Heaps of intermingled clean and dirty laundry in every bedroom volcanically erupted by another continental clothing drift. Unclean dishes flowing like lava out of the sink onto counters. Meal remnants littered like ash across the kitchen floor, family room, foyer, playroom, and “fill-in-the-blank”. Toys scattered like stray debris throughout the house. Oh yes, I remember those days. My toes still curl in my shoes when reminiscing. The stay-at-home mom dictionary says this about housework: Mundane, endless, monotonous, drab; a necessary inevitability. “Domestic drudgery conjures up a sense of extraordinary fulfillment,” said no one ever.
Managing chores and keeping up with boundless housework also permeates family life. These ordinary and mundane duties can become prime candidates for neglect stemming from attitudes of laziness, despair, denial and obstinacy. But, we can approach our daily toils with an attitude of loving service and embrace the workload by offering gratitude in response to the wonders and blessings he places in our lives. God encourages us to engage our kids in the process and make the tasks fun while instilling in them a sense of responsibility and pride in accomplishment.
Overwhelmed would be an understatement when describing how I felt many days when raising my three kids as a stay-at-home-mom. The following poem illustrates a day in the life of my child-rearing days. Seems fitting now with the Christmas season upon us:
“Twas the night before tomorrow and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.
Dirty dishes were stacked in the sink with great care,
In hopes that St. Clean-For-Us soon would appear.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of dirty laundry danced in my head.
And hubby in slumber, and I on the Pinterest app
Had just begun searching for ways to clean everything
When down through the hall there arose such a clatter,
I put down my iPad to see what was the matter
Away to the kid’s room I flew like a flash
But tripped over some toys and fell on my ash
The thought bubble derived from my new fallen heap
Can’t even be written because of the bleepity bleep
Then, suddenly to my wondering eyes did emerge,
my three little children with an inquisitive urge
“Mommy, mommy, we can’t even sleep
because everything smells like dirty old sheep”
With an intuition still lively and emotions still hyper
I knew in a moment it was those dang dirty diapers
Quicker than moves in a slap-jack game
I smiled, and whispered, and called them by name!
“Now Johnny! Now, Kyle! Now, Kahrin!” I said,
“To your rooms you will go! To the top of your beds!”
They spoke not a word, but followed my command
And I made my way over to the stench at hand
As I reflected on diapers and dishes and clutter
My love for my kids caused my heart to flutter”
Aside from using a satirical soliloquy (I know you want to say those two words six-times-fast) to make light of our never-ending duties, perhaps we can view the inevitable chaos resulting from raising a family and maintaining our home with some fresh specs. Rather than drudgery, what if raising a family involves juicing the life out of every hour by loving on and meeting the needs of our children? Although the demands create a breeding ground for chronic exhaustion, the rewards and blessings become the eternal cure.
Still, finding purpose and meaning in the boring and menial can feel almost counterproductive. And then God says this, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.“ Quite a different definition for housework. God. Gotta love him. He always knows how to separate the chaff from the wheat. Last I checked the mighty pile of useless husks outside my door from all of God’s character pillaging still accumulates by the hour. Hallelujah.
After God wormed his way into my whines (but I try to keep him out of my wines), he helped me find peaceful asylum by re-purposing relentless household duties into a life lesson for building a strong work ethic in my kids. (i.e. I used their tiny little hands and feet to help carry the load!) Seriously though, even a three or four-year old has the wherewithal to help with chores. Kids are capable of picking up their rooms, folding clothes, cleaning up their toys, helping with the dishes, clearing the table.
I established a chore chart for my little ones and many times made a game out of completing necessary tasks. We timed ourselves to see how feverishly we could complete a job. Picking up and putting away one toy before starting another activity became a general rule. My kids cleaned their rooms at least once a week (eventually when they were teens I shut the door to avoid seeing the mess) and we created a calendar for days of the week scheduling other housework/chores. This routine gave my kids a sense of purpose and helped build their self-worth. A level of importance and pride in a job well done became bi-products of helping mom. In turn, a spirit of integrity in my babes, one of many Holy Grails in mothering, began to steep.
Just a few simple steps added to our daily routine can transform the mundane from drudgery to delight. Maybe you, too, will benefit from establishing a chore chart for your kids. Or perhaps just the thought of having to take the time to create a chore chart is enough to push your head completely underwater and drown you with yet another item on the to-do list. Despair not sisters. Some other ideas which may better suit your family dynamic include:
- Ask your kids when they wake up which mess they want to clean first before starting the day. After some blank stares and crocodile tantrums, you might be surprised at how quick a room can tidy up. Many hands make light work.
- Make an announcement about a brand new fun day you will be implementing called “Backwards Day.” Dinner is for breakfast, breakfast is for lunch, and lunch is for dinner. The kiddos have to wear their clothes backwards and, depending on safety, they can even maneuver around the house in reverse during the day. After they jump up and down with glee ready to start in on the excitement, you can temporarily burst their bubble (a necessary evil) by sharing one other very important rule of backwards day. Toys, clothes, and other messes must be picked up and cleaned first because typically we do those tasks at the end of the day. Voila! Backward days start with a clean slate. Literally.
- In a game of twisted reverse psychology, tell your munchkins that there is only one way you will allow them to help you with folding clothes. You have to lay it on thick with, “I know you guys really, really, really want to fold clothes with me, but I can only allow you to help if you do one very important thing first.” If your kids are anything like mine were in their gullible days you will be staring at wide-eyed and raised-brow mini-me’s twitching in anticipation. Then you proceed to tell them they can help you fold clothes AFTER they allow you to bury them with the same clothes they are going to be folding. The catch? You bury your kids with the clothes as soon as they come out of the dryer all warm and cozy and let them stay underneath until the heat goes away. Worked like a charm for me every time.
But don’t expect perfection. Do you think I attained flawlessness in the area of prioritizing the importance of teaching my children the value of work ethic over exasperation and disdain regarding the mess in my house? Not so. My kids didn’t clean their rooms every week and follow the housework calendar Martha Stewart style like clockwork. No. Way. Every day brought a new challenge to choose God’s way or mine. Often I chose the highway and loaded all the kiddos in the van for some retail therapy at the local Targét. A mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do.
Regardless of how we feel about the daily grind of managing the monotonous in our lives, Christ beckons us to embrace our limited moments on earth-the richness and the barrenness-with a sense of indebtedness and obedient acceptance. He knows our spirits are broken which predisposes us to balk, pout, excuse and complain about all the vanilla along the way. But we have the Holy Spirit to lighten the load, the fragrance of God’s grace to sweeten the air we breathe, and the Lord’s loving arms to carry us during our daily maneuvering through life. So, let’s get out of bed, put our face in the sun, and let God’s glory bring a shimmer to the messiness and a Holy aura to our attitude.
Shine on, crazy Mammas –