Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Shift in the Paradigm

I've been doing a little thinking lately and I've realized that I've been handling becoming a "working mother" all wrong.  Since I started working about a month and a half ago, our home life has basically been allowed to go to seed.  Here's just a little snippet of what it's been like lately:

  • "Mom, there aren't any clean forks!!"
  • "Honey, do I have any clean shirts?!"
  • "Uh, Mom?  Why do your legs feel like a Sasquatch?!"
  • "Sandwiches for dinner again???"

It's not been pleasant.  

I've been falling into the trap of our day - allowing the urgent to take precedence over the important.  I feel like I do nothing but run from one fire to another, trying to put them all out before my house burns down.  

Last week I was thumbing through one of my Elizabeth George books, Life Management for Busy Women.  Boy do I feel like I need this book more than ever!  I was reminded that, even though I am now working, my priorities should not, can not, change.  They must remain now and ever more God first, husband second, children third, home fourth and anything else after that.  I need to start to take steps to reclaim my life and not let myself get overwhelmed by the busy-ness I now encounter.

Even though I'm now what the world refers to as a working mother, I have decided not to think of myself in those terms.  Instead, I'm trying to reteach my brain to think of myself as a mother who works.  It may seem like silly semantics, but I think it will help me to remember that my first call is to my family.  

The whole reason I'm working is for my family.  Financially, it's no longer feasible for me to be home what with our real estate investments having gone south and having put the kids into a great, but expensive, school.  But what good is it if I can't pull myself together enough to be a good wife and mother?  If I'm too tired to be kind and loving?  If I'm too disorganized to provide my family with the basics?  

So the question is how do I go about not just changing my way of thinking, but applying it to real life?  I mean, the reality is that I have to keep working (although it would be lovely if Hubby said I could just come back home!).  Just calling myself by something different isn't actually going to make the workload any lighter.  I have to work smarter, not harder.  

One of the first things I've done is to purchase a white board which I've used to manage all the information I need to use each day.  I divided it into 8 boxes - one for each day plus an extra box for making note of things I need to add to the grocery shopping list.  Within each day's box, I make note of what we'll be having for dinner (in red), events or afterschool activities (in green), who is in charge of preparing devotions (in black - and please don't think we are so super-spiritual because of this.  We've only been doing it for a week or two and purely out of sheer necessity for the Word of God to regain precedence in our home), and major homework projects or test dates for my kids (in blue).

In just the week I've been using it, the board has helped me tremendously.  I have it on display in the kitchen and each morning I am reminded to thaw something for dinner, or that we will be at school late due to rock climbing club.  I no longer find out about an exam the morning of the exam on the way to school.   It's simply helped me to breathe a little easier and to not feel so panicked all the time.

And as for that workload?  Well, I have to admit that I've been very blessed to have a husband who will jump in and help out.  He's helped out with laundry, dishes, mopping and more and I don't even have to ask.  Even better, he doesn't mind at all!  

I've also learned that there are some things that I have to let go.  While I would love to provide my family with a spotless house all the time, it's probably not going to happen very often right now.   But I can focus on the big things that need done and get to the rest when I can.  I may not be able to cook meals that are as elaborate as those I used to make, but with proper planning I can provide healthy, tasty meals that will nourish us.

It's a matter of priorities and balance.  Yes, I'd love for everything to be perfect.  But in all honesty, it wasn't perfect when I was a stay at home, homeschooling mom either.  It's easy to romanticize how things used to be.  However, the time has come for me to stop being wistful about being a stay at home mom and roll up my sleeves and get busy.  


stacey said...

you are still way too early in the adjustment phase to be hard on yourself. i like that you keep finding little approaches to making it all work!

Mrs. American Wife said...

juvrappdear lori:
i totally agree with the idea of thinking of yourself as a mom who works (especially if the working part is intended to be temporary). i had to think of myself the same way when i went back to work as a teacher that one year i told you about. it helped ALOT with keeping my priorities in order and in helping us as a couple plan for the time when i could quit my job. it also helped make the adjustment back to being a fulltime sahm a whole lot easier that time around. furthermore, in terms of the family thinking of you the same way, it helps to encourage a very supportive atmosphere for you in the sense that they, too, will remember what your first priority is, and in support of that, will gladly pitch in with the work that can (at this time) no longer command your full attention. Balancing home and work will never be easy (such is the blessing of the sahm that does not have to do this), but it will get EASIER. you will see. May the Lord bless your efforts, and in every way, allow the blessings and gifts of the Proverbs 31 woman that are yours as a daughter of the Lord to shine brightly before all you know you. Especially in those times when it seems like you don't have it all together, may the shine even more the brighter.

Anonymous said...

hmm, we have some similarities. I am too a "mom that works" and I struggle with that every day. I work though to pay for our kids (3) to attend Christian school and to get benefits for my family.

Like you work is not my priority. Thank you for this shift in paradigm.


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