I have been very spoiled to have my husband around quite a bit over the past few years: stopping
in for lunch, home by 5:30 p.m., helping with the kids' bedtime, vacations when we need them,
and so on. But he recently started graduate school and I am adjusting to him being less
I think all mothers of young children can relate to feeling D-O-N-E at the end of the day. I see
capable women everywhere handling long hours, but I am feeling majorly panicked.
I know you have had more than your fair share of long days. Can you please give me some tips
to help me manage this new schedule?
It's time to radically change your expectations! And you must do so without reserve or
resentment. You must remember why your husband is in graduate school and realize that your
chosen work is to keep the home running.
In your case, you are accustomed to more help with the house and children than is now available.
Your first step into this new schedule is to actively expect less help. To say, when faced with a
new task, "That's me," as if a giant taskmaster in the sky were calling out, "Who's in charge of
I also have some practical suggestions.
Make and keep a schedule. Bedtime is a sweet release, but it can only happen if meals
and other activities are also on time.
Eat family dinner with the kids. Set the table, use serving pieces, ask about their days,
and otherwise have as normal a meal as possible. If your husband is home, great. But if
he is working late, do not wait for him. It will ruin bedtime.
Get out of the house every day. Go to the mailbox. Take out the trash. Go on a walk.
Let the kids poke in the dirt. Fresh air is invigorating no matter how unpleasant the
weather. If it's pouring rain, sit on your stoop or walk around under an umbrella. If it is
unbearably hot, observe to the children that it is so hot that you are getting sweaty. Take
deep breaths and look at the sky. Point out the beauty of nature.
Make friends. Friendship will give you places to go, people to talk to, ideas for dinner,
opportunities to serve, and reciprocal babysitting.
Keep up on your housework and be proud of it. This is a huge task, but a clean house is
both rewarding and relaxing. Remember that the key to housekeeping is maintenance.
It's a lot easier to keep a house reasonably clean from day to day than to rescue it once
a week. So make your bed every morning. Put all dirty clothes in the hamper. Put away
clean clothes. Clear the table after every meal. Have a place for everything and put
everything in its place. Sweep up a mess before it gets tracked all over the house. Don't
let your kids eat in the family room. And train the kids to help. Very little children can
put their laundry in a hamper, clear their plates, and pick up their toys. Your house need
not be impeccable. You have to live and eat and play in it! But if you keep it from
becoming a total disaster area, you will be much happier.
Never, ever complain about church responsibilities. There is an incalculable benefit
when children see their parents serve diligently in the Church without complaint.
Almost never, ever complain about school and work responsibilities. If you are upset
about your husband's hours, or think he spends them unwisely, talk to him privately.
But when you talk to the kids about church, work, and school, be enthusiastic and proud
about Dad's hard work.
Keep a family calendar. Make sure your husband's appointments are included, or stake
priesthood meeting and Saturday-morning moves will not feel like a blessing.
Have a time most days to do what you enjoy. I, for example, read my newspaper with
my breakfast while the kids are playing.
Audiobooks are terrific for solo activities like cleaning, ironing, or watching kids at the
park. They are not terrific during family activities like driving or dinner.
Take time to interact with each child individually. You can read, color, build with
Legos, sort laundry, unload the dishwasher, get the mail, play cars, do a puzzle,
snuggle -- whatever the child wants to do with you. Enjoy the sweet moments as you
have them and be sure to express affection and pride.
Be fun! Try new things and go new places even if you don't want to. Ask yourself,
"What would a fun mom do?"and then do it. But keep to one major activity each day.
If you are super-fun mom at the park in the morning, plan a quiet afternoon. Let the
kids try new things and play without too much interference. When you want to tell
them to stop doing something, stop and ask if there is a good reason they shouldn't do
it. Let them dig holes and climb trees and get their play clothes dirty.
Start things early so you don't have to rush. This applies to bedtime, mealtime, getting
to church on time, and every other facet of life that involves time. It's much easier to
keep your temper when you are not in a hurry.
Finally, remember that what you do at home during the day determines what your husband does
with his time in the evenings and on the weekend. Do you want him to spend three hours on the
lawn each Saturday, or would you rather he took the children off on a special Dad-venture while
you enjoyed some quiet moments by yourself?