Attention: All Husbands of a Stay at Home Mom…

Hello Husbands,

First of all, hats off to YOU for making the selfless decision to put your family first. In an age when everyone wants to pursue an extra income, opportunity and status, you have chosen to work together with your wife making sacrifices to ensure the BEST care for your family. Hats off further for earning a wage and/or choosing a lifestyle where you can afford to do so. Simply put… YOU THE MAN!!!!! 🙂

That being said, unfortunately, what tends to happen during this process, is though you are satisfied with the outcome of your wife being at home, (your kids are well behaved, healthy, happy, safe and brilliant) you can sometimes overlook the effort it takes to get there. To help your AWESOME self, avoid making this AWFUL mistake, I have two simple ideas for you to consider when dealing with your stay at home mom.

Number one: Give her regular and intentional acts, thoughts, gifts, and words of appreciation.  The average employee earns a salary. It may not be lavish, but whatever it is, it is enough to keep them coming back each day. They are rewarded doubly for overtime hours and acts of excellence. Most earn paid holidays, sick leave, and vacation time. There are bonuses to strive for and promotions to look toward. Shoot, some places give certificates for not being late more than 3 times!!!! Lol!

Interestingly, your wife doesn’t NEED any of that. The services she provides and the care she gives is given freely; without expectation and most times without reward. For example, the child she wakes up to nurse five times each night, can’t roll over and thank her for her sacrifice of sleep. He/she can’t understand the benefit of learning how to use the potty. The hours of reading aloud, planning play dates, reciting numbers, watching repeated episodes on PBS, downloading educational websites, won’t pay off until they are of school age (at least we hope). The gratification of the work invested in our little ones are most times delayed by sometimes 18 years, yet she does it all faithfully for the retroactive bonus of great success, for the continued tinkle in the toilet, the health offered only from breastfeeding and the educational advancements that are to follow.

However, YOU can celebrate her during this journey. You have no idea how much your recognition means to her. The sticky note you leave on her mirror in the morning reminding her how you noticed her patiently helping your little one with his homework each night. The certificate you create and print off at work to present to her for being “Mom of the Year”. The public post on Facebook, letting the world know how awesome your wife’s dinner was last night. Or the weekend getaway you planned yourself, would trump every achievement she’s ever earned. Whatever method you choose to show your appreciation, do it regularly. Be intentional about noticing the time, effort and love she pours into your family. You will find it will not only strengthen her devotion to you, but also spark a second wind to continue her plight toward excellence in your home.

Number two: Be sure she gets (regular) temporary relief from her responsibilities.  EVERYONE needs and deserves a break every now and then… no REGULARLY. Again most employees are given at least 2 days a week, 2 weeks a year, holidays and even breaks throughout the day. Too many times, a stay at home mom’s “breaks” are filled with additional tasks. I remember when my kids were little, during their naps, it would seem a perfect time for me to catch up on sleep, reading, exercise etc… NOPE. I used that time to prepare dinner for the evening, mop, clean, wash clothes etc.. Weekends became opportunities to catch up on bigger responsibilities, birthday parties, sporting events and other commitments. Vacation generally meant handling the same duties only in a different location. WHEW!!!! Your wife needs relief.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to hire a nanny or maid, but perhaps you can implement a “No Work on Saturdays” campaign. Every Friday you can plan to eat out or order in. From 4pm-6pm each day, she can go to the gym, take a class, go to the mall etc… Sundays could be HER day. She has no duties or requirements at all on that day and she is free to spend her time wherever she wants to go, doing whatever she wants to do. HELLO DADDY DAYCARE!!! 🙂 🙂 Whatever method of reprieve works for your family is up to you guys, but know that it is imperative for your wife to maintain balance in her life.

As a former teacher of high school students, I have seen the long term benefits of kids who have had an active parent at home. The fact that you have created a lifestyle of support within your family is such a great idea. Ultimately, your wife and children are and will be grateful for the time you put in at the office in order to provide for your family and the sacrifices made to put your children first. Just remember, you and your wife are a team. You both need each other to make this well oiled machine function properly. Be sure your wife gets the necessary regular maintenance she needs in order for her to perform at her maximum capacity. After all, happy, appreciated, balanced, rested wife… HAPPY…EVERYTHING!!!! 🙂

Sincerely,

Enjoying the Journey with Harper

DO IT YOURSELF!!!!

Recently, my husband completed our taxes using Turbo Tax. For the last 16+ years, we have always paid different accountants or other tax companies to do it for us.  The last two years, we were disappointed not only with our return, but the lackadaisical manner at which they were completed. Since we moved to a new area, we sought out reputable accountants that could file our returns for us to no avail. So, we decided, why not save a few dollars and headaches and attempt this ourselves? After filing with great ease and success, I was left to wonder, how many other ways do we put our fate in the hands of supposed trusted people, and at what cost? What other skills do we lack simply because we don’t try?

Think about it. Back in the day, I remember people growing their own food in the garden, changing their own oil, building their own sheds, changing their own tires, painting their own nails, washing their cars, dying their hair, booking their vacations, cutting and fertilizing their grass, cooking their food, etc… Today, we have gotten to the place where we can’t leave the house on a sunny afternoon without having someone else cut and paint our toenails for us. YIKES!!! We are quick to complain about the scratch put in our new car’s exterior paint job during the 5-minute automated car wash, yet we are too busy to wash it ourselves. In the meantime, a $10 car wash every week, $7 brow wax, $30 manicure, $90 lawn care, $50 dog grooming begins to add up…

The problem is not seeking out the help to perform tasks that clearly the professionals can do easier or faster than we can. Obviously, we all are super busy. But, at what cost? I find it interesting that we have gotten to the point where we will spend a large portion of our salaries paying for the ability to have many of these tasks performed for us. How much would we save, and not have to work if we simply did them ourselves? What new skills would we learn and be able to pass on to our children if we even tried?  A person who brings home $600 a week in pay, yet has a 1-hour commute, a $200 daycare bill, lunch in the lunchroom/restaurant, gas etc.. is ultimately working to pay for work. The idea of taking our 6-week old child to a daycare facility, depending on a restaurant to supply our nutrition regularly, expecting the local lawn company to keep our lawns looking pristine, not only makes us vulnerable to the level of excellence they CHOOSE to perform, but it costs a ton. When we did our taxes, we certainly put a lot more effort, time and care into the job than anyone else could. We learned a lot and saved a TON of money. You certainly would care for your child much better than the worker earning a minimal wage. And you would take pride in making your lawn look amazing because it is a reflection of you.

I am not suggesting that you drop your busy loads to complete menial jobs around your home. But perhaps we can all be mindful of just how much we spend and how often we put our responsibilities in the hands of others that otherwise are not connected to us in any way. God has given you grace to do all you need to do in your home. Be wise not to turn that authority over to complete strangers whose only motivation is not their service to you, not your best interest, but making a buck or two…

Ps. If you get a second, add some of the ways you save money by “doing it yourself” in the comment section below. Hopefully we can generate various ideas that would help us all…

Friends or Nah…

My husband and I had dinner with some old friends from college who were in town this weekend.  We had a great meal; laughed, reminisced about the past, shared photos and caught up on all the happenings of our lives.  It was SO refreshing to exchange with a fellow Christian couple that shared not only super history, but similar goals and beliefs. I was left to wonder why I didn’t have this kind of fellowship on a regular basis. Of course, I have buddies. Of course I exchange with many people often and have a ton of Facebook friends… But I must admit, at 39 years old, I can only count on one hand the number of “FRIENDS” I have. It led me to consider, what makes a true friend?

After moving to a new town, I have met some pretty outstanding people. I also know a TON of people from church, former jobs, college and of course childhood cronies. But FRIENDS???? What makes a TRUE FRIEND? When we were younger, if people shared common interest, we naturally gravitated toward them. We’re in band together, we live in the same apartment complex, we listen to the same music on the bus… It didn’t take much to be “besties”.  I remember my Freshman year in college, my roommate was from California.  She smoked weed every day and played on the soccer team. We had NOTHING in common, but she was… THERE and quickly became the default sound board for all things and actually had voice in my life. Friends were determined by the fraternity you pledged, the position/title you held at work, or the proximity of residence. It all seemed fine during those early years. You shared things in common and it was convenient. It was FUN.

Interestingly, you remember all too well when you were little and your parents guarded who you hung around. They didn’t want you to associate with the local thugs because they knew you would be influenced by them. No matter how strong you were, what upbringing you had, you could potentially morph over into whatever it was they were engaging in.

So what about NOW? Now that you are older? Maybe you have kids. You are single or married. You are at the beginning phases of the call God has on your life. You are in a new town and have to find a church home or places to hang out. NOW more than ever it is SO important to assess who is allowed to speak into your life or give you advice. Who is able to influence your decisions and of course who you spend your time with. You will find the criteria of old just won’t cut it. Everyone is not going where you are going? Everyone won’t be able to handle the success you will experience or the plan of God you are fulfilling. Everyone’s faith is not as strong as yours and won’t be able to handle the heights you will soar.

More than often, you will find old friends not celebrate you in the place you are going because they knew where you “used” to be. You will find a colleague that has chosen to stay dormant not celebrate your new promotion. You will find the places you used to hang with your college friends, are loaded with people doing the same old things you used to do. For example, an old college buddy of mine was getting married. Her bachelorette party was in a night club and allllllll our old mutual friends were going.  Ummmm…. though I love you, there is NOTHING for me at that place. I am married. I have two kids. I don’t drink and at the time, I was teaching high school.  I kindly declined. However, it was met with great opposition. My loyalty as a friend was questioned. REALLY? Though we were the same age. Though we shared a great history. Though we were both professionals and connected to a spouse/family (or soon to be) she could not understand or accept that I could no longer engage in those things. That my life is not my own. That I could not afford to compromise my witness, my life, my future for a night of (seeming) fun. Now I would certainly not judge her, or anyone else for the decisions they make and what may be acceptable for them. But as for ME. I have WAAAAAY too much to consider when it comes to the places I go and the people I connect with.

 As a Christian, you will have to make several hard core decisions. Those decisions cannot be weak and should not be based around the approval of people.  If it lines up with the Word, it will produce fruit in your life. If people are not where you are spiritually, they may not understand or agree with those choices. However, that cannot cause you to compromise making a strong stance for Jesus. For an example, you may not be able to watch shows/movies, listen to music, go to events or places you used to. If the people in your life don’t understand that, perhaps they need to be put at a further distance.  Now, that doesn’t mean you have to have a deep “break up” discussion with them. But perhaps you need to put a nice space between yourselves. Perhaps you don’t talk EVERY week, but once every couple months. Perhaps you discontinue soliciting their opinion about major decisions in your life. Perhaps you stop exchanging life goals with them.

Whatever the case, the new criteria for making and establishing friendships should be this: What is your relationship with Christ? Not, are you perfect? Not, do you go to clubs or not? But where does God fit into your life? You will find, the general details of the relationship will naturally line up under that basic umbrella. People don’t have to be just like you in order to be your friend, however, sharing a common spiritual foundation eliminates the excess baggage that ultimately trips us up. When you have a spiritual connection, it weeds out a lot of the uncommon practices, beliefs, and goals. You will have a prayer partner. Someone who can celebrate your successes. An accountability partner. A soundboard for ideas etc…

Ultimately, I am super grateful for the relationships and memories of my past. I cherish the great times throughout the growing phases of my journey. But God is working on me. He is taking me places. I have goals. I have people attached to my life and I am on a mission. I realize that everyone is not on my team, doesn’t celebrate me and is not going where I am going. My criteria has changed. And though I walk in love with EVERYONE, I am super selective of people I let into my circle. Even Jesus had only a small few that He deeply connected His life, mission and purpose with. Be selective with who is allowed to be your “friend.” They will be the ones to love you where you are, encourage you on the journey and celebrate you when you get there.

Are You a Magnet or a Repellant?

You are a magnet!!! You are magnetic!!! People everywhere you go should be drawn to you. Why? Not because you are so amazing (though you are indeed :-)), not because everything in your life is perfect, not because your makeup is on fleek or your breast are exposed… You should be completely compelling because you are made in the likeness and image of the creator of the universe and He lives on the inside of YOU!!!! And no matter what your circumstance is, what you are going through right now, you are RADIANT!!!!

What do you do when you see a squashed piece of rotted fruit on the ground? Walk into a public restroom that hasn’t been cleaned from the last 2,000 flushes? Hear a bratty child screaming at the top of their lungs in line at the grocery store? You get my drift… completely repelled huh? Yeah I get it.

On the contrary, what happens when you see the first of a big budded tree at the beginning of spring? Smell a fresh pot of coffee right when you open your eyes? Walk past the most fabulous dress in the window at a posh boutique? Or smell the ocean as you walk closer to a sunlit shore? There is some sort of seeming magnetic force that pulls you in. That makes you want to move closer. Sometimes makes you stand in awe. You are compelled. You want more. You are hopeful of all the possibilities that lie ahead.

Too many times we wear our issues on our face. We are miserable. We are overwhelmed by the concerns of our day and it prohibits our ability to radiate.  How can we win the world living like that? How can we witness about the greatness of almighty God who causes us to triumph and live in abundance if we are miserable? If people are repelled by us?

There should be a distinct difference in YOU. I should want to come to YOUR counter, YOUR salon. I should want to be a student in YOUR class. Look forward to walking past YOU at the gym; because no matter what is going on in your life, you know brighter days are ahead. You know you are healed. You know you ALWAYS win, and you are FILLED with faith and hope.

When Jesus walked the earth, people came from all around. They flocked to Him. Hung on His every word and waited for the opportunity just to be in his presence. I challenge you to pick your head up. Take off your grave clothes. SMILE!!! Let your light shine. Believe the best. Turn your hope on FULL BLAST and let it ooze out of you. When you teach your class, teach with everything you got! Say hi and smile big as people come near you. Greet each customer with LOVE!

Personally, it is my goal to make people feel like a million bucks when they come in my presence. It is merely a milli-fraction of how I feel when I am in God’s presence. If you find you lack the joy and peace that only He can bring, spend more time with Him. Start your day off in His Word. Praise Him in your circumstance. Consider how much He has blessed your life. Let His love fill you to capacity that it spills over onto all who come near you. When you live in perpetual overflow, people will desperately want to connect to you and ultimately the source of your strength, peace, goodness and joy.

MOMS… SLOW DOWN!!!! A Superwoman’s Surrender…

Moms: Are you slowly getting to that place where you:

  • Sleep less than 5 hours?
  • Eat fast/microwave meals more than you cook?
  • Spend more energy being AMAZING for your boss and his/her visions and dreams than you do your own husband’s?
  • Can’t seem to find the time to exercise, read a good book, take a peaceful walk, have an unrushed meal with an old friend, bake cookies from scratch, or have a day at home in your pajamas?
  • Stress through your child’s homework? Causing them additional stress because of the seemingly ludicrous requirements that don’t fit into your plan?
  • Sit through dance practices with half the attention?
  • Too tired to truly love on your husband?
  • Work tirelessly on your job each day only to enjoy those 2 free weeks of vacation out of the year?
  • Regularly drive past the speed limit in order to make all the items on your crowded agenda?
  • Are you perpetually late?
  • Skip breakfast; race, fuss and rush everyone to their destinations each stressful morning, finding yourself exhausted before you even get started?

 

WHY??????

SLOW DOWN!!!! SIMPLIFY!!!

Don’t allow the norms of our culture to force you to believe you have to wear alllllll these hats at the sacrifice/expense of the people/things in this life that truly matter. You are the keeper of your home. I know you have a TON on your shoulders, but often times, YOU/WE put it there. Often times, our lives don’t require the complexities we are investing. We set standards for our own selves that are completely unreasonable and we never stop to come up for air… which ultimately is a complete disservice to everyone involved. So let’s break this down.

First of all, you need to take care of YOU. We need to recognize that our spouses and our children need a peaceable woman in the home. We can’t be peaceful if we are not taking care of ourselves. I know, you’ve heard this all before. But I am reducing this down to the lowest common denominator. I am not talking about a spa day on your birthday, or a girl’s weekend twice a year. I am simply talking about a good night’s rest. A hot bath. A hot cup of coffee in the morning before everything gets started. A few minutes to read the bible and pray. A 30-minute walk in the evening. You owe yourself that. And before you take on all your responsibilities, you need to find time EACH DAY for YOU. THEEEENN, you can start working on EVERY THING ELSE.

Next, you must prioritize and or simplify. What has to be done? What can you live without? I remember when my kids were one/two years old, I ironed their clothes every day. Made sure their outfits matched their shoes, socks, bib and hair bows (for Kennedy). REALLLLLLLY????? WHO DOES THAT???? Or a better question…WHY?????? Unfortunately, often times, we are the complexity culprit. WE are the ones with ridiculous requirements that make EVERYTHING difficult. What can we eliminate from the schedule, the task list, the check off list? Perhaps dinners can be less complex. Perhaps you can cook wings in the crock pot with a simple salad for dinner. Tuna sandwiches and steamed broccoli etc. Perhaps the kids should only do one/two activities per year and become excellent at that one instead of running somewhere every night and weekend while burning out the entire family in the process.  Whatever the case, you can’t cram a size 10 foot in a size 8 shoe. Prioritize. Reduce your schedule down to what is necessary and beneficial and be careful not to complicate the family’s peace with many of your idiosyncratic methods.

The last step is to organize/structure your life. Your time needs a budget. Your day requires structure. I have my family on a regimented time schedule. The vision has been made plain, (you can even create it together) and everyone works together to execute the plan.

Mornings: Accurately evaluate how much time you need to COMFORTABLY get ready each morning? Comfortably means, everyone has breakfast, no one is racing, the expectations are reasonable, easy to follow and reduced down to what NEEDS to be done. There is a clear wake-up time. Enough time is allotted for a CALM breakfast. Everyone knows their specific responsibilities and there is an established leave time. Kids especially need a peaceful morning. They, like you, are preparing for a very rigorous and demanding agenda. They can’t successfully fulfil their day’s tasks starting their morning off with a deficit of balance.

Evenings: Once you and they finish school and work, evening time should be peaceful. Whatever you need to do to decompress…do it. After teaching each day, I would treat myself to a Starbucks coffee and Joel Osteen on the radio as a way to calm down and prepare for part 2 of my busy day. We have to be excited and even more attentive to our children and husband’s needs than anyone else in our day/life. We say our family is our number one priority. Be sure they FEEL that. Purposefully and intentionally greet each of them with peace and love. Share the evening experiences as a family if possible. At my house, we all help out with dinner. I often cook, my daughter helps get all the ingredients and my husband and son help with the cleanup. Everyone is involved and we are sharing time together. Make dinner a set and purposeful time. Sit down together and share your day’s highlights; no phones, no TV, no distractions.

Recreation time: There should be time slotted for homework, showers and chores, but there should also be time for recreation; to watch a movie/show together, take a walk, play Uno (our favorite J) etc… This time is SACRED. Everyone feels important. Loved. Relaxed and included.

Bed time: Finally, the kids need a set time for bed (ours’ is 9pm) EVERY NIGHT. After that,  it is a great time for you and your husband to spend time together; our time is 9-11.  We are intentional about this. We watch our favorite shows, talk, make homemade popcorn etc… It is the vacation for each day and it helps keep our marriage happy.

Finally after everyone is fulfilled and is fast asleep, you may need a few additional minutes to prepare for the next day, reflect, read, decompress or the like. However, you HAVE to put a cap on that time as well. YOU NEED REST. You HAVE to finally take the cape off and retire for the day. Your body and mind need to rejuvenate. You will find that you perform SO much better, you are less grouchy, you look and feel AMAZING with at least 7 hours of sleep. Though we think it is strong and noble to carry such heavy loads, meet our capacity, stay up to finish just ONE MORE THING, it is actually slightly selfish to complete our responsibilities on a half tank of gas… GO TO BED!!!!! 🙂

I pray you consider surrendering some of these undo pressures you carry and put the microscope on the beautiful elements in your life that matter most. At the end of the day, THEY are your greatest source of fulfilment and happiness and deserve your best YOU!!!!