It’s about time. I feel as though I’ve been in limbo for the past 10 months before Aurora was born. 10 months before her birthday, in October of 2017, my husband and I had a normal routine in our lovely apartment and life was predictable.
Then we decided to move, and at the same time we got pregnant (after 6 months of trying to conceive!) and from there life just fell apart in the predictability realm.
We moved when I was in the middle of my first trimester and feeling horrible. We moved into a house with tons and tons of problems, with a new one presenting every few days and throwing us into a whole new chaos each time. I was very sick (not just pregnancy related- I got the flu 5 times last winter!!! One stomach flu, and 4 different bouts of fever flu! ugh!) and absolutely miserable and it took 8 months to fully finish unpacking. Almost no unpacking happened that first couple months as I finished out my 1st trimester and until mid-February after I finally recovered from my last bout of flu. Meanwhile we’d been hit in a bad car accident, and was recovering physically (and emotionally) from that, and without a vehicle for weeks, dealing with insurance and rental companies and finally purchasing a new vehicle in late March. Then, as life settled down from that sickness/unpacking/new house/accident chaos into just the regular chaos of new problems each week with this new house, and the continued side effects of pregnancy, I still didn’t feel like life had settled down.
I couldn’t find a normal. Not yet. Because I knew life was going to change drastically in just a few months, and so it’s been almost a year since I truly felt a normalcy of life. Since I could sit down and plan, and feel able to expect what a week would bring.
So here’s how I’m developing my new normal. First of all, I’m identifying who I am. That’s been a tricky one for me during all this last 11 months! But I can understand it better now. I’m Grace. I’m loved by Jesus, and learning every day how to love Him back better. I’m my husband’s wife; his best friend, his supporter, his cheerleader, the provider of his home life. I’m Aurora’s Mommy, which means there are some days when housework can go to the dogs because I just need to hold her and love her because she’s having a hard day. I’m a home maker. I’m responsible for not just loving my husband and child, but also for creating a home for them: their place of safety and good. Which means everything from laundry, meal prep, a swept floor and made bed, to finances and a happy and peaceful atmosphere is up to me. It’s a huge responsibility, a huge task, but one I am finding I am truly meant for. I love this job. It’s the hardest and the best job in the world. Beyond my job description, I’m an artist: I love beauty, truth, excellence, magic, fairy tales, allegory. I love to see the best in every thing. To put it simply in Jon Foreman’s words (in case you haven’t noticed pretty much every life defining quote of mine comes from Switchfoot/Jon Foreman), Life is short, I want to live it well! and This is your life. Are you who you want to be? Well, it’s my job to make sure I’m living the life I want to live, and I’m living the life I believe in. So I go to the extra work of surrounding myself with beauty and goodness, with truth and all those ideas that define who I am and what my heart is made of. Literally, surrounded. You should see my kitchen. There are colored card stock cuttings of various sizes all over my cupboards with my favorite quotes from scripture, Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, Switchfoot, Augustine, Tripp, and so on. Because this is my life, and I want to make sure I’m living it well. So I surround myself with the beauty and truth that I believe in, so that every day I’m reminded of who God is, and who I want to be. Beyond all that, I’m a type A personality. I love to plan, I love to organize, I love to have everything laid out in writing, and I love to predict what will happen in any given day. I love routine. This is me.
The first couple weeks of Rory’s life I didn’t try to do anything but recover and begin to learn my daughter. But then the church family meals stopped coming and I found it was up to me to start providing for and accomplishing the daily tasks in life. So I sat down one day and realized it was time. Time for me to discover my new normal. Because I finally can learn what normal means. I’m no longer waiting out my pregnancy to find out what mothering will be like. I’m no longer waiting out the insurance company to have transportation again, or the sickness so I can get back to work, or the house issues (hopefully) because they’ve been pretty much all solved now, or the unpacking because I’m officially box-less! I’m not waiting anymore. My daughter is here, we’ve developed our own routine, and now it’s time for me to learn my new normal as a wife, mother, and housekeeper.
I have a beautiful planner that I found at Hobby Lobby shortly before Rory was born. It has a page for notes for each month, a monthly at-a-glance page, and then for each day of the week they have a notes, goals, and gratitude section. So each day I’m able to record main notes of the day, the goals of what I want to accomplish that day, and the things I’m thinking on in thankfulness that day.
One thing that helps me accomplish my goals (honest moment here: my biggest struggle with sin in life is laziness. That is my downfall, and one I constantly am having to ask my husband’s forgiveness for!) is to not set myself up for failure by trying to accomplish everything, all the time. Instead of trying to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, and the perfect housekeeper every day, I pick just a few things I want to get done, and once those are done I have no more pressure to do anything that day but rest and love my family. Here’s an example of my general home-making goals (as opposed to the more specific detailed ones that change depending on what’s going in life at the time):
Daily: make bed, end the day with a clean kitchen.
Every 2 days: tidy common area, bedroom, and bathroom.
Weekly: laundry, budget for the week, meal plan, grocery shop, meal prep.
Those are the goals that never change. But then I give myself certain (limited for success’ sake) goals. For instance, today my goals were to send my baby shower thank-you notes, prep tomorrow’s breakfast, and write my daughter’s 1st month journal. Those go along with the unchanging daily goals of making my bed and ending with a clean kitchen. Yesterday, my goals were to take a walk, spend time reading, prep dinner, order a book for my husband’s grandmother, and rest. And yes, I always put “Rest” on my goals. Because self-care is important.
So in discovering my new normal, goals play a huge part. But also not abusing goals by creating goals too big to realistically accomplish.
So here’s how I create a routine: on Sunday evenings I take 15 minutes or so to open my planner for the next week and write down some basic goals that I want to accomplish that week, (like organize closet, or purchase a filing cabinet, or something like that that needs to get done anytime that week) and then write down in each day’s slot the basic goals that I want to accomplish those specific days. I look over my schedule and get my head straight regarding what is going on that week, so that I feel prepared.
Then on Monday morning I take my planner, my household notebook, and my nutritarian recipe book and I go to Starbucks for some undistracted “alone” (how alone can you really get with a baby??) and plan the week’s meals, create a grocery list, budget for the week, and then shop accordingly. Right now that’s a bit of a task since I have a 5 week old who I affectionately call my “ticking time-bomb”, but we just go with the flow. If I need to stop and nurse her in the Aldi parking lot, then we stop and have a few minutes of bonding time in the middle of our busy errands. If she wakes up in the middle of the grocery run and starts screaming, I put her in the boba wrap and do my best to calm her down so that I can keep shopping. Life with an infant is certainly an adventure, I’ll say that much.
Once I’m home with the ingredients necessary for each planned meal, and have put my groceries away, I prep dinner and then put my feet up and call it a job well done. Again. Doing my best not to over work myself.
Planning and writing things out is my best way to accomplish a good and healthy daily life. It’s up to me to prepare meals that are healthy and life giving to my husband and child and to myself. It’s up to me to do the laundry so that my husband doesn’t awkwardly run out of underwear when he needs to leave for work in 10 minutes. It’s up to me to make my home a home, and a place of safety and good for my family. It’s up to me to do all this while also keeping my heart and my mind spiritually and emotionally healthy, and my body physically healthy. Which would all be just entirely too much for me to tackle if I didn’t proactively prepare my body and mind for these daily and weekly tasks ahead of time with checklists and a surrounding atmosphere of positivity.
I’ve come to the very real awareness that if I don’t stay on top of things and keep that kitchen clean, or the laundry under control, or the meals prepped, then it’s just not going to happen until it’s piled up for 3 days and my husband has to do it or has to help me do it, because now that I have a small baby I don’t have the luxury of hours of alone time to tackle big jobs all at once. Instead, I have 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, and so on to get small tasks done.
So here’s my new normal:
Loving my husband by taking responsibility with the income he provides, by providing him with meals that fuel him with health to tackle each day, by keeping a beautiful and tidy home so that when he comes home exhausted from work he’s not hit with even more stress and chaos, by praying for him often, and by speaking love and grace to him every day.
Loving my daughter by investing my heart and mind in time with her, even at this tiny age. To get to know her and study her face, to learn her cries and hold her close and show her she’s not alone. To feed her and rock her and sometimes let her cry for a while because I’ve GOT to use the bathroom finally, or I’ve got to just finish this last few dishes in the sink before I sit down with her again for a while. To read her her Psalm and sing her her hymn, and to shape her little heart and mind with love and confidence and safety.
Loving myself by investing time and thought into reading the word of God and the words of other wise people (my current reading list is Comforts from Romans by Elise Fitzpatrick [spiritual life], Letters to my Daughters by Barbara Rainey [marriage], Home Management Plain and Simple by Kim Brenneman [home-making], Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien [joy-reading]. I just finished reading for the 2nd time Fasting and Eating for Health, and Eat for Health, both by Dr. Joel Fuhrman). By listening to music that grounds me and reminds me of the meaning of life and the joy of life, ranging from great rock music, to Christian music with biblical lyrics, to musicals I love like Les Mis, to orchestral classics by the masters I love. By taking walks at least every other day to get back into exercise post partum, and simultaneously enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. By creating space and time for me to do absolutely nothing but put my feet up, drink a cup of tea, and watch TV. By praying for my own spiritual growth and emotional health. By creating a routine that is attainable and beautiful and that provides a happy environment for me to live in.
Loving God by loving my family, communing with Him, learning Him better, incorporating Him into the small details of my life, and in general focusing on all those things that Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to focus on.
Last of all, I’m loving myself, my family, my God, and all others by giving myself grace. Grace to succeed, and grace to fail. Grace to have days where motherhood feels magical, and grace to have days where I cannot wait for my husband to get home so that I can not look at my screaming child for one. more. minute. Grace to have days where I get all my goals crossed off, the meal made ahead of time, the walk accomplished, the bed made, and all before noon, and grace to have days where I never quite made it out of bed that day because I’m exhausted and feeling like crap. Because after all, that’s what this life in Christ is made of: grace upon grace upon grace. Grace that urges us to a higher calling and better living. Grace that spurs us on to not squander or waste our lives. Grace that humbles us to love, and to love deeply.
Here’s to my new normal. I’m sure it will kick me in the butt sometimes, but I’ll kick it right back.