Growing up I heard all the lectures about how girls my age in Pakistan could manage a whole household and do all of the chores. I spent all my time trying to sneak off so I could read my book rather than be instructed on how to cook. As an adult I viewed chores as something to get out of the way so that I could have fun, or do something I actually wanted to do. Over time I found routines for myself and my family to get things done and out of the way. By the time I had five children, I was so overwhelmed that I could no longer get everything done and even when I did move fast enough to get some housework done, there were little people following me around undoing it all and making a mess all over again. It could all feel so pointless.
It took me about a year as the mum of five to start re-establishing some routines which allowed me to balance home, work and self-care. I had to drop my standards regarding my home and learn to live with a minimum level of mess, accept I could not do everything I need to with the kids and accept I might look a bit more frumpy than I used to, wearing whatever loose clothing I could find and with Baby forever wiping snot or food on me.
Now that my youngest is a year and five months, I have done a few things. I started clearing and de-cluttering the house one small space at a time so that there is less for me to manage. I got back on top of the kids routines: getting the older ones to pray, organising some tuition for Little Man in preparation for his primary school SAT’s and getting both the boys to do some writing and maths practice every evening (Gorgeous is proud to note that every teacher he has had from Reception to Year 4 has complained about his handwriting). I have bought myself some new dresses and scarves and a pair of shoes that is not completely flat, I even refuse to allow Baby to slime me. I feel soooo much better at the moment, if still a bit too tired at the end of each day.
But this time round something in me changed. I didn’t just want to tick all of the boxes and get everything done. I don’t want to speed through my days doing things and feeling like I am in some kind of break-neck sprint to get to the end of the day and get my to-do list done. After a while the pleasure of getting your to-do list completed is surpassed by the discomfort of feeling rushed all of the time and is if you are doing just enough to get things over and done with rather than doing things carefully and properly.
While I was looking around and doing research for my blog I came across women who treat the domestic sphere of home and children not as chores but as their life’s purpose. As much as I have always been very clear with myself that my children and husband are my number one priority in life, there is a subtle shift in approach. This is from the home-maker being a harried martyr taking care of everyone to someone who falls into the rhythm of the home and family, savouring the tasks and activities and treating them like an art rather than a nuisance.
Just a shift in perspective, but it blew me away. Home-making as an art. Organising your home, managing your larder, cooking, making your home look clean and beautiful, turning it into a sanctuary for your family – all of these are things that matter to me sand which I want to do well. But doing it in a way that is mindful, conscientious and slow. Doing one thing at a time and doing it in the best way you can, without cutting corners or rushing. Doing it so that you find pleasure in it and so that it is not something to get done so that you can enjoy the remnants of your day, but an enjoyable and fulfilling part of your day.
I suppose this brings me back to something I wrote at the end of last year on finding balance (Finding Balance Again) through taking care of different parts of your life: family, career , self, home, without neglecting or focussing on one too much. We tend to give importance to family and work, but our home-making is sometimes seen as a less valuable use of our limited time and often not a space for us to find satisfaction and pleasure.
I am currently grappling with how quickly the weeks and month feel as if they are flying by. I hate the idea of trying to get through the week so that I can enjoy the weekend. It feels a bit like wishing away your days. I want my weekdays to be as good as my weekends. I want each day to be good and productive, to feel like a weekend. For me home-making takes up a good chunk of my time. I don’t want a significant portion of each day to be something to be over and done with while I wait for the fun to roll on at the end of the week.
This thinking is leading me to slow down and think more about how I spend my days and evenings. How do I build fun into my working day, how do I steer my working day towards a place where I can look forward to Monday as much as Friday? How do I make my evening’s as enjoyable and restful as the weekend? A big part of this for me is learning to love home-making. Treating it as the art it is. I am doing less in the evenings, but what I do, I try to do properly.
I am taking the time to make meals I know we will all love. I am trying to avoid take-away, use healthy ingredients and enjoy the process of cooking and serving meals. I am trying to learn all that I can about food and healthy eating.
I am taking one small, manageable part of the home each day, a single drawer or shelf, one kitchen cupboard and making it as clean, tidy, attractive and well organised as I can. In the short term this means that less gets done, in the long term each area is easier to maintain for longer and is pleasant to use.
I am trying to establish strong routines so that I can keep on top of laundry, dirty bathrooms and rooms that Baby likes to leave trails of everyone’s things through like Hansel and Gretel (we could never lose her, just follow where it looks like a tornado hit).
And the good thing is I am enjoying it. I like feeling unrushed, I am starting to be okay with leaving things unfinished for the day. I am asking the question at the end of each day, how can this day be wonderful? What can I do to make it as good as the weekend? Sometimes I grab the kids and go visit my mum, sometimes I decided to take an hour out and watch something on my laptop with my daughter, sometimes I’ll give myself the luxury of an hour to sit and read.
Sometimes life feels so short, that’s why rather than keep going as fast as I can to some undetermined destination or achievement that will mean I am finally “there” or happy, I want to enjoy the journey insh’Allah and that means all of the different parts of it.
Asma (radi Allahu anha) reported that she approached the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) on behalf of women and mentioned that men excelled women due to their participation in Friday and congregational prayers, visiting the sick, attending funeral prayers, performing the Hajj and Umra, and due to their participation in Jihad. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) replied: "Go and inform the women that their beautification for their husbands, discharging their rights, seeking their pleasure and obeying them is equal in reward (to the above mentioned acts) of men." [Kanz-ul-Amaal]
If you're a full-time homemaker by choice or circumstance, never let anyone tell you that working in your home, cooking for your family, sewing and knitting, cleaning your nest and organising the lives of your family is not important work. Sure it can be tiring at times, all jobs are, but from where I stand, in my grandmothering years, I know that I have done my best work here at home. I'm just an ordinary woman and I don't know much, but this I know, with certainty, when you actively take control of your life and your home, when you plan and make decisions and don't leave things to chance, you will be paid back in ways you never expected. Take control, plan your work spaces, organise your family and your work and then sit back to enjoy the fruits of all that with the people you love. But don't expect it to be perfect, learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes. It's that simple. - From here by Rhonda Jean Hetzel at one of my favourite blogs Down to Earth