Growing as a Homemaker (Learning to Tackle the Nitty Gritty of the Home)

Today I want to get real about homemaking in the life of a young mother.

Each time we have added a new person to the family (like our recent addition, Moses, the precious little person to your left), something has had to grow or change in the way I approach the care of our home. I definitely was lousy at this in the beginning (I'm not being falsely humble here), and for years, I've settled for feeling adequate. I'm only now (8 years into being at home full-time) starting to feel a real sense of competency at homemaking.

When I had our first son, Ethan, it really was just basic survival. Our home was constantly messy. I'm not saying this to glorify it, just telling you the truth. I remember talking with a friend of mine who had five kids at that time and quite literally believing that my laundry task rivaled hers. It just seemed so monumental and mountainous! The dishes almost never got done... I was constantly behind (thank God for a compassionate husband and mother!). And my "meals" were almost entirely composed of convenience foods + meat and/or butter and/or milk. For me, early motherhood combined with homemaking was simply survival. And yet, we somehow made it, and enjoyed ourselves in the process!

When we added Baxter to the mix, I got better at managing laundry. Somehow, though I had another person to care for, I got a little better. I realized that it really doesn't take that long to throw in a load of laundry, so I should stop putting it off, and do that regularly. And I began multi-tasking, sitting next to a little person crawling or playing on the floor and folding that laundry. Don't get me wrong, the house was still a mess most of the time and the meals were still composed of convenience foods, but the laundry was mostly caught up. This felt like a huge achievement!

When we had our daughter Maranatha, we had also recently moved overseas. So laundry was being hung (no longer had a clothes dryer) and language was being studied. But somehow, even with adding in a new person, I got better at cooking, out of necessity. No longer could I rely on Hamburger Helper to help me along. No longer could I regularly use "cream of ______" soups to feed the hungry people in my home. I actually had to learn to cook from scratch, to use ingredients to put together a meal that we would all want to eat, and to do it 3 times a day. Cooking seemed to take FOR-EV-ER (and that year, I spent upwards of 3 hours a day in the kitchen), but I got better at it. Even my sister-in-law (domestically gifted one that she is) commented on the improvement my cooking when we returned for a few months after living abroad-- that felt great!

Just before we added Silas to the mix, I came across a "Supermarket Savings" online course and the best thing I took away from it was making up a 4-week meal plan. So I basically tackled my meal-planning and turned it into something that was a no-brainer part of my life. As opposed to the "fly by the seat of your pants and buy whatever you happen to want" or the "sit down and plan out the week" methods of grocery shopping, it now takes very little effort to know what to buy and to know what to cook. I continue to use this plan, and re-work the details of meals/ingredients every 8-10 months or so.

Because I'm more of a laid-back messy, rather than a "place for everything and everything in its place" sort of gal, it's taken me this many kids to really start to have to have a plan for cleaning. And anyone who's been in my home can probably testify to the, well, lack of shinyness around here. :) But we're happy. Nonetheless. It's to the point now that if I did nothing all day, the living room would have dozens of books strewn about, at least one toy set littering the floor, colors and color books found at random points in the home, and play doh bits scattered across the floor under the dining table (and thus, soon, tracked through the whole house). And more. (Every mom can testify to the pain of stepping on legos and the frustrations of plates and juice spills left on the table!)

All that to say that we have reached a point that regular, planned cleaning is an utter necessity. No longer will spot cleaning here and there do the trick. So I have a master task list where I listed out every single thing that needs to be done (cleaning wise) in the house, and then parsed those things out, in logical groupings, to a day of the week. Now, I'm still not organized enough to actually carry out each job on the day of the week that it falls, but for the most part, most things get done at least once every couple of weeks. And for now, that's good enough. I care about cleaning more now, but I still can't be OCD about it, ya know?

I just want to give you freedom. Freedom to be who you are and exist in the stage of life that you are currently in. I didn't have it all together, and we survived. I still don't have it all together, and we're doing just dandy. Our little boys leave the toilet seats up sometimes. Dishes still all-too-regularly litter our countertop. I don't even own "Nourishing Traditions", and I "bake my own bread" (aka throw some ingredients into the breadmaker) about 4 times a year. The bedsheets get changed when I remember. There are strengths in my life as a homemaker (meal-planning, laundry), and there are weaknesses (organizing, dishes).

I hope no one would ever come to Making Home and think, "wow, this is a woman who has it together," or, "this comes easy to her, she was probably born doing this stuff!" or feel that you have to achieve everything all at once, simply because you see someone with more children, ten or twenty years into motherhood, doing many things capably. Do what you can, and keep learning. Feel God's pleasure as you learn what you can, but don't take on guilt for what others can do that you may not yet be able to do, or may have no desire to do.

Motherhood, budgeting, homemaking, meal planning, homeschooling-- these things aren't easy things. And particularly in our mobile, emotionally distant society, these things are made more difficult because we don't have community/societal support as we learn these things. I just want to encourage you to keep on keeping on. Galatians 6:9 tells us "let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up". I think just as this principle applies to spiritual reaping and harvesting, it also applies to learning and growth as a wife, mother, and homemaker. Keep applying yourself to doing good. Do good for your husband, do good for your children, do good for your home, do good for the Body of Christ and your friends and neighbors around you.

Keep on doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up!


Jess said...

This is so encouraging, thanks for sharing your journey thus far. I was just thinking the other day how having clean counters was probably over rated. It's nice to have the cleaned off once a month or so, but otherwise, I like to remember where I left off.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I've always struggled with being clean (and my house growing up was messy- my mom is messy... but my dad is not!) And it got even harder as we've added kids and my energy level plummeted (and hasn't raised, I'm guessing I'm at a new "normal"). I agree now that it is out of necessity that I do many things though I would like to grow in this. Just a couple of weeks ago I was able to stay on top of it all and it felt wonderful! I loved the feeling of being clean, organized, and on top of it instead of exhausted, extremely dirty and messy, and just doing disaster control.

Anyways, thanks for the encouragement!

Karlee said...

Thanks for this post. You are always so encouraging to me. I'm so glad I found your site.

Christy said...

I'm so thankful for this post. It is encouraging not only to see how you've made growth and progress in your homemaking, but to now look back over the last 10 years and see the progress that I've made too. It's so much more encouraging to see the progress in my homemaking than it is to compare myself to others. I need to stop doing that!! Thanks for sharing!

Catherine R. said...

Great post, Jess. Someone else mentioned that recently, the idea that we can't have everything all at once, and it has been a good thing for me to think about. In this (Christianese coming) "season" of life, mess is an indication that things are as they should be. Also someone mentioned to me about "signs of life" and that was touching to me. When we look around our homes and see toys, food and books everywhere it's because people we love live with us. I know what it feels like to have my own little stale apartment where nothing moves unless I move it. I like life better this way.

All that said, it is good to work at doing things better, and you know me, I whine all the time. But I must say, someone told me my apartment looks like it's out of a magazine recently and it just made me realize how warped we can view our lives when we're comparing ourselves to the idea of someone else.

Alice said...

Thank you!!!! I am pregnant with my 5th baby and beginning homeschooling, and living in a house that's been in a dreadful state since before I had any children! I am not good at this. But, this post was so encouraging, thank you so much for sharing! I feel better for it and more cheerful about tackling the task ahead of me! :)

Liz said...

Ummm... are we twins?? I have gone thru this process as well, with adding children - down to this - I'm due TODAY :>) with our fourth and I've been mentally addressing the meal planning/grocery shopping issue to deal with. As well as a plan to train the children to pick up better independently over the next year...

Anyway, thanks for sharing!

Jenna said...

Thank you for this! This is just what I needed to read today, and now I am encouraged and challenged! I am really interested in some things I read on the moneysavingmom website that you linked on here... I would love to dive into freezer cooking/once a month cooking!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I just love you for this post! :)

We began homeschooling our kids this year, making an exodus of sorts from 4 years of public schooling.

We are getting the schooling done each day, but my home is looking less than fab, my laundry is way behind, we are eating out more than ever, and I'm just feeling inadequate to the task of mothering/homemaking/wifehood at this moment! Clinging tiredly to the feet of Jesus!

I'm going to keep on, keepin' on!

Bless you!

Erika said...

Thanks! I am almost in tears as I sit baggy eyed sleepy, with toys sippy cups and cabbage patch dolls on the floor...this is the first time I am just sitting down today, I haven't been lazy,...I am sure I don't have to explain...Thank you for the vere as well... not giving up!

Susan @ Heart Pondering said...

Perfectly timed post for me as I have just been through a bout of lamenting my fledgling homemaking skills and feeling that I'd never have an orderly and (at least passably) visually attractive home... And then circled back to, like you, marvel at how far I have come in the past 2 years since the needs of my children and household have demanded that I grow in this area. The notion of "homeward diligence" as I call it was not one that I had ever applied myself to, nor even truly acknowledged as a necessary task for a wife/mother in its own full rite, until I had birthed my third child. I just threw it all together till then as we went along. Since I started making an effort, things have certainly improved... and I need not despise my small beginnings and steady progress.

It encourages me to know that you also don't have innate giftings in home orderliness that you were born into... And that you are ok with that, to some degree. I need to give myself grace as well, knowing that the giftings I do have are those that God gave me. I can retain those and pour myself most fully into them, while I also learn to grow in home-making and give it the priority it merits in this stage of life.

Thanks for your thoughts and candor.

Catherine said...

Hi Jess
I've been following your blog for a while now and find it really inspirational. I'm also living overseas, and I also had to learn how to cook with just the basic ingredients. I spend a lot longer in the kitchen, but I feel my family is healthier for it. My hubbie actually prefers my totally-from-scratch-pizza to shop-bought ones, yeah! Keep up the great work! (I still don't know how you find time to blog in the midst of all of this!)

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this post. It was so encouraging to me today. So thankful that you are writing again on a regular basis--I missed it when you took an extended break a little while ago!
--Elizabeth I.

Candra Georgi said...

Keep it real sista! Good at keeping it real. Thanks for sharing.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, just thank you! Can't even really express to you how encouraging this was to me today.

Leah said...

Thank you so much for this Jess; I'm learning day after day that motherhood is a glorious inconvenience and that my lists may never get crossed off 'on time' but I can never grow weary. I'm pregnant with #4 and know I have made huge progress over the past 7 years; my home just doesn't look much like it today, and I don't know what's for dinner!! Praise God for His fresh mercies every morning.

(((((HUGS))))) sandi said...

Moved to tears, as I am in the same place in the journey~only it's taken me longer to get here! *THANK YOU!* (((((HUGS))))) sandi

New momma said...

this was so encouraging to me. thank you for sharing it!

Trish D said...

Thanks for your honesty and encouragement - reading through this brought back so many memories (both triumphs and catastrophes!) I had all the answers until we actually had children of our own, and have since been humbled, stretched, challenged, and overwhelmed... but oh, what a privilege!

I'm growing right along with the kiddos.

Ashley said...

Very encouraging! Thanks Jess!

Also, I'm shocked that you're not into FlyLady...changed my homemaking life!!

Athena said...

I just found your blog, and it came at just the right time for me. Like many others, I can compleatly realate to the "messy" mentality. In fact I just posted about my struggles today!
Thank you for posting this. It has helped me more than you will ever know. I know God sent me here today. Thank you and praise Him.
Blessings - Athena

Mrs. Anna T said...

Reading this sure makes me feel calmer and less incompetent. Thank you! :o)

Carolyn said...

Great post! Makes me feel better for having a less than perfectly organized house. I just found your blog when you were posting about Babywise. Love that book!

Thanks for being "real". :-)


crystal said...

I found your post encouraging even though I'm single, in my early 20s, and have no children. Especially this:

"Feel God's pleasure as you learn what you can, but don't take on guilt for what others can do that you may not yet be able to do, or may have no desire to do."

At this point, I have no desire to get married or have children, and I believe I'm incapable of both... but I know that could change, so I'm not worried about just being where I am, for now.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is so encouraging to me, as I only have two kids at this point and often beat myself up when I compare my (lack of) housekeeping skills to those of other women, such as my own mom.

This is my first time visiting your blog in a long while - congratulations on your new baby! :)

Anonymous said...

I am a young mother of two kids, one of whom is Autistic. She demands alot of supervision, more than usual. This doesn't leave alot of time for cleaning and laundry. I just wanted to say thanks. We all have our own ride.

sara w said...

I'm a year or two late to reading this but it was super encouraging. thank you! someone else mentioned "flylady". she has given me so many tools/habits to helping me "bless" my house. There are still days when it seems overwhelming with three little ones and i just want to go on an extreme decluttering rampage to remove all the toys out of our house so we don't have to pick them up everyday. ha ha. God's grace says he loves me no matter how clean and organized my house is. I love him for that!