When I first discovered Christian housewife blogs, there was a lot of stuff our there that seemed to promise that if you just follow the right system, your home would run like a well-oiled machine. There were homemaking binders and systems for sale from just about every one. Even after more than 15 years as a housewife, I still felt inept and wanted to be a productive and orderly wife. The kind God would approve of.
Those ideas spoke to me because there are few things I like more than a good list or supposedly fool proof system. Spontanaiety or flying by the seat of my pants doesn’t work for me. For the sake of balance, God decided to marry me up with a spontaneous guy who occasionally enjoys flying by the seat of his pants. Who says He doesn’t have a sense of humor? Nevertheless, the binders and rigid checklist system didn’t work, not even for me. Our life and schedule simply won’t support extreme rigidity, even when the Benevolent Dictator is not here.
A few years into the homemaking binder craze, there seemed to be something of a backlash against the very idea of the perfectly organized homemaker with her binder which made everything go off without a hitch. In fact, there was a saying floating around: Just do the next thing. Some Chrisitan women were so disgusted by the idea of home run like a professional office job that they began to compare homemaking binders to the law, as described in Galatians 3: They might help as a short term solution for the new homemaker. They can serve as a tutor to help work out some of the kinks, but at some point, we should be doing what we should without rigidity and lists. Some even suggested that the need for lists necessarily defined those who use them as lazy and inept. And so, as much as I hate to admit it, I bought into the idea that the need for tutors marked me as a spiritually immature homemaker, and committed to staying busy, and trusting that everything would get done.
That didn’t work for me either, and I found myself back to the lists. Even if things go a bit awry from time to time, there is no denying that in our home, a lot more gets done when I have a list to check off than when I do not. Rigid schedules and homemaking binders aren’t really my thing, but I at least need a loose framework to keep me moving in the right direction. In other words, I didn’t fit neatly into any of the Godly housewife boxes and needed to find what worked for me, my family, and our household.
First up was homeschool, which demands a schedule of some sort if our children were to receive anything resembling an adequate education. And should the county decide to randomly audit me, it can only help to have one. The schedule I have below is detailed, with plenty of time built in to make adjustments as needed for errands, appointments, and outside commitments, which are a requirement in this family. Staying locked inside with only ourselves and our books for company, scrubbing and cleaning in the interim to work our way into a picture perfect place of godliness? My benevolent dictator isn’t having that anyway.
I found this year that one area which I thought I had conquered was not conquered at all. When February 2016 began, I was in the best shape I had been in since I last gave birth 8 years prior. I was about 10 pounds overweight, but I was running, lifting, eating squeaky clean and full of energy, and had been for the better part of a year. A sudden, major and unexpected loss set me off track and by the beginning of February of this year, I had put on 10 more pounds. In a year.
I know my father would want me to follow through and finish the quest for good health that I had begun. He hated the idea of not following through on something. But quite frankly, I didn’t know how to get back executing what I know. Therefore I made a list, that lays on the countertop, and gets checked off as reminders of the things I want to do to recapture optimal health rather than get caught up on avoiding and thinking about what I can’t have. This is what works for me.
For laundry, I need a schedule. I need to conquer it in bite-sized pieces so that I don’t have what I have on occasion: several loads of washed, dried, unfolded laundry. And so:
When I have the time to do more than just clean whatever room I am in for the 20 or 30 minutes I have free to do it, I like the lists provided by housewife how-tos. I pull up one of the lists and simply go down it in order for as many minutes as I have to devote to the task at hand.
There are lots of other areas that I might be better served in by making lists or keeping a binder or doing any number of things to keep me doing the “next thing”, but loose roadmap with room for detours and the ability to be of use to someone else rather than a slave to my schedule is what works best for us.
If it hasn’t become apparent yet, learning to live within the reality of my own life and limitations has highlighted for me how important it is for each of us, under the direction of our own husbands, and considering the needs of our own families, to do what works best for us. I am of course referring to practical matters of daily living.
Living as a Christian wife and mother does not mean subscribing mindlessly or slavishly to the dictates of anyone else’s understanding of what it means to be a “godly wife”, “godly woman”, or righteous person. We are called to unity, not uniformity.
You’d be surprised how much you can get done even without living in a way which would get you nominated for the Oppression Olympics. You can have a clean [enough] house, good enough food., educated kids, a godly life, a satisfied man, and still go out for coffee with a friend a couple of times a month. We found our groove, without all the guilt I’d get following the commandments of tose who don’t know anything about me and mine.
Work what works for you.
*All the lists shown are partial and not in their entirety, although none are a mile long.