Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Year at Home

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my "last day at work" -- that is work outside the home.  It's been such a joy-filled year of learning for me, and I wanted to share a little of how I have grown and developed as a homemaker -- mainly to encourage myself to keep going and growing!

First, I want to say that even though women who are stay at home moms work very hard (or should, it's certainly a temptation to be lazy without any deadlines), nothing can compare to how hard I worked while I was a working mom, especially with an infant (which was most of the time).  Perhaps it's easier to be a working mom if you have a nanny and pay someone to clean your house and pick up your groceries, but I couldn't say since I didn't have those things (and most working moms don't).  So I want to give a little shout out of encouragement to the working moms that I do not think my life is harder now.  NOooooo, quite the contrary!  I certainly think my life is easier!  It's hard to even remember the details of that crazy, rushed around time in my life, packing my lunch and storing breastmilk, and carrying so much stuff to the car each day for my kids and for me.  It's probably hard to remember because I was still so sleep deprived getting up with Chippy every couple hours at night and bringing HUGE mason jars of iced coffee to work to get me through the day!

So when this year began, my babies and I were on detox mode.  Susie had a rather rough adjustment to me going back to work after my maternity leave with Chip because her world just kept flipping over and over, and now she was with different babysitters every day.  Josh was so gracious to me as I seriously spent so much time in my days snuggling on the couch with my kids.  We were making up for lost time, and Josh understood that my priority was just being with them!  He would say "I understand, 'Babies don't keep'." (I had that poem framed in the kids room).  We spent several months of very loosely scheduled days, with tons of trips to parks last fall, often just the 3 of us.  I have lovely sunny memories of sitting on a quilt at the park eating lunch with Susie and nursing Chip, and not missing grown up conversation! I didn't do much at that time to develop my homemaking skills, other than maybe menu planning and little bit of frugal living stuff.  But that was ok!  I knew it was our "honeymoon period".

Then it seems like the next 6 months were pretty much solid holidays, one after another.  It was really wonderful to be WITH my kids during all of those, and I did quite a lot to try and make them special.  I took on more crafting and sewing projects -- starting with Christmas and all the way to Susie's birthday at the end of May, I was always working on some sort of project for a holiday or event, though I usually did so during naptimes or in the evening.  Yesterday I was working on some sewing and realized that I've gotten a LOT faster and more confident sewing than I used to be, and that's just because of my practice!

Brother and Sister Playtime
At some point in the spring, I started having Chip and Susie have "Brother and Sister playtime" in their room after lunch.  Susie would call "come on, Chippy, it's brother and sister playtime!!" and he would crawl like crazy to follow her in there.  Some days they would play together longer and better, and I would get more cleaning done than usual, but typically, I would have them play for about 20 minutes while I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen.  Chip went through a little phase where he didn't like to go in there without me, so I just let Susie play by herself (it seemed like punishment for her to make him wail in there!), but mostly they are happy for a while that way.  It was pretty much still the only consistent thing I had in my housekeeping schedule, other than making dinner! 

This summer I realized to have some sort of cleaning system was going to be better than having nothing at all, because even if I deviated from it or just mostly failed at it, I would probably do more trying to keep it than I would otherwise.  So I found a sample schedule on Pinterest and printed it off, and have tried to follow the best I can.  While it doesn't address deep cleaning or decluttering or anything, it's actually been simple to follow!  My main trial was vacuuming because my kids are both freaked out by the vacuum cleaner and it's so hard to find a chance to run it when they are getting stuff out all over the place -- to both tidy and vacuum seems overwhelming at times, so I would usually do it when Josh was home or when it was my day for an errand swap!  Well, for about a month now I've been having them read books together on the couch while I vacuum and it has worked really well!  If Chip gets anxious, I tell Susie to cheer him up by smiling and saying "it's ok, brother!!' and she is usually so focused on how happy he is that she has gotten over her own anxieties!  My house has CERTAINLY been looking better these days, even though I am usually not able to quite do everything on the housekeeping schedule, it still gives me a framework.

I have been thinking about starting my kids on a "play alone time" -- we did it yesterday afternoon so I could change the sheets on my bed (side note -- our bed is totally their fave place to be!  If I go into my room, Chip follows me and stands by the bed reaching up and whimpering for me to put him up on it!).  It didn't last long, but I think Chippy may be big enough for it now.  It might take Susie a while to adjust to the concept since she is pretty social, and she already has her alone time reading during naptime (which does not include any sleeping for her).

It may seem like I am a pretty slow learner -- that it was almost a year before I started a cleaning schedule!  It's true, I was slow.  You know how it is -- life just goes on: teething followed by sickness then some other bump in the schedule.  Chip didn't start sleeping through the (whole) night until he was nearly 14 months old, so I really did cut myself some slack.  Maybe too much, but I don't think I will regret it in the long run.  I know I did spend plenty of time just devoted to my kiddos and enjoying our life together!

This morning I thanked the Lord for the wonderful responsibility of caring for my kids and home full time and asked him to enable me to be faithful in my calling!  A clean house is not my goal, but rather living out Christ in front of my kids, and loving my family by serving them.