For those of us with small children, it is easy to feel pressed in on every side. Our many roles demand much of us. How often have you felt like you just can’t get on top of the housework and, therefore, end up becoming frustrated, frazzled, and stressed? You may often feel like you just can’t seem to successfully prioritize your days.
If you are like me, there have been times when you have allowed those frustrations affect your attitude and/or the way you treat your family. There have been many times when I have become exceedingly stressed out because simply because what I thought I “needed” to complete did not get done in the time frame I intended. Whether or not it was exacerbated by a crying and whining two year-old or a needy baby, I was irritated, unkind, and miffed. Really, I was being just plain selfish (both in my priorities and my response). I wanted to do what I felt was important. I confused my real priorities with my desires. Each time I tried to prioritize my days according to the what-I-want-to-do model, I ended up messing things up (and having bad attitude too)!
I was failing to take into account what my husband views as important and focused on my own goals. Does getting the dishes done really serve to further his vision for our family? Well, some days, yes. Other days, no. With small children, it’s a toss-up most days. Thankfully, my husband doesn’t see messes. It is not important to him if the bathrooms are spotless or if we have fresh sheets every few days. Sometimes, in order to bless him, I need to let all housework fall to the wayside in order to teach and train the willful little two-year-old. What is high on his priority list is the training up of our children in the fear of the Lord, to tenderly care for their souls and build healthy strong relationship, not having a spic and span kitchen.
Instead of getting irritated because the training, correcting, and quality time is getting in the way of the chores I need to accomplish, I am learning to put them aside until later and enjoy my children more. This blesses my husband. Those chores will get done just like they always do, just not on my timetable.
These days, when I actively think of how to prioritize my time, I am choosing to make my most important priority of any particular moment the soul of my child. This is higher on my husband’s priority list than doing the dishes, and should be higher on mine as well. Twenty years from now I will not regret putting off the dishes, but I very well may regret not pouring myself and my love into my children’s souls. Twenty years from now, I want my Lord, as well as my husband, to be able to look back and thank me for choosing the more important things over the insignificant. And, twenty years from now, I’ll have plenty of time to do the dishes, clean the bathrooms, change the sheets, and have a clean house!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating laziness. What I am suggesting is a new way of thinking about how to prioritize our days as wives and mothers. If we are our husbands’ helpers, then it is consistent with Biblical principles and common sense that we would seek to prioritize in a manner that is most helpful to him (not that this is easy by any means!). For your husband, this could mean getting all of the dishes done after every meal. Every husband’s vision, needs, and desires are different!
Without further ado, here is the model I developed. It is what is best suited to me, my children, and my husband’s vision. May this spur you on to prioritize your days in the unique way that will most bless your family:
Priority 1: Bible reading and prayer
I realized that I was not a bad person if I didn’t get it done at the same time every day or had many interruptions. That is life with kids! The important thing is getting the Word into me (and meditating on it throughout the day). Some days, this looks like carrying my Scripture memory card in my pocket all day and pulling it out as a reminder. Some days, it’s reading Scripture I have on the wall over my kitchen sink. I’ve found that I can also be reading my Bible while nursing a baby. I often will read my Bible while exercising on the treadmill.
Priority 2: Exercise
This is listed as a high priority because it is one of the easiest to get pushed aside. I found that doing it early in the morning before anyone else is awake is the best time for me. If I don’t try to do it then, the responsibilities of life often (and rightly!) push it aside.
Priority 3: Seek the fruits of the Spirit
None of the other priorities can be accomplished in a meaningful way without asking for and walking with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. How will I accomplish the rest of my goals if I can’t demonstrate love, patience, and the rest? It blesses my husband to have joyful and cheerful wife when he gets home. And, it demonstrates to my children what I want their heart to resemble.
Priority 4: Train up my children and build relationship with them
This is more than just discipline and training them to look both ways before crossing the street. I try to focus on building an environment that is spiritually conducive. I watch for teachable moments and try to take advantage of them to share different aspects of the gospel. I have several CDs with Bible verse songs that I play during the day, and we sing along. I do my best to invest myself into their lives, and I don’t delegate baby-sitting duties to a TV or movie except on very rare occasions.
Priority 5: Knock out that to-do list
Dishes, messes, errands, etc. This is last and least important to me. I often only accomplish one or two items. I suspect this may change as my children get older. Hopefully, I will be able to accomplish more AND they will be able to help me more with chores around the house as they gain maturity.
So, my challenge to you today is to evaluate your daily priorities in light of your husband’s vision for your family. All of the little tasks and chores certainly have their place, but do you find yourself placing them above what you and your husband would deem most important? When he comes home from work, does he meet a joyful wife and joyful children or a frazzled, irritated wife who is unhappy because she didn’t check enough boxes off her to-do list that day? Even if you work and both get home at the same time, do you still seek to bless him?
Ask your husband what is most important to him if you need help to know how to prioritize your day! It might be a pleasant surprise and a huge blessing to him.
What about you? Have you sought to plan your days around your husband’s vision for your family? What are some practical steps you have taken that paid big dividends?