It takes me twice as long to do anything with the children around.
Today, Billy and I were putting laundry away. As he passed each item out of the basket to me he managed to unfold most of what I had painstakingly folded the night before. I could have sent him away. I could have popped him on a blanket with a toy and told him to play quietly until I was done. He would have sat there, he would have gone away if I had asked him and he could have waited until I was finished the housework. I would have finished in half the time. But I would have achieved a tenth of what I did this morning.
You see, as my son handed me each item in his, bumbling, toddler way, as I put each item carefully away I was doing laundry but I was also building. I was building a relationship with my son. I was teaching him that I enjoy his company as we giggled together, I was teaching him that his efforts of help and kindness would be accepted and applauded, I was teaching him that he could get my attention without whinging and grizzling at me or breaking the rules. I was also building my boy into a man. He was learning work ethic. He was learning to care for, maintain and organise clothing. He was learning that work is simply a part of life and if we all pitch in it is a lot more fun! He didn't walk away a man, but that time built a little more foundation for his future manhood.
If I had sent him away, I would have finished in half the time and probably had time to catch up on the kitchen organisation or the laundry that slipped while we weren't well. Beloved could have come home to a spotless home if I had parked his children in front of a DVD (wholesome and educational of course). If I had sent him away, a visitor could have stopped by and I could have invited them to sit in my spotless kitchen and shooed the children away to their games while I basked in their praise of my stellar housekeeping.
But instead, I chose to keep him by me and involve him.
I chose to build my household, not tear it down in favour of a shiny house (prov. 14:1)
I chose to build something eternal rather than polish a house that will one day be dust (Luke 12:22-34)
I chose to do that which is better (Luke 10:38-42)
I chose to bend the twig that will one day be a mighty tree (Prov 22:6)
So, it takes me twice as long to do anything with the children around - but I achieve ten times as much.
So down to the practical. All this is great in theory, but how do you do it?
Here are my top ten hints:
1. Where is your heart? If you are seeking other people's approval, measure that against the price you are paying. Is a spotless house worth palming your kids off and missing a million teaching opportunities? Is someone who would sniff at dirty dishes on the bench really someone you want to impress?
2. Is your relationship with your child(ren) priority? I read a great article about that earlier tonight actually I highly recommend you follow this link and download the first article in this list, 'Making Relationships with Your Children Priority' .
3 Do you have functional routines? It is a whole lot easier to put something off until later if there is actually an organised LATER! It is easier to make time for your children when the household is running smoothly.
4. Abolish the words "When I finish this I will...", "When the baby is sleeping through..", "Once we have finished this project...", "When they get older I will....", and all other excuses to put off building a relationship with your children. There is no excuse for neglecting the heart of a child (Matthew 18:6).
5. Are your expectations realistic? I always plan 48 hours worth of work for every day! I have had to learn to relax, let go and prioritise. If it does not directly affect the health, wellbeing and eternal welfare of my family, I can let it go!
6. Do you micro-manage? This is a very bad habit that is the downfall of many a homemaker! I have seen people re-fold socks because they weren't done right. Doing this to a child is like planting a seed then digging it up every day to see if it is growing! Teach a child to do a job (with CLEAR goals and requirements), set up their accountability (make an appointment to check it with them so they can show off to you or confess freely and ask for help - much more of a relationship builder than nagging and surprise inspections!), then let them do it THEIR WAY! This means biting your tongue and letting them make mistakes. Who knows, they may even find a better way to do it and YOU can learn something from THEM! And quit nagging the husband and telling him how to do his job of husband and Father (prov. 21:9,19) you'd be amazed how much time this frees up! LOL Godly submission is a real time saver.
7. Are you doing FOR or doing WITH? Many a tired Mama burns out doing a million things FOR their children and their sacrifice is barely noticed. Cupcakes baked WITH Mum are twice as sweet as those that appear on the plate! A child will appreciate your time and attention more than any other gift.
8. Reflect on your child's day from their point of view. What do you think they enjoyed? What do you think they learned? Kids do not need to be having a barrel of laughs every waking hour. This would give a rather skewed view of life! But the times they were sat down with a toy, was it a time for them to learn? Was it a time for them to enjoy peace, stay safe and/or learn obedience? Or were they just pushed aside so you could finish your task?
9. Have time assigned each day to sit with your children and let nothing encroach upon it. Don't be over ambitious. You are more likely to keep a ten minute commitment each day after breakfast than an hour of story reading after lunch each day. In our household, it doesn't matter WHAT needs cleaning, we find a clear spot to sit for songs and prayers each day. We rarely get up without a song, prayer, hug, smile and laugh to start the day.
10. Find your knees. Without a relationship with the Lord above, no relationship will flourish.
Invest in your children and it will be an eternal investment. Spend time teaching them in those vital early years and you will set them up for life. Trust them and adore them and be their biggest fan.
Remember, babies don't keep.