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One of the goals I have been working on, as a stay-at-home mother, is finding the joy my daily activities. Somehow, my life has become, dare I say, monotonous. Of course it is not that I don’t have enough to do, just that I often feel under-appreciated, overworked and that my efforts often are not working.  One of the things I struggle with the most is the daily chores. I detest the things that are never checked off my list, the making the beds, doing dishes, making dinner, sweeping the floor, etc. They are never done, and even when I do them and take pride in my work, I know they will be back to do all over again tomorrow.

One of the very worst times in my home I lovingly call “The Golden Hour.” This is the time right before my husband gets home from work. No matter how well things have gone during the day, it all falls apart in this blessed hour. I could have meditated that morning, had the patience of a saint all day, done fabulous, meaningful activities with my children, but as he walks through the door, the three of us are all in or close to a state of alternatively tears or rage. My children could have been angels all day, only to turn into beastly dragons.

Of course, during this time, I am supposed to be preparing dinner. I believe in providing a meal for our family and sitting down to eat it together. I used to feel this is my obligation as a stay-at-home mother, it is my job, poor me, I have to make dinner every night. And it was always a terrible experience!

My four-year-old is always in a bad mood at this time of day. The usual routine is, I cook, she sits in time out for some infraction, screaming and gnashing her teeth. My 14-month-old, who is in the 90th percentile on the weight chart, is always hungry and begs for food the entire time I am cooking. He pulls on my pant leg, and as a late blooming talker, just whines ‘mmmm, mmmmm, mmmm’ until I want to pull my hair out. I continue cooking, making a giant mess I know I will have to clean up later, and muttering under my breath, as hubby walks in from a long day at work. “Welcome to the nuthouse, dear, aren’t you glad you’re home.” I say it as a statement, because I wouldn’t want to hear the answer if it were proposed as a question!

I was speaking to a friend of mine, asking her about the family she grew up in and how her mom had managed four teenagers at the same time, who all turned out great. One of the things she said really hit home. She said they always had family dinner. That she had a testimony of that time, where family members shared their days, spent quality time together, and learned from one another. She explained how grateful she was that her mom kept that time sacred.

I realized that I wasn’t just having family dinner because I had to. I realized that the spirit of our family dinner needed an attitude adjustment, and that was up to me. I was providing meals for my family because I was growing a close, loving and connected family. I wasn’t just doing it because I ‘had’ to.

I began to simplify. I thought about my meal after breakfast, in case anything needed to thaw or be prepared. I created a file folder and box of supplies so that my four-year-old had worksheet type activities to do after she finished setting the table. I feed the hungry giant an appetizer while I prepare the meal; he certainly isn’t going to spoil his dinner. Finally, my husband cleans up afterwards, while I spend time with my children.

More importantly, I began repeating a mantra while preparing dinner, or when things started to turn sour: “I have a testimony of family dinner.” That is often all I need to remind myself of the bigger picture of what I’m doing. I am growing a family.

QUESTION: What can you do to help grow your family?

CHALLENGE: Figure out something you can do to make meal time less stressful/more enjoyable in your home.  Whether it’s simplifying the meals, letting everyone in the family take turns cooking, making the food in advance, or getting take-out more often, decide what (if any) improvements need to be made and then make them!

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