The day our first baby arrives home from the hospital, we don't instantly clothe ourselves in self-denial.
Though....wouldn't it be wonderful if we could? We'd raise some mighty fine children if right out of the starting gate, we knew how to die to ourselves.
We g r o w into our parenting role, just like we grow into any role, be it student, employee, friend, wife.
God puts us through trials those first months, with breastfeeding fits and starts, sleepless nights, giving up dinner to sooth a colicky baby, waiting hours for a shower, and wondering what we can possibly do to entertain a baby for the four remaining hours before bedtime.
Yes, indeed. Those first months resemble boot camp, blessed though they are.
But baby boot camp doesn't cure us of our selfishness. We continue to serve ourselves. As descendants of Adam and Eve, we're hardwired for it.
The longer we parent, shouldn't it get easier to give up what we want, for the sake of our children? It should, but it doesn't. Self-denial never gets easier.
God sees our selfishness and he can make things pretty miserable for us, if we continue to cling to a "me first" lifestyle. I've learned that when I'm miserable and nothing seems to be going right, I need to do a heart check.
Who am I living for? Am I sacrificing for my children, my husband? Or am I being selfish?
When my heart check leaves me convicted, the next thing I hear from the Holy Spirit is this: Write a schedule.
What's that you say? A schedule? What does a schedule have to do with self-sacrifice?
Well, it seems to work like this. As stay-at-home moms, we have no boss. We can slack off and no one says anything. We don't get fired. We don't get reprimanded. We don't get demoted.
We just get miserable, eventually. And everyone else in the family does too.
The schedule is like a boss. And friends, we need a boss. God is our ultimate boss, and he wants self-denial from us. No mom mothers well without first clothing herself in self-denial.
Not an easy truth to swallow, is it?
Living by a schedule can be brutal at first. It may take everything you've got to keep on giving, instead of checking e-mail and reading the news. The computer seems to be universally appealing to stay-at-home moms, probably because it breaks the monotony and makes us feel connected to someone older than ten. And to something more significant than folding socks and underwear.
We may give up on ourselves, but the Holy Spirit never does. Never ever. He loves us, guides us, and picks us up after our failures.
Our job? It's simply to be responsive. And to pray for more wisdom. More grace. More love.
The way through is to keep on going. Schedules help keep us focused on the daily tasks He has for us.
Pray before you write one. Pray while you implement it. Pray for Him to revise it when necessary.
Some perks of a schedule:
~ Prayer and Bible reading will actually get done, 85% of the time.
~ No day is ever perfect, but schedules sure help wayward days get back on track. When things start out horribly, we tend to give up far too easily. Take the day back from the enemy.
~ It's easier to be an intentional parent, with a schedule to remind us of our priorities.
~ We can save money on gas by scheduling errand days.
~ We can rest in peace knowing the bills are paid on time, because we wrote a bill time into our schedule.
~ You'll have time to read to your little ones, because it will be on your schedule.
~ You can write in time for cuddles. Or for personal time with every child.
~ You'll feel better about your day, every single day.
~ You'll grow in self-discipline and maturity. And peace.
~ You'll notice rough patches in your day, and learn to smooth them by rewriting parts of the schedule.
~ Your husband will be proud of your accomplishments, and so will your ultimate Boss.
~ You'll get more sleep, because your evenings won't be spent on catch up.
~ Your children will notice that you're consistently giving of yourself. They'll internalize that parenting lesson.
~ Your children will feel less stress because they'll know what's expected. They'll grow in self-discipline and maturity.
~ You can schedule in fixed time for prayer, to keep your heart on track with His.
~ You'll have a more organized home, because scheduling helps you stay on top of paperwork and laundry clutter.
~ You can schedule time for your children to work alongside you on chores. They need the training and discipline. You need the help.
How to get started:
I buy rolls of butcher paper for my children's painting time. I find that the rolls work well for writing my master schedule, too. I use pencil and a ruler to make five (or seven days), and my times start at 7 AM and go to 5 PM. If you have a baby at home right now, you might want to schedule your entire day, up until bedtime.
Yes, it's grueling, but well worth it.
Unfortunately, I can't give tips on how to make your rows and columns, since you have unique family sizes and ages. Experiment on a small piece of paper until you have squares that work. Then, transfer the design to larger butcher paper and hang it in the hallway. Start filling in the squares.
At first, write out a schedule for just Monday. Use pencil always. See how it goes. Revise. Then go on to write the other days, one at a time. Think about library time, a day for doctor visits, a day for errands.
Make sure you have enough days at home, because the thing is? Kids like being home, though they can't always articulate the need. Make sure you have enough down time in there for yourself, too. Maybe a half-hour of me time before dinner prep? Or a half-hour after lunch clean up? Most employees get at least a half-hour lunch break. Find a half hour somewhere, or two, fifteen-minute segments.
Keep praying. Revise as necessary. It may take a month to write a really workable schedule. It's time well spent.
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