Domesticity: n. 1. The quality or condition of being domestic. 2. Home life or devotion to it.
Years ago my daughter attended a teen girl conference with the theme All About Me. My husband and I mock those words whenever she wears the T-shirt.
She hates it when we do that. But the phrase cries, “It is all about me and what I want,” not the intended message of self worth. Of these two contrasting ideas, more often than not, the wrong one sticks.
Like the phrase, I twist easily between valuing myself and becoming self-absorbed, especially in domestic life—those activities that define me as a wife and mother. I value those roles but still find myself seeking visible measures of my success in them. That’s when domesticity becomes all about me and not all about my family.
Three Ways I Value My Domestic Roles So It’s Not All About Me:
Give the Right Amount of Time to the Physical Stuff - Some people don’t give much time to the routine chores like preparing a meal, cleaning the house or folding clothes. I’m one of those who used to spend too much time. With less time I can now see the routine temporal activities are a means to an end, not the end themselves. They need to be completed, not drawn out.
Now, I prepare a good meal in the 30-45 minutes after I get home and focus on the conversations and connections that take place in the kitchen and at the table. I plan ahead with a two-week menu, but I don’t over plan every meal and every grocery trip. The routine activities fade to the back of the routine and don’t become elaborate replacements for what I really want to accomplish.
Set Expectations A Half Step Above the Middle - I’m one who always sets the bar very high for myself. I create my own deadlines and other marking points to check my progress. I’ve set expectations which unrealistic or unattainable. If my happiness depends on meeting my expectations, our home life won’t be very happy.
Now I’m setting the bar a half-step above the middle—not too high or too low—for myself and others. Over-emphasizing the ideal, or what I think it ought to be, pressures my family. But minimizing our responsibilities stops us—literally—from the junk we haven’t moved out of the way.
Listen More and Talk Less - Relationships are all about being interested in the other person. Relationships with my young children, however, started with me talking and my kids imitating. That’s the way it works in the young years. Somewhere along the way, I recognized they’ve become people of their own, and I need to shift from teacher, preacher, adviser to listener.
Even though I vacillate between these two seasons of motherhood—the first being familiar and the second foreign—I know that ultimately, the focus turns from us when we ask more questions, wait for a response, try to understand.Read More
“Do you feel completely removed from your life at home when you travel?” I asked Paul and EH this question at the end of our family vacation last week.
I hadn’t considered the worries of home in days. These concerns fled with the miles—when the mail was being delivered or the sympathy card I still hadn’t sent or the overdue library book I hadn’t finished.
Both my husband and my daughter agreed. So, I proposed the other travel perspective that I have. “Do you go into a new city whenever you travel and imagine where you might live in it?”
“Umm. . . no.”
Ok. I guess I’m alone in that travel mindset.
We barely caught sight of the Black Hills of South Dakota, one of my favorite places to visit, and I began looking for a place I could live. Who wouldn’t want to stare at this landscape?
But the funny thing about this mindset is that it didn’t limit itself to the beautiful places we visited. In every community we stopped, every city we visited, every place we drove through, I searched around until I settled on THE place I would live.
I chose a section of a metropolitan area, a neighborhood in a small town and a house on a certain street and said to myself, “I could live there.”
What does this mean about me? Am I still looking for a community with the perfect fit or pining for a place that seems to offer more than home?
I think not.
Maybe it’s just making myself at home when we’re on the go, because when we arrived home, the real thing felt better than anywhere I had chosen along the way.Read More
I envy my son’s ability to sense when he is full and stop eating. I wish my eating sensor wasn’t broken from years of not listening. Middle age also brings a slower metabolism. And, I’m attempting to retrain my sensor. Like most things in life, that means intensive learning to know what, when, how often, and how much I need to eat.
About the same time my metabolism slowed down, so did my life. I’m sure the two are related, but here’s a different connection.
About 18 months ago, I emptied my plate. I was mother and wife only. I paused in other roles to deliberately consider each responsibility and activity I pursued with my time. Since then, I’ve added only the activities, events, and situations that I knew I could eat and digest with room to still move around.
On the surface this might seem like a glorious state—free time! It looked like that to those outside my immediate family. Some said, “You’ve cleared your plate, you certainly have time for this, and this, and this.”
I, more than anyone, wanted to take what was offered and eat it passionately. Last week, I shared this quote, “You cannot eat all of the pastries in the bakery at once. You will get a tummy ache.” My heart, not my tummy, ached with empty, not full; yet, I still felt internally restrained to do more.
When I allowed in a few personal pursuits, I learned how I take in what’s new, digest and use it. A period of growing and learning often consumes me. Over time, the learning curve—or eating, in this metaphor—slows, and I allow that new knowledge, responsibility, or endeavor to absorb into my life’s routine. This pattern repeats with several examples from my life:
Home management In my early years as a wife and mother, I spent lots of time perusing recipes, creating menus and lists. I organized household tasks like laundry cleaning, shopping and planned how to fit them into my day and week. I also took time to teach and supervise my children to help perform those tasks. Now, they know their responsibilities, and they just need to report to me on them. Sometimes we have to redo, but they are surprisingly capable.
Service I volunteer my time in our church to teach a daily religion class to high school students before they go to school. It is time-consuming to prepare and administer, especially at the start of the year, but once I set up the class structure, I am more efficient in the day-to-day preparation and service.
Technology I spent the first six months of last year getting reacquainted with the Internet. I started a website, developed connections online with social media networks, and learned more online-language. Now, I feel comfortable with where I am, and it doesn’t take as much time to read, comment, interact and participate with technology.
Motherhood When my first child, a girl, and my second child, a boy, were born, I read all the books, talked to all the moms, and learned about all the stages and steps. When child number three arrived, I just added her right in without all the time given to more information about how to do it. When I felt confident with the temporal aspects of motherhood, I could concentrate on the most important part of the relationship—nurturing.
A friend of mine has gone back to school and is preparing to reenter the work force as a teacher next year. We talked about children and how work might impact them. She said, “They’re getting a lot older, now.”
I don’t think she meant, their getting older and they need me less. I think she meant older in her experience and theirs. Obviously, their hands-on needs are fewer, but she’s also had years of putting in place the patterns, routines and expectations. Her family time is probably now spent more on nurturing relationships and guiding decision-making rather than on fixing ten snacks a day and restraining temper tantrums.
Another friend said it this way: “You think your life is always going to be cutting up pancakes and tying shoes.”
Put time in at the beginning of a child’s life, a new home or a new assignment to establish a foundation of routines and expectations. Once that’s digested, it will become part of the whole, but won’t take up as much room to maintain. Then, your plate will empty for something else.Read More
This week my husband and I discussed our financial outlook, and he referenced this story of a family on a journey of faith long ago. They are in the wilderness and need food. The men go to hunt and only come back with a broken bow. He related this story to our own “broken bow” circumstances, and his comment pointed me to study it, again. We all have broken bows to face in our families. How do we react? Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. Read it, and discover what you might do:
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord spake unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness. And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.
And it came to pass that we did gather together whatsoever things we should carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness. And it came to pass that we did take our tents and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman. And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer.
And it came to pass that we did take our bows and our arrows, and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families; and after we had slain food for our families we did return again to our families in the wilderness, to the place of Shazer. And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea. And it came to pass that we did travel for the space of many days, slaying food by the way, with our bows and our arrows and our stones and our slings.
And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness. And after we had traveled for the space of many days, we did pitch our tents for the space of a time, that we might again rest ourselves and obtain food for our families. And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.
And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food. And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.
Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, having been afflicted with my brethren because of the loss of my bow, and their bows having lost their springs, it began to be exceedingly difficult, yea, insomuch that we could obtain no food. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren, because they had hardened their hearts again, even unto complaining against the Lord their God.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?
And it came to pass that he did inquire of the Lord, for they had humbled themselves because of my words; for I did say many things unto them in the energy of my soul. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father; and he was truly chastened because of his murmuring against the Lord, insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.
And it came to pass that when my father beheld the things which were written upon the ball, he did fear and tremble exceedingly, and also my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and our wives. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them. And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by bsmall means the Lord can bring about great things.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain, according to the directions which were given upon the ball. And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families. And it came to pass that I did return to our tents, bearing the beasts which I had slain; and now when they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy! And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him.
After reading Part I and Part II of this series From the Inside of a Remodel, my sister volunteered her perspective. “You need to interview our family for Part III and title it: Family Has Lost Mind Over Year-Long Kitchen Remodel.”
While she exaggerates a bit, many families who build or remodel a home feel similar stress and pressure.
When Michelle Mitchell announced her remodeling project on her blog, Scribbit, and said, “They’re telling us that it will be done in two months. You can bet I’ll be posting final pictures-do you think there’s any chance on earth we’ll be finished in 60 days?” I laughed out loud and said, “No way!”
I admired her cheerful—although idealistic—outlook. No matter how long it takes, construction impacts a family. Remodeling changes the atmosphere of a home and the routines of a family, and stretches the emotional resources of everyone, putting extra pressure on relationships.
Michelle, who works at home publishing her daily blog, quickly experienced those changes, starting with the little disruptions. “I just could not focus with all those people around me, the noise, the phone calls about this or that, or someone at the door.” She counts on her time when her kids are at school to focus and write, but construction compromised her quiet time.
Although she admits she was cranky most of the time, she found her sense of humor and wrote some funny responses to the messy situation. Three weeks into the project she said:
I’ve officially reached my limit. We’re three weeks into this remodel and all of our worldly goods are piled in our kitchen/living room so you can hardly move through the space. The kids are sleeping on the few empty spaces on the floor while the bedrooms are under construction, we have no family room while they’re working down there and no heat upstairs. I’ve been feeling so messy and disorganized and dirty that I’ve caught myself throwing dirty washrags on the floor and leaving them.
When Michelle wrote her humorous State of the Union Address, she didn’t update how the project had touched her marriage union, but she may have been contemplating it. Her husband, Andrew, who normally leaves home decorating and design to Michelle, was “suddenly enamored with the process,” and regularly consulted with their architect, Bruce Williams about the details. “He thinks Bruce is a superhero. I jokingly called him, Bruce Almighty,” she said and shared this example:
It was my job to paint; I’d painted the house before, inside and out. Most of our house has textured walls. I like textured walls because they are practical. I like the look of flat but textured are easier to clean. They wanted to take off the original texture and make them flat.
After I painted one room, Andrew, who is normally the most thoughtful, caring man, came to me and said, “I don’t think you painted this right. This doesn’t look like the flattest you could get. I’ll call Bruce and see what we’re supposed to do.”
I said, “Whose going to live here? Not Bruce—Me. It looks good, we’re going ahead.”
She jokes that their architect supplanted her, but how did she resolve it?
It got to the point where I said, I don’t want this to be a make or break situation. If it makes them happy to pick the stuff out, I can put my ego on the back burner long enough to let them do it. Our marriage is worth more than that.
Ironically, they still don’t have closet door handles. Andrew offered to let her choose, “Would you like to pick some out?” he said. Her response, “Absolutely not. I don’t want to do that.”
All those material choices, like which door knobs or which type of wood became cumbersome. “I was more concerned about material things than I wanted to be.”
Michelle is an organized mom of four school-age children, two girls and two boys. The girls share one room and the boys share another. They didn’t want to add any new bedrooms, but they did want the children to have more space. The design called for the two bedrooms to extend into a shared work zone that can be opened or closed.
That meant moving all the kids and their stuff our of their normal places. The four children slept in the living room. They stored many of their things in a storage shed in the backyard. Construction disrupted many of their routines—bedtimes, getting ready for school, socializing and family dinners. No one was sleeping very well during those months, bedtimes became frustrating, and things were all over the house.
Michelle, who describes herself as a “neat-freak” said she wouldn’t receive “stellar marks” for how she handled the situation. She wished she could say she came up with some creative solutions, but mostly, she just wanted to get through the construction and the frustrations. Is frustration synonymous with construction? Michelle said: “I think you can avoid it if you’re organized, like most problems in life. If you really do your homework, and are willing to put in a lot of work. you can avoid a lot of pitfalls.”
Now that the remodel project is complete, the new addition glows brighter, with it’s wide windows, ambient light and heated floors, than the anxiety that it caused. And Michelle learned that there are times when it is appropriate to spend the money and expend the emotional energy as an investment in both home and family.
We’re really practical people I tend to worry about how much money we are saving. I think it was really nice to say, this is something that really will benefit the kids. even though it is going to be a headache and cost money. Life isn’t about hoarding; you have to be able to enjoy it along the way. We were of the opinion, it’s not only nice to take care of and improve upon what you have, there is an appropriate time that you should invest.