As described in recent posts, I’ve lately realized a problematic lack of homeward diligence which I’ve been working to rectify. Diligent at-home moms abound (like Lindsay of Passionate Homemaking or my friend Courtney who helped launch my diligence regimen and now blogs at Whole Diligence ), as do people who are naturally tidy and domestically attentive. [If you’re one of these, feel free to stop reading now.] It feels to me, though that I’m in decent company among at-home moms who feel they’re floundering in their domestic efforts and can’t put their finger on why. One fellow-mom friend said, “I feel like I’m always trying to get organized;” another said, “I lack focus;” a third said, “I understand there’s a better way; I’m just not doing it.” There’s a shared sense of flailing, of now knowing quite how to get a handle on things in our households. I don’t know if these women struggle with diligence as I do; I’m just noting that their words resonated greatly with how I felt.
It all made me wonder: is there more to a lack of homeward diligence? Cultural factors, corporate mindset? So I reflected on the circumstances that contributed to my own lack of homeward diligence and came up with these (not an exhaustive list, just my own top 6):
1. Being a part-time working mom has skewed my task list and my sense of which daily accomplishments matter. The things I have to get done for work I really have to get done – edit a doc; send out emails; make calls; write a proposal. Those deadlines are fixed and non-negotiable. All the at-home stuff is secondary and fluid. The laundry – and the tidying – can (and routinely did) wait till tomorrow.
2. My compensated work has long been mixed with moderate doses of self-distraction and procrastination. I multi-task online when I’m on the phone with my client, checking my bank account and the news. When I can’t quite bring myself to tackle next paragraph of the memo I’m drafting, I’ll check Facebook instead real quick. To best describe it: “A spoonful of (online) distraction and procrastination helps the medicine go down…” Now I see that this mode of toggling back to the web has eroded my discipline and caused my work ethic to suffer, which, in turns, seems to have spilled over into my household management. [And since distraction through technology is already the primary enemy of the modern mother, this facet is just another layer.]
3. I have completely unaccustomed to working hard at physical tasks. Aren’t all of us moms who come to at-home motherhood from professional careers? Sure, I emptied the dishwasher growing up and spent a summer in college as a waitress and another as a resort housekeeper. But working hard as a way of life? No way. The fact that a good chunk of my life now actually consists of doing manual work – sorting, tidying, cleaning, schlepping – actually comes as rather a surprise to me, even after being an at-home mom for four years. I realized this only when pondering a recommendation to teach kids to “work hard without complaining” – at which point I realized I don’t do that myself.
4. There are so many elaborate facets of parenthood and home life today being discussed that the bare bones basics – like an orderly home – get lost in the mix. Green cleaning. Co-sleeping. Pumping. Baby-wearing. Making your own baby food. Cloth diapering. Organic cooking. Making your own gifts. It makes a woman feel like she can’t keep up and just needs to put her head down and get through the days. It also contributes to the illusion that there are too many tasks to be considered or completed, causing a ‘why bother trying?’ response that fosters non-diligence. I didn’t see I needed to cut straight to the heart of it all and just tend my home well as a first step. Turns out there IS enough time to do that, if I just get going. Some of the other things can be built on the foundation of basic diligence, once it’s solid.
5. Diligence is under-valued and rarely talked about in our culture, even among Christians. I’ve never been in a conversation or attended a talk in which the question “Are you diligent in your homemaking?” was being discussed. In fact, if the talk I heard last spring about home organization had started with this statement: “Don’t bother listening to any of this if you’re not committed to diligence and having an orderly home” – it probably would have greatly helped me to figure out what my problem was.
6. It is culturally acceptable – sometimes even praised – to have a disorganized home today. An orderly home is seen as optional and more closely tied to one’s personal style and preferences than anything else. Too, the state of one’s home and one’s parenting life are seen as completely separate. I’m not saying that a neat, well-run home and excellence in mothering always happen together; I’m just saying I think they may be more connected than society’s subtle (and overt) messages lead us to believe.
I’m pretty fascinated with this topic right now, so anyone who has any thoughts on this issue, any of the listed items above, or something else related – let’s hear it.