What if we were at a coffee shop together, chatting about our lives. . . One of us shares about our day:
He just doesn’t understand – I was tired again this morning as I turned off the alarm clock and went straight to the shower. Coffee and a bowl of cold cereal, load up all of my gear, and head off for a 40 minute drive to school. I’m happy that I get to go back to school, but it is hard, I haven’t done it in so long, it is different than I thought it would be. Each professor is so different, I have to learn how to take the class as well as the material to be learned. I scrimp and scrape monies for lunch, then drive home. With all of the school I’ve had to take up a part time job. I can spend about an hour with homework, then work a four to five hour shift. I haven’t eaten dinner, on my way home I’m just trying to relax. So excited to be home, he is sitting in the chair, on his phone – eyebrows knit together. He gives me a ‘Hi- how was your day’, without expecting a long reply, then goes in on what I didn’t do before I left for work – and I better make sure I do them if I expect to go to my Bible Study tonight. Will this day ever end? I wish he’d appreciate what I’m going through!
This conversation might flow with wondering why the person at home couldn’t have just unloaded a dishwasher or swept a floor.
You might guess that this isn’t really about two women – but about a mother and a son. We’ve been playing this transition dance since September. My once willing, competent, and available helper has been left with just a few minutes here and there at home. His whole life has changed – but mine, well, it really hasn’t. If anything, I’ve been given more time while he is away at college, since we had been homeschooling.
I’ve talked to dozens of moms about transitions, what they went through as their sons have taken on adult responsibilities. How do they get them to still do their chores at home? What kind of consequences should there be? How did they do it? So far, I’ve gotten understanding, and blank stares, and no advice.
Two weeks ago I changed how we did chores in our home. Instead of areas that they are responsible for, I made a list of the zones that they could help in. This list was posted on the fridge with a simple request – please spend 10 minutes a day in a zone. Some days, like today, with the exact scenario above – my son will be out of the home from 7:30 a.m. til 9:00 p.m. Tomorrow it will be 6:00 a.m. til 8:00 p.m. When he comes home, he wants a safe haven of rest.
In this, I switched my mind to my previous role as a keeper of the home. When they were little it was my job to cook, clean, plan, prepare, entertain, schedule – etc. I did it with joy. It was a 24/7 job.
As the boys got older, I started training them on how to keep the home. Take care of themselves. Learn how each part of the home, yard, and cars functioned. They could earn extra monies by helping out above their personal tasks. We worked as a team, at home most of the day, to make sure the house ran well. They needed responsibility. They needed to be intentional with their day. They needed to learn.
Trouble is – I got stuck in a rut. I forgot that when they were tiny, it was fun to have them wash dishes with me. It was a part of filling our day to let them shake the rugs. It was a nice trip outside to feed the chickens. We helped keep the floors clean cause Dad really likes clean floors. He’d be so happy that the rug was vacuumed that he never noticed the pile of games on the table or dishes in the sink. Ha. I forgot that I was the Keeper of the Home, and they were my little helping friends.
When I shifted back my thinking – and just started emptying the dishwasher to help them, I can’t even tell you how satisfying it was. Instead of being bitter that they weren’t ‘doing their chores’, I felt empowered to take back my kitchen. I used to love to play the blessing game, bless my bathroom, bless the bedroom, bless the kitchen. Somehow, as the boys got older, it turned into bitter. Angry that the floor is not swept. Angry that the dishes are there, angry that the shoes are in a pile. Now that my thinking has shifted, I am back to blessing my home, blessing my family, blessing even me!
I can flip my whole house to right by the time my coffee perks in the morning. Sure, there’s laundry on the futon, and clean dishes in the drainer, and a pile of shoes by the door. But for the most part, the house is in order. Now, as they come home, one by one, each one comments on the state of the home. The smells of dinner. The little something extra I had time for here or there. A fixed button, an ironed shirt. I get smiles and hugs. and then – the weirdest thing happens.
Without me asking, each one goes to the fridge and looks at the list and then they disappear. I get to be filled with surprises. A rug free of pine needles, a basket emptied, a pile of games sorted out. Joy.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a magical fairy land where the three of them just react to my kindness in kind each day. Today they rushed off to work, and I’m happy to fill my day here. One boy to school and work, one boy to work, one hubby off to ‘the big city’ on his day off to help a friend, and one son ready to do some homeschool and surf. And me. I’m sitting here, sipping my coffee and chatting with you.
And that’s the rub. I didn’t give my boys these chores so that I’d have more coffee time, I gave them chores so they’d learn how to run their homes, and that they’d learn responsibility. Getting the work done. A sense of ownership. Not giving time to idleness outside of needed rest. A team spirit in the home. Now that they are practicing those qualities and character traits in their own lives, pursuing their own goals and passions, it’s time for me to return to that simpler time. Pulling out meat for the crock pot. Packing a few sandwiches. Being intentional with my day. Blessing my family.
I chatted with another mom – who in the same period of time – tried the same approach – and she agreed. What an amazing difference in her own heart and in her home.
Yesterday I read a post from a friend on the east coast – Mrs. White – at Legacy of Home , http://thelegacyofhome.blogspot.com/2011/03/mothers-hope.html An excerpt:
Of when her babes were sick through the night . . .“ I remember praying and begging God for mercy and courage and for strength. I remember my legs shaking. But I kept going. I never thought of myself, but to ask for endurance. It was selfless. It was a Mother’s duty.
Now that my children are older – teens and adults, I realize I have lost my way. I have become selfish without even realizing it.”
Please – take the time to read her transition as well. She articulated it so well – (and a lot shorter.) She has written many books on the joy of the simplicity of being a housewife, as an occupation, as a calling from the Lord.
I still have time to paddle. Time to write. Time to read. Time to rest. Time to pursue my passions. Time to homeschool. Even if I do unload the dishwasher. But the young man below? How many more months will he be a guest in my home? How many empty days would I gladly trade a weekend of him at home while I dote on him, longing to hear his stories in person? I already felt how amazing it was to have him home for spring break. I want to really enjoy – embrace – slow the clock – on the four years left of having my youngest here. Cherish every moment – cause this year (Sept./May) has flown by.
Really – Go read Mrs. White’s Article about her Hope Book!!! (For Teens and Young Adults) http://thelegacyofhome.blogspot.com/2011/03/mothers-hope.html
And – Disclaimer a bit – This isn’t about turning your college aged sons into entitled brats after you’ve spent years training them – It’s about grace and mercy – and about ME, and my role. FYI for those of you who do not know us personally, my son has bought his own car, pays his own gas, insurance, and phone bill, buys his clothes, and pays for his food away from home. If we were paying for everything, he might not need as many hours at work, and he’d have more time to contribute to the family at home. Even still, this was about me giving grace and mercy and understanding, and me – being the best mom and wife I know to be.