The other day, it occurred to me that biblical parenting takes time. Lots and lots of time. When my kids have an issue of disobedience or unkindness that needs addressed, I'm often tempted to yell at them, dish out some sort of punishment, slam their bedroom door, and storm away. Point made. Child disciplined. Job done. Next?
I'll admit that this sinful mommy gives in to that yelling and storming away temptation far too often. But that isn't biblical parenting. Biblical parenting requires that I pray, talk, ask questions, listen, search hearts, and (most importantly) share the gospel. Again. And again. And again. That's my life. That's the life God has given me.
Of course, He's also given me a husband, a house, and countless other responsibilities. And, while I can usually hold things together around here pretty well, there are days when my "To Do List" is more of a "wish list" and my house looks like I must have done nothing at all except spend hours sitting around eating bon-bons and watching "Pride and Prejudice" (I wish!).
These are the days when, after the issues finally have been resolved and the relationships mended, that you'll see me walk downstairs, survey the destruction that inevitably happens when homeschooling three kids, and sigh. I'm spent. I feel like the day has chewed me up and spit me out. Giving up and throwing in the towel starts sounding really good. But.....we all need the peace that comes with an orderly home. I know that I'll feel even more exhausted and my husband won't be able to relax if I don't straighten things up, at least a little. Still, with my limited physical and mental energy at the end of an especially trying day, I'd better be focused and have a plan.
Here are a few things I keep in mind when I'm facing clean up time at the end of a long day:
-First, I need to remember that the way I spent my day was important. The kitchen may be a mess and the laundry might not be folded, but my kids are precious gifts from God, not distractions from what I really should be doing. Even those moments of discipline are a blessing, as they provide an opportunity to instruct and train them in the truths of God's Word and the gospel. Warning: Do not rehash each offense the kids have committed that day as you pick up their dirty socks or clear their dishes from the table. It's easy to replay the disrespectful words or rebellious actions in your head, sowing the seeds of bitterness. Resist!
-Decide what must be done, and then forget about the rest. I know the dust and cobwebs will still be waiting for me tomorrow. The piles of laundry on my bed or the board games on the living room floor can't wait. I take care of the things that will be a distraction from a quiet evening. "Good enough" is good enough for today.
-I save the kitchen for last. With three kids at home all day, my kitchen is always a bit of a mess. Put that together with not having time to keep up with the dishes or put away the food packages that tend to litter the counter tops, and the kitchen can look like a disaster area by the end of the day. If I expend the energy necessary to clean this room at the beginning of my clean-up time, then I'm doomed to leave the rest of the house a mess. But, if I save this space for last, I usually have enough momentum to get me through just one last room.
-I have the kids help. Whenever possible, I have the kids take care of whatever they can to get things cleaned up. Even young children can carry their toys to their room or put their clothes in the basket. My kids are great at cleaning up the main living areas of our home (after years of training). It isn't usually done quite the way I would do it, but it's much better than if I had to do the entire job myself.
-Often, I'll go in circles to clean up. Say what??? I'll start in the living room, quickly move into the laundry room, then to the bedroom, and cut back through the dining room. I'll straighten one or two things in each area, and try to pick up something that needs to go into another room. I'll keep going round until the entire job is done. This method is especially helpful when there are random odds and ends of things lying around. It keeps me moving quickly.
-Other times, I'll pick a room and work until it's done. Then, I'll go the next room, cleaning up just enough to move on. I don't worry about making the house look perfect. Not today. And by the time I get around to the kitchen, the whole house is done (well, at least the parts that matter), and the end is in sight.
-Finally, set a timer. Sometimes, having a timer set for just fifteen minutes gets me moving.....and once I'm started moving, I'm much more likely to find the energy to finish the job. You can read more HERE about how I use a "Fast Fifteen" to motivate me to get things done.
These days will come. It's a fact. And they'll tend to be messy. Another fact. But each and every moment is a blessing. Cherish these times. Enjoy them. Praise God for them. Then clean them up so you can start over again tomorrow!
Find more helpful ideas over on Works for Me Wednesday.