Friday, August 12, 2011

Doing It All

There are very few women who actually "do it all".   And they're like my stake president's wife, who are blessed with an unending fountain of energy somewhere inside of them.  I've heard some of her journal entries (read aloud by her husband, lol, he's so proud of her) . . . and she honestly gets done in one day what takes me a week.  I love her dearly . . . she's such a great example of cheerful, enthusiastic obedience, someone who keeps her covenants with joy and rejoicing.

I've struggled so much with exactly the kinds of things that so many of us do. Here are the guiding principles of my life . . . the things that keep me sane when life feels like El Capitan and the Leaning Tower of Piza married, and their first child took up residence next door.

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Can you relate?

Yeah.  Thought so.

First:

We compare our WORST to others' BEST.


We see other moms at play dates, church, the grocery store, the park, meetings, lunches, when we're invited to Sunday dinner, etc.  These are social venues . . . not accurate reflections of what their homes look like at any given moment.  I remember the first time I saw a woman from church for the first time on a weekday . . . no makeup, hair not hanging in lovely red shiningness, curled to perfection at the end of each tress.  She was still beautiful in her cleaning clothes and ponytail; but I'll always remember the (obvious) realization I had: Sunday Best is just that . . . not everyone looks like that all week. lol  Ditto for "social best".

Second:

If it's hard to find time for the basics of your stewardship (meals, naptimes, basic cleaning, etc), then it's time to sit down and seriously re-prioritize.

Work WILL expand to fill all available time . . . so set limits, especially on computer stuff. A timer works best for me. (One that KEEPS going off. lol)  Household chores pretty obviously reach the point of being "done" or stay in "not done" . . . but the computer is infinitely deep, and there's always another email, another tweet, another blog post to make, another purchase or topic to research.  I LOVE having unlimited access to information (I'm a complete geek, I know), but I have to constantly remind myself that I MUST remember to keep computer time to strict bounds, and LIVE the rest of my time.

I'm reading an awesome book that is helping me to take back my life: Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living. Tsh handles home management in a truly focused and powerful way . . . beginning with clearly defining the purpose of your own life and the life of your family, and progressing from there. She defines simple living as living holistically with your life's purpose. You know, doing only things that further your journey towards your goal.  (Downtime is vital, and is still downtime, but it's important to be intentional even there.)  I was drawn to Tsh's book because a chaotic headless-chicken dance is NOT what my life is supposed to look like. You? ;o)

One of my favorite quotes:

We were all put here to do something . . . not everything.

Third:

Cleanup stays manageable when there's not much to make a mess with. 

To stay sane, here's what I do:

All eating happens at the table. Period. I still find food stashed here and there, but the kids KNOW they're being naughty if they eat anywhere else, so it cuts down on the food messes drastically. I also did nearly all of the solid food feeding of little ones until they were old enough to manage a spoon with reasonable success on their own. They got to eat non-messy stuff alone, like cheerios, etc.  Mess making was disciplined like other misbehavior*.  You have to be present during the meal, which sometimes feels like a sacrifice, but I've noticed that when I've tried to have my children eat on their own, it quickly turns into an anything-goes animal house at the table . . . no matter their age.  When I feel too pressured to sit at the table and eat with my children, I'm letting the world/others' expectations/my own overachieving get the best of me.

(*Discipline: Honest, educative consequences for undesirable behavior.  Discipline is not anger, yelling, or tricking a child into doing something you want.)

Available toys are kept to a minimum. Keep things stored and rotate them (you can do this with containers in a child's closet; we use the garage, as we're woefully short on closets in this house).  Right now we have the Legos, My Little Ponies, a few Chevron & matchbox cars, and a small box of infant toys out -- and that's with six children around. Cleanup is less than 15 minutes, even if I have to do it alone.

My favorite toy-picking-up principle is from a friend. She told me she realized that if her son was old enough to put shaped toys into a toy sorter, "he's definitely old enough to put toys in a big box". Too true, eh? ;o)

Fourth:

I need to take care of my own needs, first.

For a lot of my marriage and motherhood, I assumed that the sacrifices required of mothers included the things that most people in generations past just considered taking good care of themselves.  I felt selfish taking care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health . . . but now I understand that not only shortchanges me, but my entire family.


Sleep is The Big Rock. That means I go to sleep before 10pm . . . even if Vern would rather stay up. ;o) He's on board with this, though, and supports me like the good man he is.

If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  I get to shower every morning, read my scriptures (usually a Conference talk in the am, the Book of Mormon or Bible in the evening, often with Vern), and have personal and companionship prayer before braving the day outside my bedroom door. (Exercise will fit in there eventually, but it's an afternoon/naptime thing now.)

Honestly, if I'm not going to bed when I should, nothing (and I mean NUH-THING) else works.  I'm just not up to it.  When I sleep when and as much as my body needs, I'm suddenly myself again.  Magic, I tell you.  Sheer magic.

Lastly:


Lest you think I'm also one of those "get it all done" moms, let me assure you:

  • my desk is a disaster (albeit a small one, as I'm using a children's play table right now, lol); 
  • the kitchen is trying to mutiny;
  • there's laundry lurking everywhere and in some places launching an overt attack; 
  • the bathroom sinks need scrubbing (and boy howdy, do they ever; soap scum, vile is thy name); 
  • dust bunnies hide under every baseboard heater and piece of furniture in the house; 
  • every time I pick the baby up off of the floor, he's got a hairball in one hand that has liberated itself from Lil'MissL's under-brushed head; 
  • I'm not going to talk about the yard;
  • or ill-begotten garden beds; 
  • or my bedroom . . . the mattress still on the floor after 18 months, one nightstand still has the old drawer pulls, and Vern's newly-moved office looks raw and awkward. 'Nough said.

"Doing it all" means doing everything that's truly important to you . . . and no more. It's crazy hard work, and you can do it. It takes focus (which our society runs a little short on, hmmm?), consciously eliminating everything that sucks the life out of us by eroding our time. It has many names: Intentional Living, Simple Living, living the Seven Habits, etc. But it works. I'm seeing that for myself . . . and I've only just started.

So hang in there . . . go read some of Tsh's book preview, and see what you can do to live in accordance to the actual reason you feel you're here.  It's a breath of clean evening air after a long, muggy day . . . and the best treat you can give yourself as a homemaker.

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