I am so thrilled that we are endeavoring on this journey together. It is time to leave the chaos and disorder behind. It is time to reclaim our days.
But first off, hi! I’m Nancy and I have been home with my now 4 children for nearly 7 years. Gus was born in late May just under 7 years ago. After his birth, I graded my last stack of Language Arts essays and walked away, totally unprepared for Motherhood, Homemaking, and all that lay ahead of me.
As a single working woman my life had a lot of order. I found time for my rosary every day, had an adoration hour each week and devoured piles of books. But, I longed for a family. Then my husband came along, a year later a wedding, and 9 months later, a baby. Seven years later and we have four little ones. It’s fun, hard, and wonderful, but I’m tired.
I’m tired of just REACTING. I’m tired of days slipping through my fingers…or counting down the hours until my husband gets home. I’m tired of feeling like a failure as a mom, homemaker, and wife when I don’t give my kids the time I should, don’t have the clean house I should, and don’t love my husband like I should.
So, I decided to take control. Despite the mayhem of my life, I believe that it is possible to be healthy, holy, and HAPPY at home.
I’m working very hard to make it a reality in my own life and I’d love to have you join me on this quest.
To start, here is the greatest advice I’ve ever received. It came from my terrific pediatrician.
As mothers we NEED to order our lives correctly. Our priorities should be ordered:
Hearing this the first time was a total revelation for me. What? I rank before my kids? My husband ranks before the kids? And I hate to say it, but at the time my relationship with God was only fitting into the cracks in my busy tired days, if at all.
So a few months ago I sat down and thought, really thought, about what I wanted my day to include and not include. I made a list, starting with the most important priorities. I didn’t add too many things. Let’s set attainable goals, shall we!
But, just that simple activity was pretty powerful and a good reminder that I do have some control. I can be in charge of my day, even if most of it is overrun with tantrums and diapers and messes.
I needed to add dedicated prayer time to my day, I needed to eat better, I needed to think of my husband more and I needed to be present with my children. The things I needed to eliminate included swearing under my breath, eating peanut butter with a spoon (sigh), rolling my eyes at my husband, and yelling at the kids. Just writing these things out and seeing them helped me so much!
So, if you’re up for it, if you’re ready to reclaim your day, download and print this very simple worksheet. Fill it out honestly, but don’t go overboard. What needs to be added to your day and what needs to be eliminated?
And then, let’s make it happen.
Over the next 7 days we will be working through this list of priorities. I don’t do any of these things perfectly (ha!). I will be learning (and failing) right along with you.
But, we can live better. We can reclaim our lives!
Fill out the worksheet and take these things to prayer. Find hope and determination to make this change.
Thanks, and I’m so excited for you, Momma!
PS–here’ the worksheet once more: BRAINSTORMING WORKSHEET
DAY 1: PRAYER
Okay, Ladies. It’s time to get serious.
Today we are biting off a big piece of the puzzle: Prayer. When/how do we find time to pray amid the crazy mayhem of raising little ones?
It’s hard, I get it. For many years I barely even tried. Or, more accurately, I tried everything for a few days, and then either got distracted or gave up or forgot about it. Following each failure, I not only had a terrible prayer life, but I felt terrible about myself.
But ladies, we need to make this happen. We need to make time to pray every day.
I don’t have any tricks for you here. Only a few thoughts, a little motivation and a whole lot of CAN DO spirit!
1. Embrace a different kind of prayer
Gone are the days of quiet, deep contemplation. But, we can still pray. Find a prayer place in your home. Mark it, claim it, and use it every day. Attempt to find a time when you won’t be interrupted, but accept that you will be interrupted.
2. Attach prayer to an ACTIVITY you do every day
I pray my rosary every day. How? I pray the rosary while putting my littlest down for a nap, everyday, no exception. I leave my phone behind and grab my beads. Attaching my rosary to that activity, one I am SURE will happen each day , is the only way I have been able to really add this prayer to my life.
So think, what do I do every day (eat, drive, shower, change diapers, wash dishes…) that I can attach to a prayer and thus easily make that daily prayer a habit?
More on this great idea here: THE KEY TO PRAYER AS AN AT-HOME PARENT.
3. When you fail, get back up.
I have started and stopped countless prayer regiments. It usually goes something like this: I start something new, and I’m excited! I do it a few days…and then life gets in the way. I miss a day… and another. Then I feel like such a failure that I stop (and the devil wins).
Life will get in the way. Some days will be more fruitful than others. Some days it will seem impossible to pray, but I have learned that the important thing is to keep at it. To go back to it when we fail. Even if it’s been a week since we prayed, God is still there, patiently waiting for us to return.
4. Let the kids know you need to pray, alone.
It never fails. If I get up early to pray, the kids get up early. So, I find time during nap/quiet time. Without fail, there is a potty issue, a hungry baby, a child refusing to nap…or all of the above. However, I make it clear to my children that mom needs to pray and they need to give me time to do it. In fact, whenever I’m alone (which isn’t often) they kids ask, “mom, are you doing your prayers?”. Often I’m not, but the standard has been set. Mom prays and the kids are a part of making that happen. They can survive on their own for 10 minutes while I pray.
5. Have a plan for your prayer time.
I have found that it is best to keep it simple. Have a devotional you use every day. Make it something short and easy to digest.
Besides my naptime rosary, my daily prayer is a modified version of lectio divina–slow, deliberate prayer through scripture. I subscribe to Blessed Is She and receive their daily devotionals in my email each day. Admittedly, I don’t read the entire email. I usually just focus on the Gospel for the day. After calming myself, I read and reread the Gospel. I sit with the reading, focusing in close on a few passages or words that strike me. Usually something beautiful and powerful jumps out at me, every day. Finally, I pull out my prayer journal and write down one clear resolution. It is usually just a sentence or two.
That’s it. 10-15 minutes of prayer, each day. Just those few minutes usually make a huge difference in how the rest of the day goes.
So now it’s your turn. Start today. Set an attainable prayer goal, and meet that goal every day.
One of my favorite definitions of prayer comes from St. Teresa of Avila: “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
I designed a simple Bible Bookmark with this phrase on it to keep in my own Bible and remind me of the simplicity of prayer. Print it, color it, and build your friendship with God.
Thank you for coming on this journey! Tomorrow we will be talking about making time for ourselves.
See you there!
PS–if you would like a little help falling back in love with the Rosary, check out the simple, beautiful Rosary Book I created. Over 2,000 books have already been sold and are in use. And I use mine every day as well.
DAY 2: ME
Today is all about you, sweet Momma!
In case you’ve forgotten, here is the hierarchy of priorities that we are working with: God, Me, Husband, Kids, Home, Community.
Yesterday we talked about prayer (God)–and it makes total sense that He should come first, right? But me… I come right after God? Seems crazy.
If you are anything like me, you are accustomed to making sure everyone else is taken care of before thinking of your own needs.
For me this “me last” method doesn’t grow out of some beautiful selfless place. No, it comes out of laziness. Others (kids, husband) yell louder. So, I race from one need to another, putting out fire after fire. All the time, barely noticing that I am suffering, which causes my entire family to suffer.
That’s right. We need to take care of ourselves first.
Today’s worksheet asks you to brainstorm once again. Put aside your family for a minute and really think: What do I need in order to be healthy SPIRITUALLY, PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, and PROFESSIONALLY.
Down one column write what you need, and down the other write out what it will take for you to actually get this need met. For example, if you need quiet time to pray, this might require your husband getting the kids breakfast and sitting with them for 10 minutes before he leaves for work. If you need more exercise, this might require investing in a better stroller for the kids or finding a gym that offers childcare. If you need to feel less dumpy, this might require wearing more than yoga pants and nursing tanks. Maybe you (I) need to dig through your (my) closet, or head to the mall and admit that you are (I am) 2 sizes bigger than before kids. Perhaps, if you desire to feel like “more than just a mom”, you need to head to the library, find some books in your desired field, and find time to enrich your mind.
Yes, it’s hard to make a salad when you’re already making PB&J for the kids. Yes, it’s hard to fit in time to pray. Yes, it’s hard to keep chipping away at those professional goals, to finally write that book, to take that online course, to craft, to sew, to read.
It’s easier to just not: to just keep running around, thinking of others and not ourselves.
However, this isn’t how we are called to live. We are more than mothers and wives. We are beautiful, wonderfully made women. Take care of your body, your mind and your spirit like you actually believe that.
For today, put you first. Focus on making yourself HOLY and HAPPY.
Your family will thank you.
So, find a minute and fill out this brainstorming worksheet. As part of the worksheet, you will be asked to figure out your daily “reward”. It is VITAL that you have something (a hobby, a book) to look forward to at the end of each day. What motivates me to get through the dishes and laundry each day? The fact that when it’s done I get to reward myself with a bit of stitching and Netflix while snuggling with my husband. That is the best hour of my day.
And I sincerely hope you have something wonderful to look forward to too, each and every day.
Tomorrow we will be moving on to #3 on the list: Our Husbands.
See you then,
DAY 3: HUSBAND
Hey! How are ya’ feeling?
I’m hoping that after 2 days of dedicated prayer and one day of putting yourself first, you are feeling pretty good. You deserve to feel good.
Today we are moving on to our beloved spouses, those men we fell in love with (what feels like) long, long ago. The men we gazed up at, starry eyed, and imagined the joys and wonders of growing old with, of raising a family with, of being with forever.
And then it all happened: the kids, the house, the minivan, the budget, the in-laws, all of it. And somewhere, amid the screaming kids and burnt dinners and mortgage payments, the spark faded. I’ll be the first to admit that marriage is hard work. It’s a constant emotional battle sometimes. Resentment and bitterness are easy to fall into, especially when he is out in the world all day and I am at home dealing with the kids/house.
Sometimes I really struggle with the idea of doing something special for my husband. It’s so easy for me to think, “Why should I do something for him? What does he ever do for me?”.
The truth is: He does plenty.
Also, I have discovered that when I go out of my way to do something sweet and loving for him, he is all about returning the favor.
Love=Love=Love. Loving him doesn’t make me weaker. Making a special dinner for him and doing the dishes doesn’t make me the maid. It makes me his beloved. The love I pay out is always returned.
The worksheet for today is simple. Down one column you brainstorm things your husband loves. Fill that out first. Then, down the next column write down tangible ways that you can show your husband love based on these things.
Here are a few examples from my own marriage:
Food—Plan and cook one involved, new recipe each week.
Financial Order—Fill out receipt spreadsheet before he asks.
Sex– Yeah, you get the idea…
But, as a last note, SEX should probably make your list. Yes, it’s hard with kids and babies and all that. I get it. Just make sure you don’t say “no” too much. He loves you, even though you are tired and shaped a little differently then when you met. Let him love you.
Okay, enough of that!
Ladies, go love those husbands!
Tomorrow we are talking about the kids.
DAY 4: KIDS
Hello again, sweet Momma!
It’s day four and we are finally going to talk about the kids.
A few weeks back, I asked my readers to fill out a survey asking what they felt was their biggest struggle as a mother. The #1 response, by far, was failing to be really present with their children. Whether it was housework, stress, technology or work, something always seemed to get in the way of truly being with their children.
Oh man, do I get that! I love my phone, too much. I have a hard time reading books to the kids while the kitchen is a mess. I get bored pushing kids on the swings for hours…
This is all normal mom stuff–along with the guilt we feel at the end of the day when we wonder, what did I actually DO with the kids today? What did we learn, what did we talk about, what memories did we make?
It just sucks when day after day we feel like we come up empty on these questions. Like all we accomplished was surviving another day (which around here is sometimes a small miracle).
But, we want to be better for our kids.
The only way I know to make sure I am a PRESENT, ATTENTIVE, FUN mom each and every day for my children is to SCHEDULE IT IN.
Yup, put it on the to-do list, set aside a daily time and make it happen.
Not the way you thought motherhood would be? Yay, me neither, but let’s accept and move on.
In my home it is 10am. By that time the oldes is at school, the baby is sleeping, the breakfast dishes are done, kids are dressed and we can sit down for 30 minutes to do something together.
As a young mother I used to feel like we needed to do these involved (messy) projects or crafts. But no one can sustain that everyday, or survive the cleanup. Now we do simple things. We are coloring our way through these 26 Catholic Coloring Pages I made. Some days we just practice writing or drawing simple things in their special notebooks. Other days we go dig in the sandbox or play melty beads or build block towers or put together a puzzle or ride bikes and go on a walk.
It’s sort of embarrassing that I have to schedule in time to be with my kids. I’m a stay-at-home mom, after all. Shouldn’t that be what I do?
Well, yeah, it is. But, in order to do it WELL, it needs to set aside as sacred.
I know this is SO SIMPLE, but it has, literally, taken me years to realize. I hope you find it helpful!
Tomorrow we are talking about our Homes…and house work. AHHH!.
See you then,
DAY 5: HOME
Welcome back to Day 5 of our endeavor to reclaim our day. We’ve come a long way and today we are talking about our Home, and all making a home for our family involves.
And let’s be real, being a homemaker is a heck of a lot of work. As a (silly) kid I used to think that “homemaker” was code for a person that didn’t have a job, but I have never worked so hard as I currently do to keep my family fed, dressed and living in a clean home.
The worst part of homemaking: the job never ends. As soon as I clean the kitchen, someone is digging in the fridge, pulling out half the contents and making a huge mess. Same is true with laundry and the floor and the bathroom. Sometimes it just seems pointless.
Yet, we are called to create a peaceful, nurturing home for our families. Making a home is truly doing small things with great love. We all know that our kids are happier when the house is clean, and so are we.
But where do we find the time and the motivation to get through all that laundry, to attack the clutter and to actually meal plan for once?
In truth, there will simply never be enough time. Never.
The best we can do is do a little each day, reward ourselves for the work we’ve accomplished and try and accept what we didn’t get to.
I find success as a homemaker when I take a minute to plan out the chores I need to accomplish each week. I break it down by day and write everything down on a DAILY DOCKET (download and print your own). The most important part of this little sheet is the bottom. At the bottom is a little box where I decide what my reward will be for getting through my chores. And let me tell you, knowing there is a reward waiting for me at the end of the chore makes me hustle and complete my chores.
My rewards generally involve working on a fun little project I have going, taking a nap or indulging in some of the chocolate I have hidden in the back of the pantry.
I also try to get most of my cleaning done earlier in the week so that I have no chores left on Friday and the kids and I enjoy a Friday-Fun day. We head to the park, meet dad at Chic-fil-a for lunch and enjoy the fact that the chores are already done.
Remember, just a little each day. Clear one area of clutter each day. Tackle one bathroom. Just keep plugging away.
I hope that was helpful!
Tomorrow we are talking about the 6th and final topic: Community.
Thanks for being here,
PS–I tackled the topic of housework on the Podcast a while back. Head here to listen in: J1ST 020: The Holiness of Housework.
DAY 6: COMMUNITY
Here we are, the final day. It’s time to leave our home and families and think about the communities we are a part of and where they fit into all of this.
Motherhood, especially stay-at-home-motherhood, can be lonely. I have never been lonelier than those first weeks I was home with my son. The house was so quiet and all I had for companionship was this wobble-headed baby.
Nearly seven years later and our house isn’t quiet anymore, but some days are still lonely. I simply can not talk about Legos and Star Wars all day long. I need to connect with other mothers like me. I need to know that my struggles are real and that I am not alone.
But making mom friends can be tough. It’s like dating again, only worse. How do you tell if you are hitting it off with this mom? When do you exchange phone numbers–and even harder–when do you use the number? Your kid just pushed her kid–can you still be mom friends?
I have been blessed with some wonderful mom friends, but my husband’s job moved us across the country a two years ago, so I was once again mom-friendless and looking at doing this weird mom-dance to try and make friends again.
But, a wonderful thing happened. Before we even got to Kansas a reader emailed me inviting me to a Friday morning playgroup. The group is called Mark 9:35–and they meet each Friday at a park at, you guessed it, 9:35am. The playgroup is open to any Catholic mom and her kids. Four moms take turns hosting (one each week of the month) and sending out the weekly email and whoever wants to shows up.
And it is awesome.
Because here’s the truth. My best friend moved with me to Kansas–my husband. My other best friends are on the phone with me nearly every day–my sisters. What I want once a week is a COMMUNITY. I want women to sit next to on park benches as we nurse babies. I want other sweet kids for mine to play with. I want women who get NFP to understand when I’m pregnant again. I want to be around people that think naming kids Augustine and Bernadette is normal. Because even though we might not be the bestest of friends, these are my people. We’re Catholic Women.
And we all need to be with our people once in awhile.
So, sweet momma, do you have a community? Is there a group of women at your parish that you connect with? Your neighborhood?
If not, well, you might need to be the one to get the ball rolling. Consider starting a Mark 9:35 playgroup in your area. Get some email addresses, find a park and make it happen. That is literally all it takes to get this playgroup going. Some email address and a park.
And hey, look at us! It’s the end of day 7. Good job!
We’ve made it all the way through our priorities, but you will be getting one more email from me tomorrow, just to pull all of this together. Look for it!
DAY 7: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
We made it! We have reclaimed our day, and this is a big deal.
To review, here is what we’ve been talking about this week, in a nice little nutshell:
#1-Make DAILY time for God. Pick a simple, fruitful devotional and make it your highest priority to get it done every single day. Attach it to an activity you do every day to make sure you get your prayer in.
#2-Take care of yourself. Stop thinking of yourself last. In order for your family to be well, you need to be well. Be healthy and make sure you always have some project/book/craft going that you enjoy and that is all yours.
#3-Love your husband. Stop keeping score and love him first. Attempt to do something special for him each and every day, even if it is as simple as laughing at a joke he has already told you.
#4-Cherish your children. Most (all?) moms struggle with truly being PRESENT with their children. To overcome this, schedule in time every day to give them your undivided attention. Have a simple activity planned, like these Catholic Coloring Pages.
#5-Make your house a home. Homemaking is a lot of work. Organize your life so that you get a little done each day. Use the Daily Docket printable to schedule it, and incentive your work with a reward!
#6-Be part of a Community. Moms need other moms. Be present and vulnerable with your community, or if you don’t currently have a community, consider starting a Mark 9:35 playgroup in your area!
I have one final resource for you today. Kids (and moms, for that matter) thrive when there is a rhythm to life. If prayer occurs at the same time everyday, we are more likely to follow through. If meals take place at the same time and the same way every day, kids are more likely to behave and actually eat.
So, print out this DAILY SCHEDULE and plan out your ideal day. Will this be your exact schedule every day? Most likely no. Things will come up, kids will get up too early and the flu with strike. But, it is a beautiful comfort to know what each day will generally look like before your feet hit the ground each morning.
Thanks for being here, my friend. I hope that my thoughts and resources were helpful this week. Please know that I am still very much on this journey with you and that I take praying for all women in this community very seriously. You have my prayers.
I would love for you to reply to this email with any Ah-Ha moments you had this week. Hearing them is not only wonderful for me, but incredibly helpful. I certainly don’t have all my ducks in a row yet, and I am constantly learning from this wonderful community of Catholic women.
Your humble sister in Christ
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