Those would be homemaking, homeschooling, and health, and they are where I am regrouping and reassessing my strategy as the summer approaches. I have been asked numerous times to share the homemaking lists that help me stay on track to accomplishing my daily tasks, so here goes. This is a subject that has stayed at the forefront of my thinking ever since I participated in a somewhat spirited blog debate at The Society of Phineas a month ago.
The reality is that the wife at home today has a more flexible schedule with more leisure built in than the wife of 100 years ago, and certainly more than the days when Proverbs 31 was penned. No matter how busy I am, I find at the end of most days (the time before I began preparing dinner) I have spent what amounts to a good 2 hours of leisure. Some of what I consider leisure my husband considers vitally important to my health, well being, and ability to be a charming companion at days’ end. He actively supports and encourages these “leisure” activities as they help me stay balanced:
The big priorities of the day include cooking two or three meals, washing and folding at least two loads of clothes, schooling our young children, errands, and light gardening. With the exception of weekly cleaning projects and purging, most of the day to day cleaning is tackled by our older children. This is the template I use for remembering to do weekly maintenance cleaning. These are things that I do myself:
Even with that, I still have a fair amount of down time. And yet…my husband is adamant with regard to my being at home. My physical availability is extremely important to him. If he has time to come home for lunch, he wants me here. If he needs me to make calls or do expense reports or something else, I need to be able to do that. If you ask him the one thing he values most from me besides the big three: wifely duties, motherhood duties, and meals, he would say availability. That’s his thing, and he is totally fine with the fact that I spend time blogging so long as my duties are fulfilled, the children are well cared for, and I am available to him. My goal is to be focused enough to ensure that the most important things are getting done, which is the point of this post.
I want this post to be encouragement for floundering homemakers so I’ll make a confession. I am not a good homemaker, naturally. I am not that woman who hits the ground running every morning, whose home runs like a well-oiled machine. Things get done around here. Plenty of things in fact. I do them fairly well and manage to look pretty good while doing so. I just have to refer to my aids- in the form of the lists- to get anything done. When I don’t have my lists, only the bare minimum gets done. This is still true after 19 years of marriage, and 18 as a full time homemaker. I start with this list of rudimentary things every morning:
I used to be embarrassed by my dependence on lists and charts because I’ve been at this long enough that I should be able to do it with half my brain tied behind my back. I’ve since had a change of heart about all that. Having one child was different from having three. Having three children was different from 4, and then 5. Living in a house was different from living in an apartment. Having two cars was different from having one. Homeschooling is different that having children in school all day. Running a home business (and later jettisoning it) marked yet another transition. You get the picture.
The life of a family is always in flux. What works today may not work next month or next year. Job changes, health challenges, children added, children leaving, all of these things mean re-examining the best ways to get the job done. Because I am not a naturally organized person, and I live in my head a lot, I’m no longer ashamed that I can’t be an effective homemaker without a list. The shame would be not adapting the needs of my family to complement my strengths and limitations. I suggest you do the same.
Every night I take out my notebook which has bunches of lists and reminders on it for every task, no matter how small. I jot down extra or impromptu items that aren’t part of the templates. I even include things like making the bed since I rise a full hour before my husband and If I get too busy, I’ll forget to make until later in the day. If I see it there on the list, I remember to do it at a reasonable hour of the morning as I go through the checklist. The lists are all in plastic coverings ad I use colored dry erase markers to check things off as I go. This is our homeschool schedule, which rarely goes off without a hitch, but it helps me manage to get my kids educated:
For the homemaker struggling with the dilemma of being very busy outside the house, but unable to focus and accomplish your homemaking goals when faced with a lot of time and flexibility while inside your home, I strongly suggest considering writing it all down and working from there. It is truly the only reason I get much of anything done.
And as is my custom, I implore wives to take their cues for what is important in their home from their own husbands. When you do that, you can be nearly assured that your time is not wasted, regardless of what other wives you know may or may not be doing.