hand. Rather than discuss the problem and arrive at a mutual solution with their husbands, they all brood in hurt silence. Rescue both of you from this no-win situation by renewing old friendships and seeking out new ones. Try these ideas:
• Join a women’s Bible study or MOPS group that offers on-site child care.
• Make plans with some buddies for an annual get-away at one of the Hearts at Home conferences.
• Join a book club or create your own.
• Sign up for an evening craft class at a local hobby store or enroll in a college extension class.
• Strike up conversations with other mothers at the store, at church, at school. Chances are they’re feeling isolated too.
• Go to one of those fun six to midnight scrapbooking and stamping fests.
• Make the first move. Invite a few friends to go to a movie or to come over to your house for an evening of pedicures, popcorn, movie candy, and chick flicks!
• Plan activities for yourself and your children. Start a play group.
• Take your children to story time at the local library.
• Take the children to visit the fire station, a local museum, a bakery, the police department.
• Go with another mom and her kids to the zoo or local swimming pool.
• If your husband works a night shift or frequently travels, go to the airport field at night and watch the lights as the planes land. These miniature field trips educate the kids, liberate you, and go a long way toward beating cabin fever.
Cultivate a hearty sense of humor. The truth is, kids, and our lives with them, are hilarious. Get a fun-patterned spiral notebook and start jotting down the cute things they say or do, together with the date and their age. Whenever possible, tuck a snapshot of the moment in next to it. Not only will it be fun to look back on, but it will craft a touching and priceless log of your days together.
Two of my recent entries describe funny names that Ellie, four, and Elexa, two, have given to common objects. One day Ellie wanted a piece of paper for coloring. But what she asked was, “Mommy, can I please have a piece of your printing complete paper?” I couldn’t think what she wanted, so I asked her to just show me. She led me to the stack of plain white sheets stacked in my computer’s printer. Whenever it’s done printing, the computer announces, “Printing complete.” So, that’s how she thought of it!
My just-turned-two-year-old got to go on her first roller-coaster ride in the kid’s section of Silver Dollar City. We called it the baby coaster, and she had a ball. The next night when we got home, I asked the girls to get coasters out of the basket for their drinks. Elexa looked very confused. “Not a coaster. A baby coaster. I ride. Was fun. Scary.” She giggled. Her big sisters patiently explained that those were also coasters. “I need a baby coaster for my ‘nink’ too,” she announced.
“There is only one thing about which I shall have no regrets when my life ends. I have savored to
the full all the small, daily joys. The bright sunshine on the breakfast table; the smell of the air at dusk;
the sound of the clock ticking; the light rains that start gently after midnight; the hour when the family
comes home; Sunday evening tea before the fire! I have never missed one moment of beauty, not
ever taken it for granted. Spring, summer, autumn or winter. I wish I had failed as little in other ways.”
Agnes Sligh Turnbull
Pray about it. The old hymn is beautifully true and comforting: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Tell God what you need and how you feel. Remember that you are made in God’s image and are exactly where He wants you to be. There is no emotion we have that He has not experienced. Yes, that includes feeling unappreciated and abandoned!
Depression often sets in when we are too introspective. When that happens, pray for others. Get the focus off of yourself. Make it a habit to cut out the prayer list from the church paper or bulletin. Tape it on your car dash, refrigerator, or mirror and pray for those needs. Let your children see you pray. Pray for them. Encourage them to pray for others, and teach them how to pray for themselves when they are hurt, lonely, thankful, or scared.
Focus. Motherhood is an important job. You may not do it perfectly, but you do it best. If you forget this truth, don’t worry—your kids will remind you. One incident stands out in my mind. I was busy preparing to speak to some fellow teachers at a training seminar. Eden was pestering me, pulling at me for attention. Exasperated, I said shortly, “Eden, all Mommy really wants to do is finish this work!” She turned away and in a tiny voice replied, “All you really want to do is play with me.” Naturally I dropped everything for a cuddle and then patiently installed her next to me at the table with a marker and transparency of her own.
Remember, this is just a season of life, ever-changing, flying by. Life is too short for regrets. Too fleeting for feeling guilty. Too marvelous to be too busy.
Together, let’s discover how to leave behind the house that stress built. It is possible when you…
• gain tools for making your at-home days more efficient, productive, and meaningful.
• learn practical shortcuts for maximizing the hours in your day.
• gather and use some streamlined and yummy information on meal planning.
• discover that perfectionism is a load you can drop and that caring for yourself as well as your family is essential.
• apply some new organizational strategies.
• practice some fun tips for making your home a hospitable one.
• leaf through ideas to springboard creativity for shaping a comfortable home that reflects your family and provides a retreat from the stress of the world.
Throughout this book, at the end of each chapter will be scripture verses, journaling ideas, an action plan, and study and reflection questions you may use alone or for group study. It is my fervent prayer that this book will transcend the dailiness of our responsibilities and bring us closer to the One who invented the marvelous concept of home!
Sure, you’ve traded job stress for a different kind of stress, but life is infinitely sweeter in many ways. I pray that this journey we share will guide you to organize and love your days as a mom. I want to encourage you, pray for you, and motivate you. You are many things. You occupy many roles. But your place as wife and mother is one only you can fill. Plan for it. Pray about it. But most of all, laugh along on the journey.
1. If you’d like to, share about the circumstances surrounding your decision to stay at home. What do you love about it? What is the hardest thing for you?
2. What one area mentioned in this chapter are you hoping most to improve?
3. Read Psalm 101:3 and Philippians 4:8. Are these principles and admonitions true of the television viewing and reading material in your home? What helps you set standards?
4. Read Matthew 6:23-32 and then rewrite it in the space below, including your name and some of the specific things you want and are concerned about, as though it were a personal promise to you… because it is!
5. One of my favorite verses in the Old Testament is Psalm 5:3. Read through it this week, and try voicing your praises first, and then your requests, even as you are fumbling for the alarm clock and rubbing the sleep from your eyes. Throughout the day, plan to “wait in expectation” and be alert for all the ways in which God is helping give you strength, grace, and unexpected blessings. Read Jeremiah 29:11 and fill in these blanks:
“ ‘I _________ the _________ I have for _______,’ declares the __________, ‘plans to ____________ you and not to ________ you, plans to give you __________ and a ______________.’ ”
How does the truth of this promise impact your role as a homemaker?
6. Make a list of all the things that are causing you stress in your life. Rank them in order from largest to smallest stressor. Now put all of them through the “Big Deal Scale” test. Will this thing matter to me in five years? In one year? Next week? Tomorrow? If not, turn it over to God and make a concerted effort to leave it with Him. If it helps you, cut a narrow slit in a small box (you type A’s out there can cover it with contact paper, wrapping paper, or decoupage). During your prayer time, write down what is worrying you or causing you stress, pray over it, and place it in your box. Later it will be a great boost to look back on how you’ve grown in worry control and perhaps jot down how God has answered a request, fulfilled a longing, or quenched a worry.
7. Go back and read the Agnes Turnbull quote (see page 20). Have you been “savoring to the full” the small daily things? If not, what is keeping you from that?
Look through magazines for a beautiful photograph from nature, one which reflects the current season. Cut it out in the shape of a heart or in a beautiful square, edged with decorative scissors. On a smaller piece of cut-to-fit plain paper, write or type these five beautiful words from Scripture: “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Tape it to the dashboard of your car, the window above your kitchen sink, or your bedside table— anywhere you will look and be reminded that the One who made the stars has your home, indeed your very life, in His capable hands.
Purchase yourself a beautifully bound journal. You will be using it for several things throughout this book. Make your first entry a dream blueprint for your home. Cut pictures of the styles and décor you love most. Jot down ideas for traditions. Write what you love about being home and the kind of atmosphere you’d like to create there.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).