I had always dreamed of becoming a freelance writer and/or editor. I majored in English, took a job as a newspaper writer right out of college, and, after quitting that job to become a stay-at-home mom, I developed a home-based word processing service. But one day, I saw a help-wanted listing that made my heart race. "Wanted: Writer's assistant. Published author seeks part-time assistance in manuscript preparation. Some research." I had popped my resume in the mail before Lindsey had emptied her second bottle of the day.
God's grace worked in a way that allowed my qualifications to add up to make me just the kind of person this writer was seeking. I would, I learned during our first interview, be reading research material onto tapes (because of the writer's failing vision), handling occasional correspondence, and editing and proofreading manuscripts after having entered those manuscripts into the ... computer.
Oh, No! Not a Computer!
I broke out into a cold sweat after I learned about this requirement. I had somehow managed to graduate from high school and college without ever having to take a computer course. I had never operated a real computer—with control and alt keys and everything.
But I knew I wasn't about to say, "Sorry, can't do." Not when it was so clear to me that this opportunity was part of God's perfectly orchestrated plan for me and my family. So instead, I became the right person for the job by swallowing my fear of disk drives and mice long enough to take a computer course to learn the skills I needed. Within just a few weeks, I was navigating my way through directories and files with ease.
What I'm getting at is this: As a mom, you have landed this great job with loads of responsibility, great pay (in intangible and eternal terms, anyway), and fantastic fringe benefits (you can't beat the dress code and the flexible hours!). But since you may not have expected to end up making your kids and your home your career, your list of outstanding skills may sketch a picture more corporate than domestic. You might have to work at getting the hang of the skills in the areas in which you fall short.
How can you go about mastering practical domestic and parenting skills? First, tap into the wide variety of resources that are available. Second, seek the advice of members of your family, friends, and community.
It would be an understatement to say that a wealth of information exists on virtually any subject about which you might need information. Why not tap into some of it? If you're not confident that you're giving your family a nutritious diet, go to the library or bookstore for help. If reading's not your cup of tea, try videotapes. As you glance through monthly house and home magazines, keep an eye out for useful articles. One mom about whom you'll read more later really did her homework while she was awaiting the arrival of her first baby.
"I did a ton of reading," says Leslie, mother of two. "I bought everything I could get on child care and early childhood development. I wanted to be the only mother in the neighborhood, in the region, in the world, who had done her homework on her baby and who was ready.
"I even got all of the magazines and set up files for topics like bed-wetting, sleep patterns, and so on. I've got all these files of articles from four years' worth of magazines. That's how serious I felt and how driven I felt about making sure I did it right."
TV offers a bonanza of homemaking tips and advice as well. Turn an ironing session into a homemaking, craft, or cooking lesson. Check out the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, and PBS, just to name a few.
And finally, we come to the Internet. You might consider cyberspace the domain of teenage boys and computer buffs, but some estimates indicate that 40 percent of Internet and online users are women. Why is the unlikely marriage of high-tech and high-chair so popular? In addition to giving at-home moms much-needed contact with other moms all across the globe, the online world offers fast and easy access to all kinds of information—from homeschooling and medical reports to movie reviews and kids' crafts.
For example, a mom with a child diagnosed with a disorder could get online information about the disease, treatments, organizations, support groups, alternative health care, etc.
Online moms across the board consider cyberspace just about the next best thing to disposable diapers. But there's one hitch: They find it easy to spend too much time surfing, browsing, and chatting and not enough time mothering. For example, Leslie says, "I've had to give up online chat rooms, bulletin boards, and forums because I found myself spending way too much time soapboxing about staying home and not enough time with my kids." So when you log on to network with other moms cyber-style, be sure to set the kitchen timer!
Often, moms don't take the time to seek good, old-fashioned advice—and the way that it's transmitted is via networking. Yep, that yuppie verb is just as alive and well among moms in churches, homes, playgrounds, and pediatricians' offices as it is among colleagues in break rooms, offices, and business lunch spots. Instead of trading handshakes, business cards, customer lists, and promises to "do lunch," we exchange birthday party invitations, diaper coupons, pediatrician referrals, and promises to "do Happy Meals."
One of the first levels in the "network" for many stay-at-home moms is, quite naturally, our own mothers. But for some of us, our mothers are some of the most unused resources that we have. Sometimes we don't think to ask them for advice because we assume that if they knew anything about the subject we're lacking expertise in, they would have told us by now. Or we think that if they knew anything about it, we would have absorbed that information simply because we were raised in their homes. And some of us, because of our efforts to be independent right after we left the nest never developed the habit of asking our moms for advice because we wanted to handle things on our own. Nothing is wrong with being independent, but there's nothing nicer than picking up the phone, dialing Mom's number, and instantly finding out how to remove an ink stain or how to cook up that good stew I ate once a month for years but never bothered to find out how to make.
The most recent time I asked my mom for advice, I had spent almost a whole day de-cluttering one of the most cluttered spots in the house: the phone desk, where bills to be paid, bills to be mailed, bills that have already been paid, junk mail, personal letters, deposit slips, receipts, coupons, and check stubs accumulate into an eight- or 10-inch stack on top of the desktop planner that I would use to map out each week's activities— if I could wade through the avalanche of paper to find it.
As I sorted through the mess, grumpy at myself for not having developed a better system of information storage and processing, it dawned on me that I had never seen such messes on my parents' desk when I had been living at home. And further, I knew that if my husband needed to find out how much he had paid for the last mechanical work on his truck, I would probably have to spend all day searching through a jumble of paper for the receipt or looking for the canceled check. However, if I happened to ask Mom how much it had cost her and Dad to have their lawn treated last summer, she would be able to go directly to the receipt for the services and give me an answer almost immediately. So I called Mom to get the low-down on her paper sorting and filing system. In less than 10 minutes, she had outlined her method that was simple to set up and maintain. Easy as that.
Beyond our moms, an effective network branches out to extended family and then to our friends and the mothers of the kids who go to school, Sunday school, or Mother's Day Out with our kids. From there, it reaches into the realm of the professionals we see on a regular basis in our house/kids/husband/church/neighborhood/school world. Wondering whether there are any other stay-at-home moms in your area? Ask your pediatrician. She might just be able to give you a name or two. After all, this professional talks to hundreds of women in your shoes each week. Need some ideas for some good quality books to read to your kids? Ask the local children's librarian. He has a degree that says he's an expert on that very subject. Interested in starting a vegetable garden? Try the local greenhouse or county extension agent. Teachers, business people, repair people, florists, dentists, doctors, sales people—God has surrounded us with these people from whom we can find out anything from where to sign our 4-year-old up for tee-ball to how to find the best baby-sitters to ideas on how to help our firstborn adjust to the new baby in the house.
One word of caution, however, on the subject of advice-gathering: Make sure that the people from whom you seek advice are grounded in a set of principles that do not conflict with your own. Not just anyone is qualified to give good advice. Pray for discernment in knowing whom to ask and whether the advice is worth following.
The longer I type, the more quickly, and the more accurately, I type. The same principle applies to stay-at-home parenting. The longer you're a stay-at-home mom, the better stay-at-home mom you'll be. Looking back, I can see that I'm now able to do twice the amount of work in a day that I was able to manage during my first months and even first couple of years at home. That's even with the addition of a rambunctious baby girl! I didn't stumble onto a "speed homemaking" or "speed parenting" course. (Wish there was one!) I have simply and naturally developed a more streamlined sense of priorities, the confidence of experience, and a certain amount of momentum after these seven-plus years at home.
But practice isn't the only thing that will help you to perfect your parenting and homemaking skills. As we can see in Philippians 1:6, God will perfect you: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (NASB). What a promise to lean on when you feel like you don't know what you're doing!
This material is adapted from the book, Celebrate Home! Encouragement and Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents You can purchase Celebrate Home through our online bookstore. Angie lives with her husband and three children in Benton, Ark.
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