The advent of our third child and my concurrent leave from outside-the-home work have brought about some changes in our household – and in my observations of it. A new baby means more stuff – car and bouncy seats, bibs, burp cloths, etc. And since my normal consulting To-Do list is absent, the Growing Clutter and Chaos have been more of a focal point than they otherwise would be. My annoyance is high, and so is my sense that I should do something about it. I’m quite organized and administrative in some ways – with correspondence, budgeting, photos. In my day-to-day household life though, not so much.
I realized that I lacked effective structure and systems to manage my household so I asked a friend similar to me in organizational style – and whose household seems ordered – if I could learn from her. Have her show me her systems, recipe organization (she’s a great cook whereas I’m mediocre), and generally provide some inspiration and direction. I observed and came away with ideas and tips, but mostly I learned that she works a lot harder than I do. That’s her secret: she’s diligent. I’m not.
It’s true that my friend enjoys these pursuits; she loves cooking; she prizes cleanliness more than I do. Still, since then I’ve been thinking a lot about diligence. I’ve given it little attention since schoolgirl days when diligence meant finished homework and gold stars. Diligence, defined as “constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind…” doesn’t describe my homemaking efforts.
I like the business-oriented skills of the Proverbs 31 wife – buying a field, planning finances. I’m good at those ones. Too I resonate with her relational skills, speaking into people’s lives – my gifts fall in there. Of course it helps that these are areas of life that the world prizes – marketplace accomplishments, work outside the home. But the majority of her descriptors focus on intentional and effective homemaking. Since these aren’t my interest or passion, I’ve tended to minimize or even ignore them… which I can’t imagine pleases God too much.
Take Prov 31:17: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” I have certainly not set about my household-related work vigorously, nor had strong arms for my tasks. The tasks are oftentimes laborious: laundry, vacuuming, meal prep, cleaning the kitchen (endlessly). I do these things, yes, but shoddily and halfheartedly. I don’t do them with diligence, or with a thankful heart toward God that rejoices in the home he’s given me to manage and the people in it.
Or Prov 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” While I do watch over my household’s affairs, I don’t apply myself to it with the same effort as to many other aspects of daily life. And “eating the bread of idleness” — let’s see, does checking Facebook for the 11th time instead of ever emptying the drying rack count?
The point here isn’t self-flagellation, and we moms do need to have realistic expectations and grace for ourselves. But what’s the balance of grace vs. diligence? I’ve given myself more than enough grace. What I need is a hefty dose of diligence to “earnestly and persistently” tend my home. I need to give myself to this part of God’s calling on my life- managing my home life to the best of my ability.
Not long ago a friend posted on her frustration over a messy household following a particularly busy season (I could relate). In letting it become so disordered, she lamented, how could she have so “let her family down?” (I could not relate). I had never thought about the notion that a womans’ failing to keep her house in good order was a failure toward her family. But according to Prov 31:27, it is, as many people’s wellbeing – physical, emotional, spiritual – is impacted by the job we do.
So I’ve started praying that God would help me give myself fully to the in-home tasks He’s given me, and help me to do them with attention, diligence, and thanksgiving (and so far so good – definitely feeling his presence and the beginning of a new perspective). Anyone want to join me?
[Editor’s note: for follow-up posts on homeward diligence, see Being Ruthless in Homemaking, The Two-Part Home, Vision and Planning in Motherhood, Diligence: the Big “E” on the Eye Chart , Lacking Homeward Diligence: the Background, and Adopting Homeward Diligence: Before and After]