“I don't get it. How do you moms do it? I am still in my pajamas, unshowered- having accomplished absolutely nothing at all today except getting dinner in the oven (later than I intended)- and I was pretty proud of myself! We didn't leave the house, we didn't do projects- we just hung out. It wasn't "one of those days" either. This is how it is most of the time. I don't get it. How do you stay motivated? How do you get things done? It's not like I don't have time- I've got plenty. I just can't seem to find motivation to do anything other than keeping my child alive and relatively happy- not even putting too much thought or effort into furthering her development!! (ahhh!!!) I don't even know where to start!!”
One of our writers here at Holy Hen House, Jes (name shared with her permission), sent this plea for help to the rest of us a few weeks ago. Wow, did her problem sound familiar! After reassuring her that she was so not alone in her struggle to find motivation at home and sharing “I’ve so been there” stories, we all began discussing strategies that we take to stay motivated at home. Some of them were mental strategies, others practical. We all felt encouraged by others’ ideas (Jes said she was “weirdly inspired” after the conversation to “make bread, invent a soup, bake cookies, make a whole chicken, create some homemade valentines cards for my sisters, and keep on top of the dishes for the crazy amount (for me) of food I made!”). I figured our readers might benefit from the advice we collaborated as well, if only from the knowledge that none of us is alone in this struggle.
This week I’ll share some “mental strategies” for staying motivated. Come back next week and we’ll talk practical strategies.
Five Mental Strategies For Finding Motivation at Home:
1. Start with Prayer.
Often we hear advice that starts with “look deep inside yourself” but as Christians, we should always look first to Jesus. How often do we forget this all important step? Jesus may have been talking about people getting to heaven when he said in Matthew 19:26 “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” But I think his words can apply to any task we try to achieve. With man, finding motivation to get things done can seem impossible. But with God all things are possible. So be sure to bring your desired achievements for your day before the Lord first.
2. Get UP and get OUT.
This is one tip it seemed everyone here at Holy Hen House had to offer. Schedule one thing every day (preferably outside of the house) that forces you to interact with other people outside of your family. If you can’t physically get out of the house, find every excuse to “get ready” as though you have some place to be.
Getting up and getting out will achieve two things for you mentally. First, it will give you an excuse to get your body up and groomed, which can lend an energy boost to both your body and your mind. Chances are, you don’t always feel like crawling out of bed in the morning. Left to your own devices, you could very well find yourself still wearing pajamas at 3 p.m (not that I’ve ever done that. Heh. heh. heh. *shifty eyes*). A morning play date or afternoon grocery shopping trip prevents this from happening. The process of getting up, taking a shower, putting on real clothes, combing your hair, eating breakfast, and possibly even applying a little makeup (if that’s your thing), can be amazingly transformative, physically and mentally.
Second, a change of scenery can offer some much needed perspective. How easy it is to wallow in self pity and apathy when the children have destroyed the house, you haven’t changed your shirt in four days, nor seen the sunlight in five! Who knows what you will see or do out in the world that will get you out of your funk. A scene between strangers at a cafe, a conversation with a friend, even just some much needed fresh air all have the power to diffuse a bad attitude and inspire positive action. I often find that when I return from a busy morning achieving productive errands outside of the house, I carry the momentum of that productivity into the afternoon and am able to get far more done at home as well. Schedule a play date, go grocery shopping, take the kids to the park, bring cookies to a neighbor, go for a walk around the block, work a part time job, volunteer somewhere, or get dressed for a Skype date with a friend. Get up and get out, and motivation almost takes care of itself! ;)
3. Don't make it all or nothing.
“I need to do this job completely, or I shouldn’t bother doing it at all.” Some form of this pesky sentence seems to enter my brain on a daily, possibly even hourly basis. Why start on that mountain of laundry when I can’t possibly get it all done before bedtime? There’s no way I will finish sweeping the entire floor with the children underfoot so I shouldn’t even bother sweeping up these crumbs that just spilled. I shouldn’t bother doing these dishes now because we’re just about to eat and create more dishes. Some tasks within the home are so monumental that they will take several days, hours, or even weeks to achieve. Why bother starting those at all? It can feel defeating to start a task that can’t be immediately and fully completed.
When we surrender the notion of “doing it all” and settle for simply “doing what we can,” we let go of the paralysis keeping us from getting things done. When we clean up spilled crumbs immediately instead of waiting for a time when we can clean the entire floor, we create one gleaming spot on our floor that didn’t previously exist. Those gleaming spots can gradually add up to a pretty clean floor. “Just one” load of completed laundry is never inconsequential. Especially when that load means clean underwear for the week. It’s always better to do something than to do nothing at all, to achieve by increment what we are unable to tackle as a whole.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite jokes:
Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time!
4. Let go of the idea of "someday perfect."
On a related note, sometimes I find myself putting tasks off indefinitely, waiting until that perfect day when “the stars align” and everything comes together to do them. When I have a week to myself with no kids, then I’ll work on organizing their baby photos and putting together some albums and memory boxes for them. Someday, when the kids are older, then I will focus on creating fun things for us to do together. When we move into our next, nicer house, then I will bother decorating and putting up some curtains. Some day when my house is perfectly clean (ha!) then I will start inviting people over for play dates.
Typically, when I hold out for perfection, I find that perfection never arrives. Meanwhile, I miss out on some great experiences or learning opportunities. Give up the notion of ever having that magical devoted achievement time and see what you can achieve here and there in 15 minute bursts or while planning as you go. Don’t wait for that beautiful sunny day to go to the park with your kids; go outside and play in the rain! Your kids photo album might be of the online photo book order variety instead of the hand-stitched scrapbook variety, but it will be on the coffee table for grandparents to see. Your home may not be your dream home, but at least it will have pretty curtains! When you give up the idea of waiting for perfection and start achieving anyway, you may not get the same results you would get in a perfect, isolated world, but you will still create fantastic memories and learning opportunities for your family.
5. Restrict social media and other distractions
It’s way more fun to write a clever status update about not doing my dishes than it is to do my dishes. And while I’m here updating my status, I might as well check out this photo album my friend posted of her son’s first birthday party. And what is this? A link to videos of cats doing adorable things? Clearly must be explored immediately. Four hours later I’m lost deep in my blog reader while the dishes (and the rest of my house) sit untouched. I think the children are still alive. At least I recall pushing a chubby hand away from my computer screen about an hour ago. Maybe I should shower. But ooooh, I haven’t checked instagram yet today!
Has this ever happened to you? Eliminate the distractions of social media (or whatever you find particularly distracting in your life) and you will get a lot more done. Consider not firing up your computer until after you’ve completed a to-do list or limit smart phone usage to nap time. If you don’t have the willpower to do this on your own, have your husband or a trusted friend change your passwords or block certain websites from you browser to hold you accountable until you’ve gotten your work done. This feels like an obvious piece of advice, yet I can’t count the number of times I sit around wondering why I can’t get things done yet find the time to discuss a hot topic on an internet forum or to call a friend and chat for twenty minutes. When I take “breaks” from my distractions by going offline for a period of time, I’m always amazed at how much extra time materializes.
6. Remember why you bother.
“Cleaning the house while the children are still growing is like shoveling the walk while it is still snowing.”
You have probably heard this or a similar saying. Home tasks can feel futile when they are so continually undone by those who live in the home. Why do something at all if it is simply going to be undone?
Remember who we are serving by caring for our homes. Are we serving the home or are we serving the people living in it? If our end goal in cleaning and caring for our homes is to serve the house itself by creating an immaculate home, then we may have to evacuate the people living in it, because people create chaos and imperfection. Our end goal here isn’t a museum of undisturbed cleanliness and order, but rather a living, breathing place where people like to live. We care for our homes so that the people we love have a pleasant and safe place in which to make a mess. With that end goal in mind, we can direct our efforts not toward creating the perfect house, but rather toward loving the people inside of it through everything that we do.
Even more importantly, we serve our God. Even if our children, husband, or pets are unappreciative of our efforts to create a nice home for them, doing tasks within the home willingly and to the best of our ability glorifies the God who gave us those abilities. If you find motivation in none of the points above, I pray you are able to find motivation in the desire to do everything to God’s glory!
Do you find it difficult to find motivation to get things done at home? What is the biggest struggle for you mentally?