Thursday, July 17, 2008

Preschoolers and survival

As promised, I racked my brain last night for some things that helped me stay sane when I had a houseful of preschoolers. It seems like it lasted forever (we've had preschoolers here for almost 15 years now). I can hardly believe I'm down to ONE precious preschooler! Oh, how I'm holding on to her soft little hands!But I digress.

Thanks for those of you who posted yesterday. I can't wait to hear some more tips today! Since everyone else is probably giving organizational tips, I just thought I'd cover one thing: Changing my thinking.

My personal experience and observation is that our generation of women spent the majority of our pre-children years going to school and working. We knew how to prepare for an interview, write a research paper, put on a good face for the boss, and burn the midnight oil to meet a deadline. All while having hair done, makeup on, and wearing very uncomfortable high heels.

Meanwhile, home was regarded as little more than a place to crash. It never got very messy because we were never there, except to change clothes and boil up another bowl of Ramen noodles.

At some point after the first baby comes, we have to come to grips with the idea that it takes work to keep a house going. Babies won't wait until the end of the day to get fed, and can't wait until semester exams are over to have their sheets changed. Home is now a workplace - and an essential one - not just a stop-off on the way to somewhere more important. thing that helps me is to look at what I do at home LIKE IT'S A JOB. I ask myself, What would I expect if I paid someone to come to my house to cook (clean, care for a baby, etc). I would be appalled if I saw someone wasting time on my dollar!

Here are some random thoughts along those lines:
  • Get up on time. I can hear the groaning now. Roll with me here. Mothers of newborns can ignore this (or if you a three year old who has night terrors), but I have found if I let the kids determine my wakeup time, they often begin to determine how the rest of the day goes. It feels good to sleep in sometimes, but I virtually always regret it. No business could function well if the boss were constantly walking in late. Neither can my home.

  • Shower, put on makeup, and get dressed before the kids (including shoes), as if you were going to work. There's nothing more demotivating than looking up at 3:00 p.m. and you are still in your pajamas. Just pass me another bon-bon, please. You might have to make the kids' bedtimes a bit later, or omit naps if you have one that likes to get up at 5:00 a.m., but it is worth it to have a few moments in the morning before the onslaught begins. On my best days, I like to get up, make coffee, then shower. I keep my Bible on my counter and have a short devotion time while I'm getting ready. Are we being transparent here or what?? =)

  • If I get nothing else done, and the house is a disaster, hey, at least I look good and smell good when my husband walks in the door. It's easy to think your husband loves you for what a good job you do keeping a clean house, but a wise wife knows otherwise (*smile*).
  • Have a plan. I like to figure out what days I'm going to do what (laundry Monday, grocery shopping Friday, etc) to give structure to my week. Then a bit of a daily plan for the kids, which includes cleanup times at natural stopping points in the day ("As soon as these toys are picked up, we can have lunch!"). Nothing big, but those who aim at nothing are very likely to hit it. My brain is too tired to remember everything, so tack a piece of paper to the fridge, or jot things down on your hand as you think of them - whatever works.

  • Little ones love structure, and - no surprise - so do big ones. If you don't give THEM some structure, they will begin to structure YOU. Suddenly your plans for getting work done are thwarted by a child who insists on painting (swimming, going to McDonald's, etc). And that, my friends, leads to a constant feeling of being manipulated. When you have a plan, you reinforce WORK BEFORE PLAY. A lifelong skill. Here are some posts along those lines:
Tomorrow I will write a bit more. Meanwhile - keep the tips coming!


Anonymous said...

Oops... maybe i should've written this here are your newer post. so here we go again!

When up to your elbows in the tedious responsibilities of life, you'll spend much mental energy thinking about when you'll have time for yourself and your own interests. How can you put all of yourself into your time at home if you're always thinking about a future time when you can escape the routine tasks of motherhood? You have to accept your children's neediness, the myriad mindless tasks and even your own occasional discomfort - as part of your partnering with your husband toward your mutual goal of building a godly heritage for Christ. You have to treat each day as sacred in their development toward becoming healthy, mature adults. The hard, daily, repetitive work of making a home a haven, providing healthy meals, correcting and training little ones and constantly cleaning up messes is the STUFF FROM WHICH GODLINESS IS BUILT! If you don't commit yourself WHOLEHEARTEDLY to the demands of motherhood, you will never be able to do your best, because your heart will always be somewhere else. How do you make the commitment to give the area of motherhood over to God as a sacrifice of worship to Him? You yield your personal rights into His hands. You give up your time and expectations to Him - and also your fears and worries about how you will manage..... and we WAIT IN FAITH ( do not expect to see immediate results ) to see the fruit of your hard labor in the lives of your children, knowing that HE WILL BE FAITHFUL to honor your commitment to Him. :)
Keep up the great work!!!

E. Tyler Rowan said...

Anonymous - those are some great thoughts and encouragements. I love this statement "make the commitment to give the area of motherhood over to God as a sacrifice of worship to Him." I have never thought of it quite that way. We've all heard to do everything as if we're working for the Lord, but as a worship offering... Great stuff!
What life experience brought you to this understanding of your role as a mother? I'd love to hear more about you. (Including your name! *grin*)

And Katherine, thank-you for talking about changing our thinking. You are so right - when I pay my sitter $15/hr (5 kids here, too, lol) I expect to see her working. And though I don't get paid in dollars, there are many rewards to the calling of 'Mother' that I need to be more intentional about earning.

Raquel said...

i love these posts! God is so using them to speak to em right now, with moving and renovating a home while living in it i have no doubt had to change my thinking and you know what i am way more relaxed and when i am more relaxed the days go better!

mholgate said...

Anonymous, you are so right! I must confess that I do spend much mental energy thinking about when I will have time for myself and my own interests. It's that little question "what about me?" that tends to give me a negative attitude about the blessing of motherhood. Thank you for putting it into perspective.

Katherine, what you had to say about attitude helped all the more. Today as I found myself discouraged, I didn't entertain those thoughts, but instead meditated on encouraging scriptures and prayed a lot.

This has been just the encouragement I need to keep serving Him in faith.

Beck said...

This is a terrific post. I know so many women who are completely miserable watching their young children, because they can't focus enough on what they're doing now, thinking instead of what they'd rather be doing in the future.

Anonymous said...

I should've stuck this in with my last comment, but I didn't think of it...
I wrote about sacrificing your own desires, giving up your life for the sake of your family. But..... I remembered Proverbs 31:22 - talks about how she makes clothes for herself. Which reminds me that even though giving up sooo much for her children, a godly wife should not at all forsake taking care of her own personal and spiritual needs. There will still be times when she needs a few precious moments that she needs to regroup and refresh her spirit. After all, her first commitment is not to her children but to her GOD, and then her husband, and then her children.
Also, I once heard motherhood put this way - that every time you cook dinner, every time you change a dirty diaper, help with one more math problem, make a dr. appt, console a fear, read Winnie the Pooh for the twenty-seventh time today, every time you choose to pretend house with your little girl instead of hurrying along with all of your "more important" chores - you are choosing LIFE. Physical life for your children, which will one day hopefully turn into spiritual life. When you choose to sacrifice your own goals and desires to serve your children, you are furthering His eternal work. The future is not where "real life" begins... every day is God's perfect will for you.
And remember, that if you struggle with giving up your time for your children for the sake of nurturing your children's souls, those issues should be between you and the Lord, not you and your children.
Hang in there, my prayers are with you!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for talking about this. I well understand holding onto the little ones...they grow so quickly.

Aleah said...

I love this post! Thanks for the reminder and ideas. : )

Joyfulness said...

All very helpful as were the comments from your last post. I 'only' have four little ones but now that the youngest is one, I'm finally coming out of the sleep deprived fog and somewhat getting my act together. I find that one clean, uncluttered surface in every room helps my mind. I can look there, take a deep breath and feel so much better. One whole room is a great idea too but I'm not there yet...

Anonymous said...

NO shoes on in our home! Shoes carry germs and deadly bacteria. Babies pick up that bacteria and in their mouth it goes. Fly Lady should be shot for saying dress to the shoes! (not literally, but how stupid is she?? shoes=more dirt to vacuum!)

And anyone who likes a clean home does NOT wear shoes indoors.

Ugh I never liked Fly lady. glad I know how to clean for myself.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Anonymous #2, I understand your point about the shoes being germy!

However, I still like to wear shoes, not just because it is a psychological thing - I feel like I am "ready" to meet the day - but because caring for children and a home is very physical work, most of which is on my feet. If I do not have proper support (ie, NOT flip flops or slippers, but good walking shoes), my feet ACHE after hours (and hours!) on them, and my back hurts!

Maybe a good solution would be to have shoes that are for indoors only - like Mr. Rogers' "house shoes." Hmmm. Something to think about.... =)

Laura said...

Wow! I believe we have been cut from the same cloth! I am preparing to do a workshop for moms on how to organize their lives better and all of those points are important ones that I will be bringing up! How great it is to see that someone else is the same way! Getting up before the kids and having your quiet prayer time is so CRUCIAL to a good day. I hope to be able to give this workshop to groups of disorganized moms and get them to realize how important all of this stuff is. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I just found you blog. Love it.
As a mom of eight. You are so right on this post. :)