“She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.” (Proverbs 31:15) I do not have a staff of servant girls (and I am rarely up before dawn!), but I do have household servants. So do you, although yours may differ slightly from mine. I have a crock-pot, a bread machine, a clothes washer and dryer, a dishwasher, etc. These make up my household staff. If I have a load of laundry in the washing machine, another load in the dryer (or on the clothesline), the dishwasher is running, and the crock-pot is crocking away, I know I can sit down for a few minutes Guilt-Free, because tasks are being taken care of for me! Clothing and dishes are being cleaned and food is being cooked, enabling “me” to be in several places at once.
I try to get “my staff” working as soon as possible each day, because then I can feel quite productive — even if I am having a rather “slow” day personally. I can sit down with my students to practice their reading or play a game, knowing that chores are getting done.
Back when my children were small, I used a cassette tape recorder to capture my voice as I read favorite storybooks to my toddler. Later, when Mommy just could not be there, that tape could be replayed — allowing Little One to spend time with Mommy, hearing those favorites over and over again, making the tape player another valued member of my helpful staff. Incidentally, my daughter got as much enjoyment from hearing her own reactions on the tape as from hearing me. I had also tried just reading stories into the tape recorder — without the child on my lap — but the result was undesirably flat and just no fun to listen to.
My children are also valuable members of my staff — Mom should never be working alone when all others are recreating! I enjoy free time as much as the next person does; I just seem to get less of it. Kids can fold towels, sort underwear, scrub potatoes, and do plenty of other simple jobs so that Mom can be freed up for higher-skill jobs. Many times I have agreed to make a costume or other special request for one of my children only after they agreed to take over specific Mommy-tasks in order to give me the time required. Barter is a great tool — use it to your advantage!
Many years have passed, but I still remember the shock on my friend’s face when her daughter wrote a paper for school about the hobbies her family members pursued. The daughter had listed Mom’s hobbies as cooking and cleaning. I knew that woman as being a very artsy person who loved craft projects, decorating, sewing, and scrounging through garage sales. We had great fun together going to those garage sales and parks with our children or at couples’ parties with our spouses. I knew she had many interests — why did her own daughter only see the cooking-and-cleaning side? Perhaps it was because Mom had never pointed out what leisure time activities she did enjoy. Perhaps a little job-trading activity would have helped to clarify the fact that some chores benefit the entire family and can therefore be accomplished by anyone in the family with the required skill. More than once I have accepted the offer of kid-prepared scrambled eggs for supper in return for mending something that child wanted to wear the next day.
We all need to re-examine how and why we do the things we do. Are perfectly folded towels really all that important once we close the linen closet door? Will my family notice (or even care) if the cake they eat after supper has been imperfectly frosted by the Junior Chef or will they just be grateful for the rare treat of dessert? How much better will I feel at the end of the day knowing we have clean underwear for tomorrow AND Little One got to snuggle on my lap through several storybooks? Making use of timesaving appliances and a little work-together time can also save me some sanity and let me get on to enjoying some Guilt-Free activities that I have previously only dreamed about.