Guest author Marcia Washburn
I just knew that this would be the year I would get it all together. This year I would find the secret to homeschooling a houseful of children and yet living in a house that was magazine — perfect. Yeah, right!
When my husband married me, I kept a clean house. If I left it tidy in the morning, it was that way when I came home after work. We didn’t have a lot of stuff and there were just the two of us. It just wasn’t that hard.
Then our first son arrived. It wasn’t too difficult with just one — we made a game of picking up toys before naptime and again before Daddy came home. We even had matching placemats on the table at dinner and regularly entertained guests.
Then came more babies, a move to the farm, remodeling, and homeschooling. With each addition to the list, housekeeping moved closer to survival mode. It was a good day if everyone got fed, led, and off to bed at a reasonable time. It was an exceptional day if a room got vacuumed or a bathroom sink was wiped out. Mostly I was the one who was wiped out.
The thing that discourages homeschooling moms most is not the teaching but the housework. One exhausted mom told her husband, “I can either teach your children or I can feed them!”
It is reported that the average American woman devotes fifty-three hours each week to domestic duties. This has not changed over the years, even with the advent of modern labor-saving appliances, and is pretty much consistent throughout the Western world, even for women who work full-time outside the home.
What many a rookie homeschooler fails to realize is that homeschooling adds another 20-30 hours per week to her present workload. In addition, those little blessings that are now staying home all day are increasing, by their very presence, the amount of housework Mom faces.
A Buckets comic shows one woman’s solution: The bathroom is spotless, everything is put away in the living room, and the wife is thinking, “The house is immaculate and it’s going to stay that way!” However, her husband and two young children are standing outside, pounding on the locked front door as he shouts, “C’mon, Sarah, let us in!”
Certainly, our homes would stay cleaner if no one lived there, but what profit is there in an empty home? Proverbs reminds us, An empty stable stays clean, but there is no profit in an empty stable (Proverbs 14:4 TLB).
Let’s face it: children take time, and building strong people in strong families is the most important, most significant thing you can do with your life, whether you are a man or a woman.
Most of us would never consider sending our children away to school so that our homes would be more orderly. Instead, we must find strategies that will allow us to keep our blessings home and keep our homes blessed. For me, correcting a stinking thinking attitude had to come first.
I found that the Survival Mode mentality which I had adopted following the birth of each new baby had become a permanent way of looking at housekeeping. Although my sons did a lot of the basic work (a lazy person is a good delegator), we still required periodic Red Alerts when company was coming and everyone manned their battle stations for a Trash and Stash session.
As might be expected, my children picked up many of my attitudes toward work. Fortunately, my husband is a diligent worker and shows his love for us by serving us. By the Lord’s grace, there was some balance in our home and our sons learned some of the joys of doing a job well. I think God gives children two parents so that between the two of them, the children get one good one.
Due to character flaws the Lord is still working out in me, I had adopted an attitude that physical labor was somehow less worthy of my attention than the mental and relational labor required to teach my children. Also, I was lazy: a dangerous combination — pride and laziness.
It was many years before I understood the significance that God attaches to work. How had I missed the obvious fact that our Lord Jesus spent most of His adult life as a carpenter? Jesus, not unexpectedly, did quality work. He didn’t slop through it while waiting for His “real” ministry to begin. Justin Martyr, a Galilean historian, wrote that many of the wooden plows built by Jesus were still in use during Justin’s lifetime during the second century.
Was I looking at my day-to-day work with the same attitude — the attitude that recognizes the importance of small things? That all work done unto the Lord is blessed by Him, whether it is writing a book or cleaning a toilet?
Os Guinness writes that when God calls us to some task — even if it’s something the world sees as lowly — that task is invested with what Guinness calls “the splendor of the ordinary.” Accepting drudgery is one of the ways we practice discipleship — learning to offer it up sacrificially to God. “We look for the big things to do — [but] Jesus took a towel and washed the disciples’ feet,” Guinness writes.
Lydia Sherman writes, “I work for a King. He has put me in charge of this home. When He comes to see how I have managed His possessions and His children, I do not want to be found wanting. I want to do my best. Everything I have is on loan to me from Him. I have room and board and a job to do, but it is all for Him. Therefore, I want to dress my best and do my best in all my work. I want also to be creative, for this is a sincere attempt to glorify Him and His beautiful creation. How I manage my home is a form of worship to Him.”