Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Blogging Book Tour

As a stop on her blog tour, Sheila Wray Gregoire, author of To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother, let me dish some questions to her. Bon appètit!

My customers like to see a variety of things on the menu. What do you offer up as specials other than housework?

In To Love, Honor and Vacuum, I know housework isn’t the end all and be all! In fact, most of us would rather that it wasn’t anything at all, and if we could take it off the menu we would. But we do need clean clothes and something to eat, so it’s hard to banish entirely.

But what I’m looking at isn’t housework itself; it’s why it becomes such a big deal in so many marriages and families. And the answer is that we’re all really busy, and quite often the mom is taking stuff on herself that really should be on the kids’ menu. Or the menu for those Hefty Men!

A lot of what’s in the book, then, is how to reorganize your life so that housework is a lot less stressful and gets done a lot more quickly. But then I turn to the important stuff of relationships. How can we make sure we’re raising responsible kids? How do you get kids to do housework? What happens when you feel like your husband doesn’t always appreciate you? What if you’re feeling lonely in your marriage? What if you have barely enough money to eat out, let alone leave a tip? And what if, after a really long day when customers have been complaining and everything seems to have burnt, you’re near closing time and your husband decides it’s time for dessert? Do you throw the pie at him, or do you find a way to get in a better mood?

I certainly hope there’s something there for everybody!

It’s hard to be a working mom. What do you suggest for a woman who runs a diner and a home? How do I beat those guilty blues that invariably come?

Okay, let’s deal with the guilt first. If you have to work to make ends meet, then you have to work. If you’ve explored all the options, and realized this is what’s best for your family, then this is what is best for the family. What’s the point in feeling guilty about it? So go eat chocolate instead, preferably in the bubble bath.

Now, I think what you’re really getting at in the question is how do you make sure you’re still raising your children well even if you’re not available for them as often as you’d like to be? And there is absolutely no doubt that this is tricky. A couple of thoughts here: make sure your kids are being raised by you and not by the TV or the computer. Put some strict rules around this, because it’s easy for kids to pick up values that aren’t Christian from watching the wrong stuff. And when we’re not home, especially during after school hours, kids may watch stuff we don’t like. So keep those lines of communication really open with your kids about their screen time.

Then, make sure there’s fun in your life. So often when we’re busy our conversations revolve around to-do lists. What do you have for homework today? What do you want for lunch tomorrow? We have to get to do the doctor’s office today. Or, if the children are younger, it’s all about when you’re going to have your bath, when you’re going to pick up the toys, when they’re going to brush their teeth. I think it’s key to let some things slide so you have time just to cuddle with your little ones, or chat with your older ones, in a day. That’s more important than the dust bunnies under the bed, or even some of the excess homework school aged children often bring home (I know I’ll get in trouble for that one, but I do believe it!). Create memories, and often those memories are made when we’re just doing nothing. So if you have to work, work. But make sure you have time for play when you’re at home, which may mean that you don’t volunteer at church for a time, or you say no to committees. Your family comes before outside commitments, so don’t feel guilty about the word “No”. Embrace it. And hug your kids.

What’s the best advice for a busy diner owner who feels that the only words out of her mouth are “Order’s up! Let’s get a move on!”

This one relates to the answer above, but I find this is the most difficult challenge I face! I don’t work, but we still are very busy. There are friends to see and relatives to visit and piano lessons to get to and clubs night at church, and sometimes it all gets to be too much.

But I’ll tell you who my worst enemy is. It isn’t my 9-year-old who spends her time dancing in the living room, or my 12-year-old who is always blogging. It’s me. I waste so much time it’s incredible. And it’s not even crucial stuff! It’s surfing on the net, or catching up on emails, or talking to a friend about nothing at all. I can be having a great time reading to my kids, and the phone rings, and you know what I do? I chat for 40 minutes about nothing, while the kids scatter. And then, when it is time to get to that piano lesson, we’re running late and I get grumpy at the kids. But it’s not the kids who got me late. It’s me!

We do need time to have fun and relax. But ironically, that’s easier to do when we’re organized and diligent about the things that do need to get done. And having fun and relaxing is different from wasting time. You want to have fun with your kids, or take that bubble bath so you can think about your day and talk to God (it’s okay to pray while you’re naked, you know). Watching an hour of an inane talk show, though, and then finding you haven’t had time to read to your toddler today is another matter. And when we begin to waste time, it’s amazing how much time can actually go by. It’s like peanuts; you can’t eat just one. Well, you can’t waste just one minute, either. You inevitably waste a minimum or fifteen or twenty as soon as you start something silly.

One thing I like to do is to block out time in small blocks for me to “waste”, if I just have to. Confine blogging to lunchtime, for instance, or first thing in the morning. Then don’t let yourself look at the computer screen for the rest of the morning. You’ll find that you will get that housework done, and you will play with your kids, and you may even have time for an outing.

Certainly we need to say no to a lot of outside activities, both for us and for the kids. But just as important, I think, is to be disciplined at home about our time. That’s easier for some people than others, and if you need a hand, I provide a neat way to plan out your day in my book. Instead of using the day-timer approach, where you pencil in every little thing you’re going to do, I suggest planning specifically for the things that are important: fun with your kids; fun with your mate, if you’re married; a little bit of exercise; time with God; time with yourself. Once that is taken care of, it doesn’t matter so much if time gets away from you. But if you don’t put those things first, you’re going to find yourself rushed and grumpy because you’ve let yourself waste time and you’ve ignored what you really need to do. You don’t have to be a stickler, but you should try to be a good steward of what you do have. Kids spell love T-I-M-E, and maybe we should, too.

To find more encouragement to get your kids to help at home and make your marriage less stressful, you can pick up To Love, Honor and Vacuum ($13.00) at

WIN A BUNDLE OF SHEILA’S BOOKS! Sign up for Sheila’s free weekly parenting and family ezine, and you’ll be entered in a draw to win a bunch of Sheila’s books and audio recordings! Sheila’s Reality Check covers everything from flatulence at the dinner table to same sex marriage and the effects of divorce. Sign up here, ( She’ll make the draw April 30.

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