Mailbag: Hints for a Happier, Healthier Home

Monday Mailbag Q&A

I use Mondays for answering mail here on my blog. This week, we’re discussing the challenges and joys of motherhood, plus hints for creating a happier, healthier home.

Question: How do I maintain peace amid the challenges of motherhood?

Dear Jennifer,

I just wanted to thank you for your website again. I have spent time here the last two years now [reading] various posts, especially concerning planning, parenting young children, and some of your recent posts.

[They’ve made me aware of] ways I have let myself entertain thoughts of how difficult my life is now instead of wholeheartedly embracing my children. I need better answers for ladies at the grocery store who tell me how rough I have it, or the occasional comment like that by my doctor or even my dear relatives sometimes….

I need to tend to my minutes, hours, and days better. Admittedly, I’ve spent a shameful amount of time wishing for naptime or for bedtime, instead of disciplining properly so our home would be peaceful, or just somehow leading my children in having good and Christ-honoring days. Any thoughts here would be welcome, though I know your days are full!!

Struggling Mother

Answer: Build better habits by changing your focus

Dear Struggling,

The people in the grocery store who tell you how rough you have it with three little ones probably aren’t trying to be rude; they’re just attempting to empathize and acknowledge the fact that mothering can be hard work.

It’s all right for you to admit that, too, while still sending the message that you love your “job.” Maybe answer with something like, “Yes, it can be challenging, but the rewards are SO WORTH IT!” or “Yes, my hands ARE full, but it’s the BEST KIND OF FULL there is!”

Motherhood is Both Challenging & Rewarding

I remember an older mom came to see me soon after my first baby was born. At some during her visit, she made the very innocent and heartfelt comment, “Don’t you just LOVE naptime?” I didn’t quite know how to respond to that comment, either. I didn’t fully understand or appreciate what she was talking about at the time, and I mistakenly believed that making such a statement was somehow equivalent to confessing that I didn’t enjoy the hours my child was awake, which certainly was not the case.

I’ve thought about that conversation often in the thirty years that followed. Experience eventually taught me that I can love and appreciate my children’s sleeping hours and their wakeful hours for different reasons, and that’s okay. When they’re awake, we’re learning and making memories together. When they’re asleep, I can some work done and mark a few items off my to-do list (or, in those early days, get some rest myself).

I’m glad God gives me both. There’s plenty of love to go around! As for maintaining a more peaceful, productive home, try the following tips.

4 Hints for a Happier, Healthier Home

  1. Be calm.

    Don’t work yourself into a frenzy trying to keep up with the Joneses. Slow down and enjoy your children instead of spending every minute toting them from one activity to the next.

    Do you ever feel like you’re drowning or running in circles? Consider that feeling as a signal that it’s time to reassess. What activities or responsibilities can you cut so that you’ll have more time and energy to devote to the things that matter most?

  2. Be creative.

    If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to think outside the box in search of a reasonable solution.

    Homeschooling was an creative solution to our concerns about our children’s education. Setting a shoe basket and hanging key hooks by our backdoor was a smart way to avoid frantic searches for lost sandals or car keys whenever we needed to leave the house.

    And when the Reserves sent my husband to El Paso for four months to staff an army hospital? His outside-the-box answer to avoid 120 days of separation from our family was to move his wife and all ten kids into the 500 square foot apartment he’d been assigned on base. Our children still cite that summer as one of our best “vacations” ever!

  3. Be consistent.

    Don’t keep your children guessing. Clearly define your expectations for them (and for yourself), then enforce the rules. Practice good manners and coming when called. Act it out when stakes are low, so that it will be habit when needed later.

    Don’t count to ten. Don’t raise your voice. Just let them know you mean what you say and follow through with any promised consequences.

    This tack worked with all twelve of our kids and is now paying off with our grandchildren, as well. I take them on all sorts of fun field trips, but have told them if they don’t obey, they’ll have to stay home with their mom next time we do something fun. I had to make good that threat one time, but it showed them I mean business. Thereafter, they’ve behaved beautifully every time we go out.

  4. Be candid.

    As I said before, it is all right to admit motherhood has its challenges. But don’t focus so much attention on the hard parts that you miss out on all the joys and pleasures children bring with them.

    And avoid complaining in front of your children. Too many mothers bellyache about how their children are driving them crazy — right in front of their kids!

    I want my children to know I consider them blessings and take delight in the privilege of mothering them. In my experience, all the good far outweighs any bad, so do your best to keep the struggles in perspective. 🙂

Balance: Minding the Things that Matter Most

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