Thanks to everyone who sent in questions to Grace. This week, Grace writes in response to a number of questions regarding balancing the demands of family and a busy schedule.
While I'm responding to these questions about “balance” in the home, I have stacks of paperwork on my desk, a “to-do” list a mile long, kids coming home from school soon, have realized I forgot to eat breakfast, and I’m wrapped up in a Wonder Woman blanket of all things.
A scenario like this is all too common for busy moms with any number of young kids. One of the hardest things for me is to keep perspective of who I am serving, instead of all the tasks that are flooding over me. Husbands need encouragement and affection, newborns take every moment to care for since they can’t do anything alone (even sleep sometimes), toddlers are constantly moving and asking questions, young kids need help with school homework and projects, and teens need emotional time and a listening ear. These are all a natural part of kids growing up and being in relationship with people we love.
If I list all the things and people I'm called to care for, it seems impossible, and it is…at least to do so perfectly, every moment. I wish I could give you a 10-step process to the smoothest running home, but I can’t. We're all different women, with different husbands and children. But thankfully, we all have the same God to help us.
Every time I feel overwhelmed, I either want to laugh or cry. For some reason God gave me this life verse:
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
In my flesh, I want to be anxious, complain, and feel defeated by all my responsibilities. Jesus wants me to think about who I'm serving (Him and my family) and “anything worthy of praise”. This doesn’t mean we don’t do our tasks, but we can’t allow those tasks to be more important than the people we are doing them for. If you tend toward laziness, repent and work hard for the people you love. If you tend toward over-organization, repent and spend time enjoying the people in front of you. Our goal needs to be to love Jesus and encourage our husband and kids to do the same.
Does that mean we won’t ever feel defeated again? No, but when we do, we can offer “everything in prayer” so that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds from the lies of feeling like we have to be “Wonder Woman” and do it all perfectly, all of the time.
The answer to keeping a home running smoothly isn’t an overnight solution, but our attitudes make a difference. It’s not just our responsibility to get a bunch of tasks done, it’s also our privilege to learn, grow and mature along the way. It takes time, trial and error, and being willing to laugh at ourselves to keep perspective and to encourage a happy home.
On my first post, I discussed ways to pray and have a peaceful mindset. If we get into these healthy habits, it will change how and why we serve others. Here are some practical tips for keeping priorities.
If you tend to be organized, rejoice in that gift and take 20 minutes to make a plan of weekly priorities (check with your husband to make sure those are what he thinks are priority as well). When you write out your responsibilities, you can then organize them and realistically make goals for each day.
If you tend to be disorganized (as I am), you still need to make a plan for each week. Write down what you must do each day, for example:
Time with Jesus—praying, reading, and maybe writing a memory verse at the top of your to-do list or mirror to encourage you
Connecting with your husband—emails/calls/texts during the day, block off time when he gets home, after dinner, or at bedtime, and don’t stop investing in that relationship
Connect with your kids—with babies you are doing that all day but stop and look at them adoringly (they melt your heart if you let them), read books or play games that your toddlers enjoy (they grow up more quickly than you can imagine), and listen to your pre-teens and teens (they want to be understood and encouraged)
Cook dinner, do laundry, clean house, etc.—plan a weekly menu and grocery shop once per week, do laundry as needed but use the folding time for praying or chatting with your husband or kids, show your kids at an early age how they can help around the house, and consider getting cleaning or task help in certain seasons
As you build new habits, you'll be surprised at how much you get done, but it’s equally important to give yourself grace when the whole list isn’t accomplished.
I have found out the hard way that if my house looks perfect, my husband and kids can feel neglected or stressed out. I don’t believe in “balance” as much as I believe in working hard and constantly assessing if I am loving Jesus, my husband, and my children the best way I can in each season of life. That will look different for each of us, so I will remind you to not compare yourself to other women.
It’s good to learn from others if we are struggling in an area, but we shouldn’t compare our methods to their methods. I’ve seen both wonderfully kept and unkept homes with some very unhappy marriages and kids. If we let God organize our hearts and attitudes, our homes will be peaceful. As a fellow mom wrote, “The kids can be running like a bunch of hooligans through a house that appears to be at the bottom of a toaster, and yet, if organization and order can still be found in my attitude, we are doing well. But if my attitude falters, even in the midst of external order, so does everything else” (Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic).
Lastly, for those of you that asked about books I recommend, there is a list on our site if you click “books”, “recommended”, and scroll down to the topic of interest. Many women seem to struggle with anxiety or fear, so I want to highlight the books on fear, Running Scared and When People are Big and God is Small, and prayer, The Praying Life, that have been extremely helpful to expose my sin and encourage me in difficult times.
Off to hear from my kids, fold laundry, and make dinner...