Setting priorities in homemaking has always been a struggle for me. After 18 years of marriage and listening to my mom friends, I have discovered that it is an area where other women also struggle.
“How do you get it all done? Meals, housekeeping, teaching the kids, ministry, home-business…?”
This wasn’t the first time I’d been asked this question. I’ve been asked the same thing in a variety of ways over the past few years. As homemakers, we all face it at some point.
“What am I doing wrong?”
“Why can’t I accomplish as much as she does?”
“What should I focus on first?”
I’ve seen this question posed on social media and answered in every way from witty to sarcastic. I’ve read many articles on the subject, trying to wade my own way through the confusion of being a homemaker in this age of filtered, presentable motherhood.
You can’t do it all
One thing everyone agrees on: you can’t do it all. I have heard this resounding loud and clear, and I will echo it. (though it may be the only sentiment I’ll echo!)
There seem to be two general types of women:
1. Those who like to keep house only, and
2. Those who want to add in a bit of a side business, hobby, or other pursuits.
Neither one is right or wrong – neither one is more Godly. I think God made each of us with different personalities, strengths, and interests. We need to take into careful consideration what we can actually handle, in our own family dynamics.
I wasn’t married long before I realized that my husband liked that I had hobbies and interests of my own!
When I baked cinnamon rolls and took them to sell at businesses, he supported me.
When I tried my hand at custom sewing, he cheered me on.
Then the internet became a household thing, I started blogging, and he encouraged me fully.
But in all this, I found myself conflicted.
How could I raise our kids properly, homeschool them, keep my house tidy, cook healthy meals, run my blog, and do it all well?!
Oh, I tried. But one day I was at the end of my proverbial rope. I had read all the articles, tried all the charts, and still felt like I was running on a hampster wheel with nothing to show for it.
I was desperate for clarity
In desperation, I sat down one afternoon and made a list of all my responsibilities. I added all my hobbies and activities, including things I wasn’t really doing, but wished to do.
I forget now what all I had on that list, but it was something like this:
cooking healthy meals
teaching our kids/homeschooling
ministry in our church/community
having a garden
running my blog
keeping a tidy house
spending time together as a couple
helping on the ranch
After supper that evening, I gave the list to my husband and asked him to number the activities, in order of importance.
“Please number them in the order that YOU think is important, not how you think I want you to!” I made sure he knew there was no right or wrong way, but that I was overwhelmed and wanted his honest input.
He took his time and carefully considered the list, and numbered the items. When he was done, I sat down with him, and we had a good discussion on what was important for each of us. It was a wonderful exercise in our marriage!
I was surprised at how he listed some of the items. Some I thought he didn’t care about were much higher, while others were lower. For instance, he would rather that I just buy vegetables and use that time for working on my blog. We both grew up in country families where gardening was just a part of life. So I was genuinely surprised when it came in dead last on his list. 🙂
This very simple exercise was probably the most powerful and freeing thing I have done in relation to my homemaking.
It freed me from the guilt of not having a perfect house because I knew he wanted me to invest time into my blog.
It helped me find the strength to continue homeschooling on the hard days because I realized just how important it was to him.
How to do the exercise
Don’t make it complicated. This should not be a tense, uncomfortable marriage session! Pick a day and time when you are both relaxed and in a good mood. (keepin it real, sisters!)
Earlier in the day, write down every responsibility and hobby and activity that you have on your plate and also list the ones you wish to do. List the stuff you do without thinking, and the stuff you oversee for your kids.
Maybe your list will include:
healthy meals (or maybe cooking from scratch? or eating out?)
extra-curricular activities for the kids (music lessons, sports, 4-h, etc)
side job or full-time job
maybe you’d like to get a gym membership and workout a few times a week?
helping your extended family
and so forth.
I suggest you make two copies of your list. You number one list in the order that you feel is important. Then, at the appropriate time, you ask your husband to number the second list in his order of importance.
Key tip: your husband needs to know that there will be no dramatics or emotional outburst if he lists your favorite hobby far down on the list. Make sure he knows that you will accept his valuation, and will genuinely consider his priorities.
Keep in mind that not all men are like my husband. Some of you have husbands with more dominant personalities, and they may want you to primarily be their sidekick and support. Honestly, I have no advice for you. But there are many books on marriage that are geared toward dominant men. Read one of those! This article is mainly for the gals like me, whose husbands like to do life side by side, each with our own goals and ambitions.
Back to the exercise… so I recommend walking away while he numbers the list. Let him consider it in peace and without you looking over his shoulder. You will get a more accurate result this way!
When you both have numbered the lists in order of importance, sit down together and look at each other’s list. It might be surprising! Discuss the reasons why you listed things the way you did. Listen to each other. Keep emotion out of it as much as possible.
Just an exercise on priorities
This not a cut-and-dried answer to everything. This is meant to be an exercise to open the door for an honest discussion about you and your husband’s priorities.
Gardening is like therapy for me, so I still garden, even though a tidy home is higher on his list than gardening. But he recognizes that gardening is soothing to my soul, so he is happy to encourage my gardening attempts, and to put up with my somewhat disorganized ways.
At the same time, while I love to write and take photographs, I understand his need for lots of quality time as a couple, so I ignore many photogenic moments, just to be with him. It’s a give and take, like everything in marriage.
So there is my simple tip to set my priorities in homemaking! I hope it helps you, too.
If you try this exercise, would you mind dropping a comment and letting me know how you liked it? I’d be interested to know!