Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Highest Calling

Recently, I read Carolyn Mahaney's book, "Feminine Appeal." I loved nearly all of it and found it to be incredibly helpful as I struggle through the high callings of being both a housewife and a mother. In the final pages, Mrs. Mahaney wrote a beautiful and loving tribute to her mother Margaret. The author depicted Margaret as a hard-working, selfless, and loving woman who truly gave herself completely to others. In other words, this dear Margaret lady sounded as though she embodied the person I hope to someday be.

That is, until I read these lines: " soon as Margaret had sent her 5 children off to school, she spent the next six hours of her day tirelessly cleaning, cooking, and..."

That line caught me off guard. Why? Well, I don't make a lot of public noise over this, but Jon and I feel that it is in the best interest of our children to educate them at home. I certainly don't mind telling people when they directly ask about our educational choices (I'm posting it on my public blog, aren't I?), but I'm not one to announce to a stranger that, "Hey, did you know that we're going to home school our kids?" It's just not in my nature.

So, when I read of these beautiful, Godly women who sacrifice their entire lives for others, it encourages me that, maybe, I can do the same - that is, until I find out that they have 6 hours each day that are free from grimy little fingers and the constant care that little ones demand. I will, in all likelihood, never have this luxury. How, then, am I to do what they have done, while in addition teaching my little spark plugs?

Honestly, I haven't the faintest idea.

I know that I am not alone in this. When my parents first decided to undertake my education 23 years ago, "home schooling" was an unknown term. Today, nearly everyone has at least heard of home schooling if not even considered doing it themselves. Somehow, during the home schooling explosion of the previous generation, families - especially mothers - struggled, pushed, and fought their way through the awesome task of maintaining a home, demonstrating hospitality, and educating their kids. And if they can do it, I can, too.

It won't be easy. At times, it won't be fun. But, unlike my parents and other previous-generation home schoolers, I have a lot in my favor. I was home schooled, so I at least have a vague understanding of what this involves. I have been graciously given more curriculum than I know what to do with. I only have three kids (I've heard of families with 12 or more kids trying to do this). Most of all, I have my husband's complete, steady, and unyielding support, which is far more than many other women have. If anyone is prepared for home education, it's me.

With all of that said, I'll go back to my question: How does one do it all? I am certainly not the expert here (my oldest is only starting kindergarten this fall!!), but I have found a few things to be helpful:

First of all, I pray. A LOT. Especially before I get out of bed in the morning. If I don't, the whole day goes south before I can speak three words.

Secondly, I am a stay-at-home "stay-at-home mom." If that leaves you confused, let me clarify. I don't really go anywhere during the day. Now that Jon works days and needs the car, I find it really annoying to fight traffic in order to take him to and from work just so I have a set of wheels during the day. Staying home is my answer. I tend to stress out when I have a bunch of errands and appointments, so becoming a homebody really appeals to me. Thus, I have a lot more time than someone who has to take kids to soccer, T-ball, ballet, PTA meetings, Back-to-School nights, etc.

Next, I skip as many things as I can. For example, I don't mop, dust, scrub baseboards (it helps that I actually don't have any baseboards), or wash windows. Ever. Really. If something spills on the floor, I take a washrag and clean up the gooey area and go on my way. And with kids ages 5 and under, I really can't see the point of cleaning off fingerprints when they're just going to miraculously reappear moments later. When the kids are grown, I'll have time to wash the windows (I think).

Additionally, I try to include the kids in certain things. Baking is great; we count cup measures and talk about fractions while cooking. I can count it as school; they stay occupied and aren't busy getting other things out; and I get my food prep done all in one fell swoop.

Even better will be starting official chores this fall. I probably won't call them chores since my kids do better when I simply ask if they can help me, but I will start routinely asking for "help" in vacuuming, bathroom cleaning...oh, and dusting. We already ask the kids to help with picking up, clearing the table, folding clothes, and turning off unneeded lights. The older they get, the more they can help relieve me of some of my current obligations and duties. This isn't torture or child abuse; it's called maturity. (It can also probably be called "saving Mom's sanity, but that's for another discussion.)

Of course, this lifestyle isn't for everyone. I know many women who would go stir-crazy if they couldn't get out of the house every day. I also know moms who feel that cleanliness is next to Godliness and couldn't handle a little dust or some fingerprints. For me, though, this method gets me by. I may not be doing all things well (or somethings even at all), but by skimming over some things and enlisting my kids' help, I think we've got a shot at making all of this work.

And if we fail, I'm sure you'll be able to find me in the nearest mental hospital. But at least I tried.


  1. Julie...this is a beautifully written blog and I admire your dedication to your family. I am a bit concerned however because when do YOU get time for yourself and time to do the things that you like to do other than kid related stuff? I am not criticizing you, just pointing out something that is very important. You spoke of the character, Margaret giving herself completely to others and while this may sound nice, it is not healthy and I cannot imagine that she was fully fulfilled in doing this, but instead felt perhaps obligated or as though she was fulfilling her calling. I have seen marriages fail and women lose their minds by not caring for themselves first. Remember if mama ain't happy, ain't no-one happy!! Please put yourself and your needs up front as well. It has nothing to do with not loving your kids, but rather with keeping yourself balanced and being better able to care for them. Sending Max to preschool this fall is good for him, but it is also good for me, and good for the family that I have that time to care for myself, see friends, get a manicure or just watch some dumb TV show....again, not trying to be critical, but just giving you something to think about...hope all is well with you all....

  2. Julie, there are two books you've got to read: "Homeschooling With aMeek and Quiet Spirit" and "Keeping Our Children's Hearts--Our Vital Priority". If you cannot buy them, I will lone them to you. A close second to those would be "Managers of Their Homes" This author is a woman who knows where she came from (struggles just like you and I face every day), and what it takes to grow beyond those struggles. Another thing to remember is that once your child is able to read, your homeschooling duties greatly diminish in the hands-on aspect.

    Another thing to remember is that, with proper scheduling, you can easily find 2--4 hours of personal time. And if you really feel the need to "get out of the house," weekends apply to homeschoolers, too! Our parents fought for what they believed in, and really paved the way for us to be second-generation Christians, and homeschoolers. Your outlook on life, and your reliance on the Lord will give you far more blessings than you could ever imagine any other way. You're doing a great job! You're an encourager, a good friend, and a fantastic mother! ;-)

  3. Oh, don't worry, Aunt Kathy! I truly appreciate your input, and yes, I certainly do take time for myself! I put the kids down for a two-hour nap every day, and then I make myself my favorite cup of tea and relax with my devotions, a good book, my artwork, sewing (creative sewing, not mending!), crochet, or whatever I feel like doing. I also am part of a Jane Austen book club which I love, and lots of us schedule Moms' Night Out dates where we leave kiddos at home with hubbies. Thank you for the reminder, though; it made me realize that it's high time we mommies get together again!

    Danielle, I'll put those on my reading list. I always keep a list of books handy, and as time, the library, and finances permit, I slowly work my way through them. Thank you for the recommendations! I love adding to my little library. My goal is to someday have an actual library in my home. It might be a lofty goal, but I'm going to try! :)

  4. Hi Julie--I think I'm in the same boat as you, even down to the full support of homeschooling by my husband. I've seen some women really struggle, even tearfully, with husbands who will not allow them to do it.

    I can imagine someday you and I will both have clean houses, maybe clean empty nests. I hope we will look back and say we made the right choices.

    I've spoken to sahms about their clean houses, and I was surprised at how many of them use maid services to maintain their sanity. You and I don't budget for that, of course. They also declutter more and more as the children get older, as you know. And then there are husbands who do a lot to help--my husband's work schedule doesn't really allow for that; plus, he desires to maintain our distinct roles. There really are women who manage to get it done (homeschooling and perfectly clean homes with husbands who travel or work a lot), but I know my limits--I'm still learning as I go, but I really do my best. That's what God wants. He's not partial. He doesn't prefer the man who is a star athlete over one who is a janitor (though we as humans do that). He only cares about our hearts.

    It really isn't just the final result of the clean house, but the motivation to get there. Sometimes I'm being Proverbs 31 and other times I'm being Martha. I have recently learned to anchor myself better, learning to do it for the Lord alone.

    We do need to have at least a solid average cleanliness to maintain safety, reduce the spread of germs or bacteria, and present a model to our children of order. But given the choice between dusting and offering character lessons to our children, we know what we must do (too bad we have allergies, so I do have to dust).

    It'll be interesting when all is said and done with homeschooling to look back on what we've learned. Maybe you'll write a book about it!