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Treating Motherhood as a Job
I'm in the middle of cramming for my book deadline for "The Good Girl's Guide to Sex", which is due at the publisher's in just a couple of weeks. I think you're going to like it!

But because I'm so frazzled writing, I thought I'd rerun some of the blog posts from two or three years ago that many of you, who joined me recently, may have missed. Here's one I really did like--edited a bit--and I hope you like it, too!

The worst thing a husband can do to a stay at home mom when he comes home after work is to look around the house with disdain and ask, "what did you do all day?".

Them's fighting words!

And we all know it. We tell jokes about inept men like that. We laugh at them.

And yet, ladies, I want to talk just between you and me right now. Hopefully no men are listening. Do we always work as hard as we can during the day? Or do we sometimes goof off?

I know I goof off a lot. Of course, that's only natural, because being home all day with kids is exhausting. We need our rejuvenating time, we argue. We need our time to ourselves. And that is very true.

But other than well-deserved breaks (and napping when the baby naps to catch up on sleep), do we put our 100% in?

Part of the problem, I think, is that motherhood is not a job. We're not getting paid, and no one is looking over our shoulder (except God! :) ). No one has made a list of all you have to accomplish today. No one is grading your performance. No one is going to fire you. So the only way to get things done around the house is by self-motivation.

What if you don't have any?

That's a tough one, isn't it? Now looking after little ones is a full-time job. I remember how exhausted I was when my children were little. And I decided that my primary responsibility was to them first, and the house (or apartment, as it was at the time) second. We would take outings every day, and I would read to them, and play with them, and make homemade baby food, and cook healthy meals, and make sure their laundry was done and their room cleaned, but the rest of the house suffered. I know that bothered my husband, but I figured he didn't have much to say about it because the kids were getting stimulated, and that was the important thing.

Looking back, I'm not sure what I would have done much differently, except perhaps get more organized at cleaning. But the kids were my primary responsibility!

What I wish I had had, at the time, was a more organized approach to housework. If I could have kept things neat, a lot of the chaos in our lives would have disappeared. And quite frankly, I did waste a lot of time. My children were wonderfully cared for, but the house was not. And with a little organization, it doesn't take that much time.

But as the kids grew older, my housework didn't improve that much, either. I just didn't like cleaning, and I found it overwhelming. It was a definite tension between my husband and me, because he wanted the living room neat, and I felt the children took precedence (or really, my right not to have to clean everyday took precedence!). When I finally realized how important it was to him, I made it a priority to have that room clean when he came home, as an act of love. And when I started doing that, I realized I did actually have quite a bit of time for cleaning, if you do it systematically.

When you treat motherhood like a job, you get things done. When you treat it like a big party with the kids, where you all get to goof off, you don't. I loved those years with my children when they were babies, and I was awfully young myself, so I'm not beating myself up about it. But today, now that the kids are older, I have to ask myself everyday: am I working today? Or am I goofing off?

My husband is working, and doing wonderful things for our family. I owe him some effort, too. That doesn't mean that I don't take time to myself; but it does mean that I need to start seeing some of the organizational tasks that need to get done around the house as my job. Not because I'm female, but simply out of fairness: if he works, I should work.

I know many homes where she stays home with the kids, but she doesn't necessarily "work". She has the TV on all day, or she's on Facebook as much as possible, or she's reading a book. Sure she plays with the kids, but stuff around the house just doesn't get done.

I don't think that's respectful of one's husband or one's kids. We need to set an example for the kids that we all have to do our share, and that means getting stuff under control. And we need to show our husband that we appreciate his effort by putting some effort in ourselves, too.

Now if you work outside the home as well, things are a little different. I'll address that in another post. But if you're at home, caring for the house, you should be caring for the house. I don't mean to make you feel guilty; I just mean to challenge you. It is so much harder to work when there's no one standing over your shoulder. We need to learn to be our own bosses!

One of the things that helped me was developing charts, that I talk about in my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, that help me get work done more efficiently. Everything has its day, so everything gets done in its time. You don't have to buy the book to get the charts, though: they're available for free download !

Another thing that helped was just that mental switch: I am here to do a job. Am I doing it?

Besides, believe me, your house is so much nicer to live in when it's organized. So let's all get to work!

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At 8:28 AM , Blogger Josie said…

I am a SAHM with two kids. I do most of the housework. My husband does my share of earning a paycheque, so I do his share of the laundry and vacuuming.

I take as many breaks and "goof off" here and there through the day whenever I can. Caring for a toddler is intense and her afternoon nap is my quiet drive to work, my lunch break, my afternoon coffee break, my dinner break, my quiet evening and my weekend. The 10 minutes she read her books alone (like now!) are precious and I don't want to spend them thinking about what chores I can get done.

Fortunately, having a toddler in the house means I do need to keep things tidy - an unattended newspaper is a shredded newspaper - and keep the floor clean enough to lie down on. Throw in dishes and laundry and the worst of the housework is done. But the kids, and my spirit, are the priority.


At 8:36 AM , Anonymous Genie said…

Thank you! This one resonated with me SO much. It is HARD to stay motivated with no one breathing down your neck, and with so many distractions around. Gonna go download those free forms.....


At 10:56 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

I think this is so unique to each family.

My husband didn't care as much about a clean house or fancy dinner on the table. When the twins were babies, and I was stressing myself out to "get it all done," he sat me down and said, "Honey. I would rather come home to a messy house and frozen waffles for dinner, but have happy kids and a wife who is as rested as she can be...a wife who can smile and laugh and have a conversation with me."

This was a turning point for me. I still tried to get the basics done as best as I could, but I made my boys and my own sanity a priority. I'm so glad I did!


At 11:05 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Thanks for the comments, ladies!

Llama Mama, you raise a good point. The first priority, naturally, should be our own health and sanity. Like I said, I don't think I would have done much differently, except getting more organized, and taking care of the entrance way/living room so that when my husband came home he didn't feel like it was a cyclone!

I just fear that there are many women who aren't putting in much of an effort, and I'm not sure that's fair to our husbands.


At 11:57 AM , Anonymous Christi said…

Having worked since 15yo & being the Type A that I am, I struggled at first being a SAHM. It helped me so much to view this as my "job" now. I might not get paid, but I still had responsibilities to my husband, our kids & our home. I created a document that I print each Sunday (my prep day) with categories for daily tasks, weekly tasks and special projects/appts to remember/etc. I love seeing things checked off, and tangible evidence that I've accomplished something.

Thank you for another great post & awesome comments! I enjoy sharing these with my friends.


At 12:28 PM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

"I just fear that there are many women who aren't putting in much of an effort, and I'm not sure that's fair to our husbands."

And this is also very true, Sheila! It's funny. After I commented I realized that, technically, I still have a young child at home (preschool age), and yet I feel in a very different stage of life!

The twins are in grade school, and the preschooler helps me with chores and errands. We all get enough sleep, and life just feels easier. I suppose now, I could actually lay around on the couch reading magazines and eating bon bons. ;-)

You're right, though. This motherhood gig IS a job. The hardest one I've ever had, for sure.


At 12:35 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

Love this post. It took me a while to come to that reaization too but I'm glad I did. I now have a graet system so that I have all my chores/tasks written down (not much space in my brain to remember it all) and how often I need to do it. I feel way more organized after this baby (and he's only two months) than I did for the first couple years after having my first son.

Today for example is my "heavy housekeeping day" because I know that I don't have time to do it on my errand day or the day I go to Bible study. Then I have another medium cleaning day and then I even schedule myself a "free day" where I just do my dailies (ie kitchen and diapers) so that I can have a break. But it's so amazing how much you can get done in a short amount of time if you know what you should be doing.

And now I'm done on my computer for now because my husband is headed out to do his chores so it's time for me to do mine. another great thing is that my son asks me why I can't play right now and I tell him "mommy needs to take care of the house like Daddy takes care of the cows and you take care of your toys and books." Setting an example for your kids is so important!


At 2:38 PM , Blogger Stephanie's Mommy Brain said…

You are so write! And right now there is a counter and sink full of dirty dishes just screaming my name. Thank you for reminding me that housework IS part of my job description and doing it well doesn't take that much effort. Now I'm off to wash those dishes!


At 3:25 PM , Anonymous Eve said…

Hi :)

I tend to distract myself horribly when I'm busy with the house - I wind up trying to clean the whole house at the same time. It doesn't work! Then I feel discouraged and let things slide for a while. Your book helped a lot!

I do need to treat housework more like a job. I would much rather read with the kids, watch a good movie, bake something...

I can't tell you how much I enjoy your articles/posts - they're usually exactly what I need to hear.


At 3:52 PM , Blogger Barb, sfo said…

Thanks for re-posting this. It was helpful the first time around, but it's always good to get some extra motivation. I found, today, that tweaking my routine--just a small switch-eroo of what happens when--meant that I got a LOT more done.
Whether my husband "cares" about whether the floor is clean, I think he actually cares more than he thinks he does. I want to make my home pleasant for all of us to live in.


At 7:39 PM , OpenID lettersfromnebby said…

Well, on one hand I do agree with what you are saying. But on the other, my job is 24 hours a day. So I do take more breaks during the day and I think that is okay. If my job could end at 5 or 6 pm or even when I go to bed at night (mine doesn't for medical reasons I am up with my dd every night), then maybe I would feel I should be working all day. But since my job never ends (and that includes always at least having somehting to do on Sabbaths even with the best planning ahead) then I don't feel bad about taking breaks periodically throughout the day.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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