Artwork: The New Baby by Evert Pieters
Perhaps you are preparing for a move, battling illness, settling into life with a new baby, or attending a sick relative. When my usual goals are out of reach, I focus on “The Four Ps” while we get back to normal–Pray, prioritize, plan and participate.
Right now I’m in such a season as I alter our routine to accommodate the challenges of a difficult pregnancy. Prayer is first. With days bathed in “as I go” prayers, rejoicing in, or seeking strength for each moment, I’m better able to keep my heart right amid physical limitations.
Next is prioritizing: As I mentally boil down our daily priorities and see what is most needful for our family at this time, I ask, “Where do I need to focus my energy to keep the household flowing?” It may sound odd, but for us, continuing at least the basics of our school-day structure is a huge help. My children get restless if we don’t do school, but as long they have some academics to challenge their minds, it is amazing how many other things can slide. A little bit of rhythm and routine goes a long way to maintaining domestic harmony.
As you prioritize, determine what is best outsourced. Several pregnancies ago we found ourselves eating out and relying on prepared foods quite often. Even though I enjoy cooking, I just didn’t have the stamina to do it all. We realized that the cleaning taxed me more than cooking did. Ken pondered the finances and determined that the money we would save by returning to my “from scratch” cooking could easily pay for a few hours of housekeeping help each week! We cut back on our restaurant dining, and hired a local homeschool-mom and her teen daughter assist with cleaning. This allowed us to stay cozy at home and eat healthier. It also required less of me physically than the weekly cleaning. To us, outsourcing the cleaning made more sense than outsourcing our cooking. It will look different in every family.
Planning has double value when I”m struggling through the days. Having our school assignments and dinner menu roughed out in advance (even if only one day in advance) exponentially increases the odds of meals and school actually happening satisfactorily. When muddling through in survival mode, I can follow a plan on auto-pilot, but am not always as able to plan effectively as I go.
After I’ve prioritized and planned, I remind myself to participate in our home life, not merely facilitate it. Especially in survival-mode, I all too easily lapse into doing the basics in a robotic way; serving as housekeeper, cook, and nanny more than as wife and mother. Some of this may, for brief times, be unavoidable, but it is also important to maintain joy in the heart and home. Finding simple ways to connect with each family member through the day is as essential as keeping up on meals and laundry.
Pray, Prioritize, Plan, Participate
(This article was also published in my Taming The Chaos column on the HSB Company Blog)