I get this question over and over again! And I have to confess, I don’t know how to do it either!
How am I homeschooling my children and take care of my home, without a domestic worker, add to that a larger family?
So for months I have been trying to get this posting going, but it just didn’t want to happen. It almost felt like the Lord was keeping me from it.
I first have to share with you what happened in our life some time ago. It all started with David waking up one morning feeling nauseas. Now I don’t have good memories of a tummy bug. From experience I know this can drag on for weeks in a family of ten. Sure enough, over the next two weeks the children got the tummy bug one by one, sometimes four simultaneously during the early morning hours. To have at least 4 loads of washing ready to put on the line, before sunrise wasn’t unusual. By Tuesday, the last week of November, I was exhausted! There was no linen or blankets in the house that didn’t go through the washing machine during that 5 days, I woke up for little ones several times during the night while normal activities like homeschooling and extra-murals of the healthier children, had to be balanced in between taking care of little ones who felt miserable. By that last week in November my older two children also came down with the bug and almost everything in the house came to a complete stop.
All the time I fervently prayed that the Lord would keep Christo and myself from getting the bug, but by the Wednesday morning I woke up with the symptoms that I treated my little ones for, for weeks. By God’s grace I didn’t get the bug nearly as bad as my children did, but I could barely lift myself from the bed (most probably plain exhaustion too). Wednesday night my family (who, praise the Lord, seemed to take a turn for the good) put me in bed early and that night little Michael, almost 3years old at that stage, slept right through the night. I can count the nights he slept through on one hand, so this was highly unusual!
I remember waking Thursday morning feeling energized, with a heart overflowing with thankfulness to the Lord that He kept us through the past two weeks. It seemed like we were recovering and all was going to be well, again. Heidi-Mari was eagerly getting ready for the Tea Garden she would run for a friend at her Toy Open Days on Friday and Saturday and I just gratefully enjoyed time with my healthy children.
By late Thursday afternoon I was assisting Heidi-Mari in the kitchen, while she baked muffins, when we heard Danika’s bloodcurdling cry…! I immediately knew something seriously happened. She was laying on the steps at the back door, her right arm was underneath her body and it looked funny. Christo arrived soon after and half an hour later we were on our way to the emergency room with our little girl in great pain and distress.
The next 24hours our family went through severe trauma. Danika was admitted to another hospital and into theatre, to operate on her broken elbow. We have not been to a hospital in more than 15 years, and was challenged totally out of our comfort zone. Those of you who know us more personally, over the past 16 years we didn’t even pay a visit to a doctor or used any allopathic medicine, only natural remedies. In the mean time Christo got the tummy bug during the Thursday night…
By Friday midnight an exhausted Danika and me, thankfully walked into our home and slept for the first time in 30 hours. Danika experienced great pain over the next couple of days and I battled greatly to process the trauma we went through. Everything just fell apart around me. I couldn’t focused, I was paranoid each time a little one fell or hurt himself. I was stressed out. My little ones was out of routine and insecure, demanding and naughty, while I just didn’t know how to take care of them, I couldn’t take care of myself… My dear husband and older children tried everything to keep the home going and did a great job, but it was a huge challenge.
We also planned to potty train little Michael the first week of December, since driving around for extra murals was over, I could stay at home with him and from experience I knew it’s best to potty train a toddler when Mommy don’t have PMS…
I soon realized I had to lean heavily on the Lord! He was my only hope, the One who sustained me. I counted gifts, let my thankful heart lead me into trusting my Lord and push away my fears. My home was a mess. It wasn’t cleaned properly in a month, meals wasn’t what my family was used too, time for me to do fun things with my children was non-existing, not to mention time to read or encourage myself.
And it is during times like this, that one ask oneself, “What am I doing?”
It is during these times that one feel like drowning in responsibilities and expectations.
It is during these times of total exhaustion and when we are out of control, that the enemy of our souls come and lie to us and deceive us.
During this same time a friend of mine experienced exhaustion and discouragement in her family too. And it was while reading well meaning advice on her situation, that I came to understand why the Lord kept me from writing my well meaning advice to mothers on how to balance homeschooling, everyday motherly responsibilities, domestic work and a growing family.
I could start to give you all my tips on keeping my home in some order. I could even give you my homeschooling routine and where I fit in the cleaning of our home. I could refer you to sites with how to de-clutter your home fifteen minutes a day or Flylady. But… one thing I realized by the end of last year… It is not during normal every day life that the wheels came off, and mothers don’t know how to cope…
It is when ‘n crisis situation happens;
It is when the children get sick all together;
It is when mommy is in her first of third trimester of pregnancy;
It is when there is a new born in the home and the home dynamics change;
It is when the financial situation change;
It is when there are outside stress or responsibilities pulling on the mother;
It is when we as mothers are out of our comfort zones, that we don’t cope.And each family cope differently in these out of control, out of my comfort zone situations. No list of things to do on certain days, or tips on how to run your home smoothly, will make a difference during these days.
But I did identify some lifesavers for traumatic, out of control time of my life.
- This is only for a season, though it may feel like a life time
When I was longing for a baby after CJ and Heidi-Mari at the end of the previous century, the only thing I could think off was, if I have another baby I will be house-bounded for another 3 years! At the end it was for another 12 years! If I knew that then, I would surely have run away! Today I don’t remember the dust on the furniture (they are still there), the dirty windows (the are still dirty), the heaps and heaps of laundry (they only grew bigger over the years) or the evenings I fell into bed next to my husband (I still do) in total exhaustion . I see eight beautiful human beings with a calling on their life and God chose me to give them life and train them for His purpose on this earth.
Looking back over the past 18 years of being a mother, toiling for my family, I thank the Lord that He chose motherhood as the trial in my life, to make me holy, and get rid of selfishness (which I’m still very frustrated about, not being nearly were I can testify with Paul, I’m content in all circumstances.) Dear mother, God is asking from each believer in Him to lay down their life for Him. Serving my family, is serving God, though it surely don’t come naturally, and asks sacrificing of self all the time. I constantly have to remind myself, I’m serving God in His upside-down Kingdom, where eternity is what it is all about.
- This is God’s way of working in my life, making less of me, more of Him in my life, through serving
- Never compare your family with any other family;
I absolutely love the opportunity to connect with friends over the internet, but one thing is utterly bad: I easily compare my family with another family, my motherly accomplishments with another mother’s accomplishments. Families differ more than we can see on the surface. I’m an ADD person. I’m lured away from my best intention to focus, within seconds. It isn’t in my ability to do more than two or three things simultaneously - though I know mother’s are supposed to multitask as easily as drawing the next breath. The moment I have to multitask I have to remind myself to breathe! There is just no way I can wash floors while helping one child practice the piano, another doing an algebra honours problem and advising another on her grocery list for the weekend’s chocolate creations.
For some mothers organizing comes naturally, they can quickly de-clutter in 15 minutes, and then move on to the next thing. Whenever I plan to de-clutter, I end up cleaning the whole room for the next two days!!
Then there are the dynamics in a home. Some larger families I read about, have 4-5 girls, one or two boys, their homes run smoothly, while practicing hospitality every weekend, and they do that with no effort. In my family of 8 there are only 3 above 10, two of them boys and one very conscientious girl. They are working like mad to help me organize 4 very busy, crazy boys and an artistic little girl, whose head is more in the clouds than with us. I myself just isn't an organised person, I'm all over the place!
Add to that the personalities of my children. Now I know God expect us all to grow in servanthood, but you do get some personalities that serve more easily than others. If you have read “Created to be His Helpmeet”, you will know what I’m talking about. I have mostly Mr. Command Men and Dreamers in my home. They don’t make good servants!
Have grace on the personalities and home God has given you! This is His best for you, embrace it, for God is always good!
- Live in thankfulness for the beauty and the ugly beauty;
God is always good! I’m quite an expert on the ugly beauty of a homeschooling family of ten, not to say I know exactly how to turn it into an opportunity to thank God, but I’m a work in progress. I’m always reminding myself that thankfulness will change a bad attitude. It isn’t possible to be angry, frustrated and upset, while searching for the beauty in the day, in my children, in my home and my situation and giving God thanks in it.
- Don’t try to carry tomorrow’s trouble, today
Often I hear mothers’ desperate panic cry, I cannot cope now, how will I be able to cope with another baby or when I start homeschooling? I once read a story in one of Corrie Ten Boom’s books how she and her daddy was due to take a trip to Amsterdam. As they prepared to leave their home, she wanted her travel ticket, on which her daddy kindly reminded her, she didn’t need it yet, and he will give it to her when the time is right. She told the story to illustrate that we should wait on the Lord for strength in difficult times and not try to run up front. Her daddy didn’t give her the ticket before they were ready to board the train, and if he would have given it to her before then, she would most probably have lost it. We will receive strength when we need it. If given to us before hand, we just might waste it.
So dear mother, don’t despair when a new baby is on his/her way, and you cannot see your way into the new dynamics. It might still be another 6 months, and by then your other children and/or youngest baby, will be 6 months older too, with new abilities you don’t know about now. Don’t run up front by worrying about what if… God is never caught by surprise, He knows the history of the future.
- Take a deep breath and do the next thing;
When everything and everyone are out of control, and I forget everything that is good, praiseworthy, lovely and true, I take a deep breath and do the next thing. It is then that a schedule is my safety net. Yes, I do have a schedule. I don’t like to work with a schedule, it is far to rigid for this dreamer-kind-of-girl, but when all the wheels come off, a schedule is my life saver.
- Do have a schedule, or some routine or rhythm.
As your capacity enlarge after a traumatic time, slowly get back into routine and before long you look back and you can smile again. Never let a schedule control your life. The schedule is there to help me and I always stay in control of the schedule, not the schedule in control of me. Often, I get energized just by the idea of NOT keeping to the schedule. To take the day off and enjoy life with my children. Add to that my personality virtue/vice of changing things, and I’m able to look past a messy day and seek out something fun to do.
After breaking away from the every day tasks, one often has new energy to tackle the messes around you.
In the next posting I will share a little from my schedule and what works for us in keeping some order and cleanness in our busy home filled with little children, older children, homeschooling and creative arts.