My occasional warning is needed here: this is a very long and rambling “musing” from this mama!
I’ve been really thinking about balance in my life lately.
I shared a couple weeks ago how I’ve been really anxious (postpartum anxiety). It just seems there is so much going on, I scarcely have time to breathe. There never seems to be enough hours in the day.
I’ve been doing better in regards to my anxiety. I think the herbal remedies my doctor recommended are slowly helping. That and the fact that Luke is sleeping better means I am sleeping better too. I feel like the clouds are slowly beginning to fade and I’m beginning to see more clearly again.
With that increasing clarity, I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection and evaluation.
I don’t want to be a stressed out, anxious person.
It’s not healthy for me or my family. And I know the Lord doesn’t want that either. He talks about joyfulness a lot in the Word.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:4-7
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
I want to be happy & joyful like those verses describe.
It’s time I find more balance in life. In doing that, (yes I’m a bit Type A), I had to make a list of priorities for myself (these are in addition to the usual daily necessities like taking care of the kids, making dinner, etc.):
*keeping a neat, clean home
*couponing for my family
*couponing for others
The Lord is at the top of the list. Notice I didn’t include the Lord under my usual “daily necessities.” He should be under daily necessities, but too often I get sidetracked and put Him aside. This is definitely something I am working on. Spending time with Him – talking to Him and reading His Word – is like going to the root of the problem instead of just putting a band aid over it. If I am stressed with my children or wondering how to handle a new behavioral issue that’s arisen (there’s always something new with children!), I can try to deal with it on my own, or I can bring it before His feet and get true wisdom and healing.
Homeschooling is another extremely important part of my life. Far from easy, it is one of the most incredible jobs I have ever done. It’s a whole nother aspect of motherhood. Not only am I helping to shape these precious little ones in my care, but I am providing their education. Their foundation for adulthood. The importance and gravity of homeschooling is not lost on me and this is why I do & will make sacrifices in other areas of my life so I can do this for my children. And I will continue as long as I hear the Lord’s call.
Church and friends are another important part of our life. Both are good for me and my children. This priority isn’t going anywhere.
Then there’s keeping a neat, clean house. This is definitely something I struggle with – my expectations that is. Again, I’m rather Type A and while I hate to admit it, I am a perfectionist. I’m a perfectionist who likes her house to be neat, clean, and well perfect. I know – you can go ahead and laugh now. Trying to keep a perfectly neat, clean house with 4 children (3 four and under) is just not going to happen. It’s simply not realistic. I can do my best, but to follow the rigid cleaning schedule I had set myself under back in April is not healthy. I was constantly stressed that I wasn’t able to get my walls washed on the proper day according to the schedule. It felt great to have a really clean/organized house, but at what cost? Constant stress? I would have a playdate planned on Tuesday which is my designated “floor cleaning” day and then stress & exhaust myself later by trying to catch up. And I’m not talking about leaving dirty dishes in the sink – that’s a given that those will be done. But I am talking about saying “It’s ok to not vacuum all the upstairs bedrooms (which aren’t that dirty anyways) every single week.”
I think the person who wrote the cleaning schedule I adapted did not have 4 children as young as my own. And I’m quite certain they didn’t homeschool either, which adds a whole new element. I’m not trying to be a martyr here – I know many moms do it. But for me, right now, right here, I have to recognize my limitations. As I am frequently reminded (I know the Lord puts this thought in my head), years from now, I will not remember how clean my kitchen floor is, but rather the time I spent with my children. My children will not remember how perfectly Mom kept up with the laundry schedule but whether she stopped to pray with them or read them a Bible story. I don’t want to be that mom who has the wrong priorities and regrets it later.
This week, I’ve been trying to let go of my cleaning expectations. I’ve been trying to focus on having more balance. I felt that this week, I needed to spend time just playing with my kids. Just having a “down” week. Working on a blog post like this one – where I truly pour out my heart and get it out there. That was more important for me this week than going around each room with the vacuum cleaner and edge tool and cleaning all the edges & cracks (never mind that I just did it last week and yes, I have been doing regular vacuuming. See what I do to myself?)
You know what? It feels good. It feels like the right thing to do. It feels peaceful.
Back to my list – blogging is next.
Blogging is not going to be something falling to the wayside anytime soon. I need blogging. I am a writer at heart and if, at the very least, I just type out a post like this – it is very important to me. Blogging is a huge part of my life. I love my writing and I love my blog. I’ve been blogging for 4 years now (regularly for the past 3) and while it started as a place to store special moments and pictures and videos, it grew to my family journal with funny stories about my kids I always want to remember, and later to a place to share my heart. And more recently, in addition to my main focus (family), I’ve entered the world of blog reviews and giveaways, which is very fun and exciting for me. It’s allowed me some neat opportunities and also a bit of sanity in the insanity of life as a stay at home mom.
And there’s the other part of blogging for me too:
Do you ever feel convicted by just doing routine things? This happens to me when I’m blogging. I’ll start out by writing about “A” and then as I’m typing, I feel drawn to “B” too and later “C.” I sometimes get a very distinct feeling that the Lord is speaking to me, telling me things as I type. I have learned lessons, I have been convicted, I have been brought to tears, I have been moved as I blog. I have always loved writing. Many of those close to me say I have a gift for it. Any self esteem I had was stomped out so long ago when I was a child, that I have a very hard time realizing when I do something well. But I do believe the Lord has given me something with my writing. At the very least, it helps me and I definitely feel the Lord uses it to reach me. Maybe someday He will allow me to use it to reach others too.
Couponing: I’ve long been a serious couponer and I think many would consider me an extreme couponer, although I don’t hoard ridiculous amounts of product. I’ve frequently spent only $10 for $400 worth of groceries. Last year alone, I spent $880 out of pocket for a total of $8000 worth of groceries. I often get things for free and even get money back. We have a considerable stockpile (only within our designated storage area) but it’s only things my family will use and I donate quite a lot. I’ve been steadily couponing for 8 years now and I’m fairly experienced at it. I love couponing. It is fun, it’s a challenge, it requires list-keeping (hello! One of my primary love languages?! YES!), and it benefits my family by saving us lots of money. All great things.
But it’s not without a down side. The kind of couponing I do requires a lot of time. Not just in clipping and sorting coupons, but making lists for the many stores I shop at for deals, and a ton of time actually going to the stores. And because I don’t have 10 Walgreens in a 10 mile radius in my area (there is only 1), many times the items I want are out of stock (not just at Walgreens; this is the case for all the stores I shop at) and I have to forgo the sale or try to come back another day. This can be very frustrating when I’ve worked so hard to get the right coupons in time for the sale and created my list (sometimes rather complicated based on the various store systems) and then made the time to actually get out and do it. As coupon fraud becomes more prevalent these days, more and more stores are cracking down on coupon use and honest couponers like myself have to pay the price with less sales, more scrutiny, and more hassle.
I’ve been asking myself lately if it’s worth it. I’ve been praying about it and the thing is: something has to give in my list of priorities. I just can’t do it all and have a peaceful, sane, healthy life too.
I’ve come to the conclusion that couponing is going to go. Not altogether – no, there’s no way I could go back to paying full retail price for things. But I’m not going to be seeking out every single deal just because it’s a free product (in the past, if it’s not something I would use, I donate it). I’m not going to plan weekly trips to Walgreens just because I go every week. It doesn’t mean I won’t go to CVS anymore, but it does mean I will only go when there is truly something worth my time and effort. I’m not going to do 10 transactions at Shaw’s just because it’s a good deal and it’s items I can donate to the food pantry.
Ask my husband – he will tell you this decision has been hard for me. I love to give to the food pantry and the last couple years, I’ve felt that while I don’t have a lot of energy for other ministries at our church, I can help out by donating to the food pantry. I didn’t want to give this up. I was in tears as my husband assured me it was okay to not do all the hard work of getting 50 free boxes of Hamburger Helpers so I could donate them. I simply do not have the time or energy for that anymore. I struggling with feeling selfish for awhile, but after praying a lot, I feel a peace from the Lord that it is okay.
I think I’ve learned one lesson lately, it’s this: We all go through “phases” in life. I can pick up “extreme” couponing later on, any time I want. Maybe I’m slowing down for 6 months, maybe for 6 years. But it’s okay. For now, my purpose and mission in life is to raise these dear precious children the Lord has entrusted into my care. It’s far from a small job and if it means putting a few other things on the back burner so I can do my job as a mom better, than so be it.