Q: “What three things should a mom focus on while she has a busy family home, so that her decisions are intentional and not controlled by the tyranny of the urgent?”
A: This question intrigued me for a couple reasons.
First, I just celebrated my twenty-first anniversary, and when fall comes, we’ll be dipping our toe into the waters of the next major parenting season. The oldest of our four children will be a senior in high school, beginning to make decisions for her young adult future. So while I don’t have the vantage point of having adult children yet, I do have an increasingly clear picture of which family decisions are yielding fruit and which ones died on the vine.
Second, the way you asked your question shows that you’re seeking intentionality. That’s a vital perspective for guiding your family well. You’ve obviously learned that efficiency is effective, because you asked for just three things to focus on. That’s a great place to start.
Three Recommendations for Intentional Mothering
At first glance, this may seem rather surface-level and kind of stiff. But efficiency has brought depth and purpose to my family. Here’s what I mean.
You and your husband could begin by remembering or establishing some high-level goals for your family. Ours is pretty simple (not easy, but simple): We want to glorify God and put Him on display through everything we do—both in and outside of our home. The most powerful way we do that is by teaching and discipling our own children.
Then live out what you’re teaching in front of them and together. For my husband and I, as we make decisions about how we’ll educate our kids, our finances, what sports and arts they’ll be a part of, what jobs we have, and what activities we’ll do, we keep our goals in mind. We make decisions based on a holistic view of our family and our established goals. Then we can efficiently manage our time, money, and effort well and deepen everything we do.
Here’s an example: Two of our kids play instruments, and each takes lessons from one of worship leaders at our church. But these aren’t just music lessons. They’re learning from a “cooler than my parents” adult in our church family. This allows that teacher to foster a relationship with our children, while they’re teaching them how to play an instrument and worship with music. An added bonus for our family is that because I’m on staff at our church too, I have an extra level of connection with two of my colleagues, which often even extends to extra interactions with their spouses and children. The time and money we spend for our kids to learn how to play an instrument—plus learn how to use that skill to worship and serve in a local church, plus create a relationship with a trusted leader and member of our church family—is completely worth it. In the same way, striving to be efficient and goal-oriented in your choices will help you bring purpose into every decision you make for your family.
Again, I probably sound like the most boring mom on earth (and my children would probably agree some days). Efficiency and routine? These are my top two recommendations? Yep. But just like efficiency wasn’t as wooden as you may have guessed, so also routine is a tool that can bring purpose and allow for more meaningful spontaneity.
As you are running a busy home, routines are necessary. When parents and children know what to expect and what is expected, it brings some relief from the freneticism. The unexpected will certainly still happen. But everyone knowing what is typically needed at home and for other family members helps you manage both the expected and unexpected. If you only respond to the moment, you will typically do more scrambling. You end up more focused on the immediate than the big picture. We always have to deal with the immediate, but routines help us respond to the immediate with that valuable big picture view.
One of the clearest ways to illustrate routines within a home with children is mealtime. Having a routine for how, where, and with whom (hopefully at least one with your whole immediate family!) you eat meals can bring order and purpose to your family. For us, that includes eating almost all meals and snacks at or from home and doing more specific meal planning for dinners. Since our routine is to eat almost every dinner at home together, that helps guide our decisions the rest of the day. We plan dinner around the known (or unexpected) activities of the day—especially if there’s an event or kid’s game going on in the evening. Sometimes it’s early, sometimes it’s late, sometimes it’s fast; but we’re almost always together at the dinner table. The routine of family dinners helps us manage our family’s daily schedule. It brings something reliable and intentional to even the busiest of days.
3. Talking about everything, all the time
I’m a teacher by training and a talker by personality, but the familiar instructions from Moses to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:4–9 are a guide for all of us:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
I have pointed to these verses countless times when one of my kids has wearily whined, “Mo-om. Do we have to talk about everything?” Why, yes! Yes, we do. Hopefully not to the point of exasperating them (there are some verses about that too) but certainly whenever and wherever you have an opportunity, talk to your children. Have one-sided conversations with babies. Answer seemingly endless streams of questions from toddlers. Enjoy quiet bedtime chats with preschoolers. Give pep talks to elementary-age kiddos trying something new. Endure awkward explanations with middle school kids. Plan for the future with teenagers. Sit-down conversations, along-the-way chats, and teachable moments can all include listening and talking opportunities for both you and your children.
Sometimes you’ll feel like it, and sometimes you won’t. Sometimes they’ll listen, and sometimes they won’t. But no matter what combination of attitudes you have, remember: all kinds of conversations will come together to help shape your children, your relationships, and you.
There’s the three! I am praying that you would have the two most essential fuels for parenting a busy home, perseverance and perspective from the Word and the Spirit, so that God will be made known to you and through you all.