It occurred to me the other day as I escorted my eldest child to her first year of high school that I have been a stay at home mom for 12 years now. Wow that is a long time and I still have a four year old in the house! I suddenly realized that to a young mom just about to have her first child I would seem to have a wealth of experience and knowledge. It's funny to think that, because, like most moms I at times feel that I am learning and never mastering my profession. Maybe that's because raising children is an inherently fluid situation. Just when you think you've got baby care handled they go and grow into toddlers, and then just when the whole toddler thing becomes easier they are suddenly gradeschoolers... And on and on probably through adulthood. Children go through such drastic changes of personality, care needs, and emotional maturity that I doubt any parent ever really feels like they have got the whole parenting thing down.
Stay at home moms, or Hearth-keepers as I like to call them, have one of the most challenging and at times mentally exhausting jobs in the world. Especially when you have a large family. For me keeping motivated and encouraged through the long haul has been a challenge. At the worst of times when I had two babies in diapers and they were less than 18 months apart in age I felt good if the house was nominally clean, the children well cared for, and I got to brush my hair.
I think one of the hardest things of being a hearth-keeper is motivation. Few people realize how much work it takes to keep a house clean and well running when there are people in it 24 hours a day. As apposed to if both husband and wife work and children are shuffled off to school and daycare. Instead of just coming home at night to a house that has sat empty all day you have you have tons of messes and cleanup that is ongoing.
It is hard to stay motivated because you have no boss standing over you praising you or giving you a talking to when you neglect your work. If your husband is like mine he is not very observant about how clean and organized the house is and pretty much only notices if dinner isn't at least cooking when he comes home from work hungry and tired. So although my husband certainly likes to have a clean house he wouldn't really notice a change unless I stopped doing everything. I have often thought to myself "Why do I even bother with this since nobody cares?"
This is a very discouraging thought but one I'm sure many hearth-keepers have. Hearhkeepers are the ultimate self starters in our culture and you need to know that what you do is important.
So how do I stay encouraged and motivated? One way I have found that is very helpful is keeping a journal like farm wives used to keep.
Back in the day a farm woman would keep a journal of pretty much everything she did. I have read journals where the woman listed how many eggs the chickens laid, how much milk the cow gave, what the garden was doing, how much she canned and baked, and right along side these homely notes were comments on their children, family, and husband, funny stories, tips on homemaking.
These records were invaluable to the farm wife for allowing her to look back and see what was working and what wasn't, trace back to conditions that might be impacting animal production of food, and also as a record of the foods she produced. It also undoubtedly was a great encouragement for any woman to see page after page of things she has accomplished and done and also a good memory jolter. When you have small children you are often exhausted much of the time and writing down things that have happened helps you remember them years later.
I started keeping a journal about 10 years ago when we were in Wyoming and I first started really homesteading and learning new skills. I noted things like eggs laid each day, what I canned, what I baked and what recipe I used, what the kids did and funny things they said, bible versus that struck me in my devotionals, weather conditions, things happening in the garden and varieties of veggies that produced well or poorly etc.
I always feel much better after writing down what I do daily and the things I accomplished. It is self motivational I suppose and also now looking back at past journals very encouraging and uplifting.
Tips for keeping a daily record
Tie it in with a bible study: Even if you can only read a few verses a day you need time with God and you can note what spoke to you and is helping you in your day. When I have been super busy with a new baby I would read from proverbs on the day of the month that corralated with the chapter in that book (did you know there are 31 chapters in Proverbs!) and it was perfect.
Wright in things your children said or did, especially the good stuff!
Keep a record of things you accomplished or are going on in your family, even if its only that you folded 4 loads of laundry