Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Motivation for the homemaker

Amanda asked me the following question a couple of days ago:

"I assume you have days when you're just "off". That is, you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, ordinary things rub you the wrong way, you have little to no patience. (At least, I HOPE I'm not the only one who has days like this!) How do you handle such days? Do you have a trick for snapping yourself out of it? Or tips for dealing with it?

The last couple of days I've just been on edge; I have little to no patience with my kiddos. I know you don't have children (yet!), but you seem to have such a good grasp on this sort of thing, I thought perhaps you'd have some advice for me."

First, dear Amanda, let me assure you - you are not the only one having "those days"! I have them; good hardworking women like my mother and grandmother have them; in fact, everyone I know has them! Ordinary things you are used to, or normally even enjoy, annoy you. You find no pleasure in the sun shining outside, and see no hopeful prospects for the day. The question is, how do you deal with it?

If I could give you just one bit of advice, it would be: do something. From my experience as a homemaker, both at my mother's home and now here in my own little household - sitting around and giving into feelings of frustration and depression will only result in a gloomier mood. For example, yesterday I didn't stay home, but joined my husband on his trip to the city - I had some errands to do, and later I took advtange of the opportunity to visit Grandma. Later, when we came home, there was a pile of dishes in the sink. To my shame, I will admit they weren't even from the morning, but from last night (my husband came from work very late, and it was past midnight by the time we finished our late dinner - I simply had no energy left to wash dishes). I found myself frustrated with the amount of dishes, the time they have been sitting in my sink, and the prospect of having to wash them now.

However, when I rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron, and got to work, somehow it didn't seem so horrible anymore. By the time I finished, I was already enjoying the soapy water flowing through my fingers and the cleanliness of the dishes as I put them away to dry.

Add a few touches of loveliness that will encourage you in your work. Do you like good music? Put some on, to keep you cheery while you are working (I have a special tune for my routine pick-up through the house in the mornings). Find your inspiration by looking at beautiful flowers? Use some fresh flowers as your centerpiece, buy a poster depicting a flowering garden, or even use a pretty picture of flowers as your desktop background. Love sweet scents? Dab a few drops of essential oil on a piece of cloth, and hang it near your kitchen sink, to inhale its aroma while you are working. And on and on - whatever ideas that might cheer you up.

Reward yourself by interspacing the tasks you like less, with things you love to do. For example, if today is dusting and washing day for you, and you happen to like cleaning less than your other works, bake a pretty cake or pie in between, or make a batch of cookies that will fill the house with their delicious aroma. Or find a little while to do some needlework, or work on whatever type of projects you like (scrapbooking, gardening, painting) during the day. Go out for a little walk - I love, when possible, to browse - usually without actually buying - through my favorite shops, and especially those that inspire me in the area of homemaking: shops for quality home supplies, knitting supplies stores, antique shops that display lovely household items. Drink your coffee from the prettiest cup you have. Put on a pretty dress (when practical). Prettiness has a way of making one's mind cheerful.

Sing a cheerful song or just hum to yourself. Send a generous smile to yourself and others, even if you don't feel like it at the moment. Browse through a photo album, to bring memories of a particularly lovely day you have captured in pictures. Read a few pages of a favorite book - and soon you will feel things are brightening, and will realize it's actually not such a bad day after all.

As for children, you rightly noticed I don't have children yet; however, I realize what a difficult, challenging work childrearing is. I'm already sending my prayers to the Lord, that if/when He chooses to bless us with a child, He would also help me to find the abundance of unconditional love, patience, kindness, cheerfulness, caring, giving and energy that are needed so much on the journey of motherhood. I know mothers who stay at home with their children, but rarely speak a kind, encouraging word; mothers who most often snap at their children for getting in the way of their work. I don't judge - oh, I know I'm not in the position to - but I pray, pray, pray to become the mother He wants me to be, and I believe you should first and foremost do the same.

Days are fleeting, and children grow up so fast. I remember reading a blog that is now closed, of a very dear, precious lady. She had many children of various ages and personalities, and encouraged us all to remember precious days with our children are passing by, and time is limited. She especially encouraged homemakers not to be tempted to shove little children away for a fleeting efficiency of household tasks that will have to be done again, and again, and again. Rather, she advised, let your children be right alongside you as you work. My husband told me he remembers how, when he and his siblings were little, their mother (now my dear mother-in-law) used to have them in the kitchen with her whenever she worked. While she was doing dishes, she talked with them and sang to them, and let them help her. Did her little ones get in her way? Did they make her work slower? Probably, but she put a higher value on training her children to be cheerful workers and eager helpers.

Again, as I'm not a mother yet, I don't quite feel adequate to give advice about training children, but I would love to hear from those of you who already have little ones in their home, and have had to deal with various kinds of situations on the path of parenting.


Lily said...

Your MIL's advice is right on. Part of our responsibility as parents is to raise our children to be productive people, unafraid to do what needs to be done, and not to coddle them. They also need to be able to do the work cheerfully. I do not want my children to shun anyone because the person has a janitorial job or is a laborer of some sort. I want my children to be able to take that job if necessary and do a job well. This is not to say that I am teaching them to not aim for their fullest potential, my point is that with times being so hard, and likely to get more difficult economically, the people who are willing to roll up their sleeves, the people who can find happiness even in doing without, those are the ones who will fare the best.

This got a little long, but I will sum up by saying that teaching children how to cheerfully accomplish all that needs to be done, male or female, around the house is only a benefit to them, their families, and their future happiness. What if, someday, a son ends up a widower with children? Minimally he'd need to be able to do laundry, cook, and properly clean the house for some little time until he was able to obtain help. It makes all children happy to help and it is the best time to train them, when they are eager to learn and be with you, at your side.

Laura Brown said...

My favourite cure for a low mood is to take a long walk in a place of natural beauty -- a woodland is perfect, but a park will do. If that's not possible, I try to do some vigorous exercise indoors. This usually leaves me feeling able to face the tasks of the day.

(I'm not a mother or homemaker, though; sadly, a health condition prohibits one and finances the other. Maybe someday.)

Samara said...

I have just one little guy so far, and people are always asking how I manage without any help. I live in an area where having a nanny or at least a part time babysitter or daycare is standard for other moms at home. I in turn am mystified by their questions about how I can have a shower, housework done, or time to myself when none of those things has ever presented a problem- after all, I only have one, and he not only loves to "help" but takes a hearty long nap each afternoon!

The one time I really felt beleaguered was a couple of weeks ago. My 17mo son was whining, fussing, complaining, crying to no end- he wouldn't let me get anything done and screamed if out of my arms for a moment. When he was small I would put him in a sling on such days, but he is too big now. Also, it's now very unlike him, but I could not console him and didn't want to nurse him as we are slowly weaning. I finally had to go sit outside on the porch, close the glass door between us and feel sorry for myself for a minute, asking God for guidance. Meanwhile he worked himself into a fever pitch of screaming, and I realized that it wasn't me with a mood or him being naughty; for whatever reason he just plain needed me more that day. What was the point of denying that need? What lesson would it teach other than "Mama puts her needs first?" I returned to him, abandoning the dishes and laundry, we had a long calming snuggle and nurse and both fell asleep, hours before his usual naptime.

Mrs. Mordecai said...

When I'm feeling impatient with my son, the best remedy is to take a day off from housework and just spend time with him. We actually just did this yesterday. He is happier because he knows that I love him, and I get a little break. Sure, I'm behind on laundry now, but my son knows that I love him.

Anonymous said...

One of the most challenging things for me as a homemaker with small children is that many times as I am going about my tasks, I am trying to think and make decisions about important matters. There is not much "me time" to put this off until, so it has to happen during chores which are monotonous enough to allow it. (Decisions such as which doctor and hospital I should choose for baby #4. Or even how to handle discipline issues that are perplexing.) This would all be ok if it weren't for the children's constant interruptions. Sometimes fighting with eachother, but mostly just asking lots and lots of questions. My girls LOVE to chat! Sometimes the things I'm pondering have me stressed out, and that frustration boils over when my children seem "underfoot". I have a hard time putting it all aside and just focusing on them. I am an introvert and seem to need lots of time to process things, so sometimes just the fact that I am among a noisy crowd in my own home home can be stressful to me. I grew up an only child and became accustomed to lots of quiet reflection. Still, I see this as a chance for growth and I would never regret allowing for a large amount of children in our family.

zetor said...

Sound advice Anna. If I need motivating I try to think of some hobby or such to do at the end of my housework, this usually helps.

neuropoet3 said...

Anna, thank you for all the wonderful ideas! Once again, I've been so encouraged by my "visit" with you!


Kelly said...

I'm going to echo some of the previous comments. I too, on down days, just spend more time with my daughter who is two and a half. Sometimes just playing with her helps. Dishes can wait, cleaning can wait, I'm starting to learn men don't see things the way we do. We notice the dishes, they don't. On a down day, take it easy as far as duties around the house go, and find something fun to do. The yesterday I had my daughter "help" me bake brownies. Yes it took longer than I would have alone but seeing her joy at "helping me" she's in that phase, pulled me right out of my mood and we all got to share in some brownies later that day. FYI the dishes are STILL sitting in the sink. We're going out walking after I'm done on the computer.

Beverly said...

Great advice (as always ^.^) Anna.

I have days like that a LOT ~ being a single mother of 2 kids... one with special needs... yeah it's hard and there are days when I just want to pull the pillow over my head and dissolve into nothing.

BUT ~ the truth is that as soon as I force myself out of bed, drag my sorry butt over to get dressed, slip some shoes on, and tie on my apron and get to work, or drag the kids outside and sit in the sunshine awhile watching them laugh together ~ everything starts looking brighter.

The trick to getting past these days is GETTING THROUGH THEM. Just get up, get your motor running, and the inertia will carry you through. So you totally hit the nail on the head. :)

Another thing that has helped me is keeping a gratitude journal - every day try to write down at least 3 things that you're grateful for. These can be totally ridiculously simple; the point is, just to start cultivating gratitude for everything. Once you get in the habit of constant joyful gratitude, life falls into place. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully said Anna!

Rachel said...

Good ideas. You're not the only one to let dishes sit overnight....today I just got caught up from the weekend!

Learning To Love said...

Thank you so much for what you wrote.
It is easier to get upset, or impatient, or frustrated with my work than to be cheerful. I have had sooooo many messes to clean up due to my miserable attitude when it came to my domestic responsibilities. My poor boys had a Mother who constantly complained and scolded them for not helping....and when they did help, I told them they weren't doing it right.
It's been a little while since I was that person. I'm learning to be more cheerful, more patient, and more giving with my housework as well as having the boys around me while I do my housework.
Occasionally I fall and let that old, ugly impatience rule over me. It doesn't last long because the Lord has been teaching me how to have victory over that sin. I have come a long way, and I have such a long way to go....but I just thank the Lord each chance I get, for allowing me more chances than I deserve! :)

Thank you so much for what you wrote because it's encouraging me to keep going in His way.
God bless you!

Kristy said...

Great thoughts, Anna, and good advice! As a wife and mother with young children I can definitely relate to Amanda's struggle. I've found that giving into a "bad day" only makes things SO much worse... the houseworks seems yuckier, the children get fussier, and I'm miserable! Purposefully "putting on" an extra dose of patience and a smile goes a long way in smoothing ruffled spirits (including my own) and making the day so much brighter.

Thanks for the encouragement!

~Kristy @ Homemaker's Cottage

Amanda said...

Thanks so much for your response, Anna! A lot of the things you said was stuff I already knew, but somehow, hearing it from someone else, makes me realize that it really IS a good idea.

I'm happy to report that after a couple of pretty lousy days, my mood has improved considerably. I now strongly suspect that my poor mood was due to my impending time of the month. I've been pregnant for so long (basically two years; my little ones are 13 mo. apart), that I somehow forgot about the mood swings that can accompany women's issue. Now that I have had a "reminder", if you will, I can anticipate that better next month and cut myself some slack when the time arrives.

You advice was spot on; thanks again for taking the time to answer my question.

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful post. This I needed today. I was curious if you were talking of Jewel's Blog? I really miss reading that. Have a lovely day!

Jan Hatchett said...

My dear Anna:
As usual, you have hit the nail on the head. As "Mommy" to two boys, I can honestly say that it is tempting (and I have succumbed) to do my work without them. But, they are so pleased and happy to help. My oldest is learning to cook and keep the kitchen clean at my side and the youngest is mastering doing laundry with me. One of them is mildly autistic, so he learns quite differently and does better one on one. He is so intimidated by his little brother, that I don't dare let them create competition between them. After a few months or a year or so, they will switch jobs.

I have found that it may make me feel less competent and efficient, but it sure does make them feel great and capable. I think that they will remember family meals, working together, etc. more than fancy trips or things.

It's easy to create "down days" for ourselves when we dwell on our challenges and inefficiencies. As women, God made us (in His infinite wisdom) to respond to relationships. These are the times when we forge real relationships with our growing children.

Lest I make it out like I am not a mom who over raises her voice, never criticizes, I certainly am NOT! I pray continually for patience and wisdom. I am also trying to cultivate a bit more playfulness in my life with them. Hubby is always playful.

Thanks for your post!

Buffy said...

What wonderful, and practical, advice!