I recently brought an old favorite to bed with me, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions. I remembered how, as a newish homeschooling mother, I would read and reread the chapter called “The Art of Domestic Bliss”; and as I did, inspiration and hope would well up inside of me and feel as if it would overflow.
Being a stay-at-home mom with young children was a challenging blessing. I would wake up hopeful most mornings, but the days were often long and loud and busy. Nursing, changing diapers, chasing toddlers, answering questions, solving problems, listening to screaming and crying, cleaning up messes, trying to teach someone to read, get someone to do their math, or their chores, trying to get everyone fed, and bathed and to sleep…
So I loved the fictional Mrs. Sharp. If the house was a wreck, (I used to say it looked like a stuff bomb went off) and the kids were wild and crazy, and I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, I’d slip my exhausted body into a hot bath with this book. Soon, Mrs. Sharp’s charming manners and good old-fashioned suggestions would have me convinced that I could, with a little bit of rhythm, do this mothering thing, and restore peace to my home and my soul.
Many years have passed since then. My youngest child is now older than my oldest child was back then. I think I gave up on the idea of domestic bliss. Mealtimes have become fend for yourself, or everyone bring your plates to the living room and eat while watching our current streamed series. Baths are a battle I don’t always pick, and keeping the house tidy is hit or miss. I think as the children got older, and busier outside of the home, and I was spread thin, and my husband was often traveling, I just didn’t have the time or energy to enforce simple routines.
But what about now? We are all home and spending lots of time together. Summer will be ending soon, and we’ll need more structure. I say it’s time to revisit the ideas of my Victorian superhero.
“The most important aspect in the pursuit of domestic bliss is attitude.” (36)
- Solitude. Mrs. Sharp suggests carving out private time for yourself, at least half an hour in the early morning. Don’t all of my posts come down to this? Prayer and meditation… putting first things first…
- Rhythm. This foundation of harmony at home can be restored through daily rituals. In other words, have regular mealtimes and bedtimes.
- Order. Make it your priority. As in, a place for everything and everything in its place. And work as a family to share the responsibilities around the home. Mrs. Sharp confirms, as I suspected, that children need and thrive on order, but it must at first be imposed upon them.
- Mealtimes. She has many ideas on this, but I’ll focus on just one. Eat together.
- The Children’s Hour. Her three page description of bath and bedtime rituals was always my favorite section of the book. Reading it now makes me wish I was more consistent with it when my children were younger. Although my teenagers are independent when it comes to bathing and going to sleep, I still have nine and twelve year old girls that would benefit from “a more gentle transition from day to night.” This would consist of undivided attention during the process of tidying belongings, bathing, teeth brushing, laying out the next day’s clothing, reading aloud (or silently), prayers, tucking in, kissing goodnight and turning out the lights.
It’s not only time to revisit these ideas, but also to put them into action.
For four weeks, one day at a time, practice the following: rise 30 minutes before your family, eat meals together at regular times and at the kitchen table, ensure that everyone completes his/her morning routines and daily chores, and the Children’s Hour.
If I can focus on keeping these simple routines, I think it will improve my home, and more importantly, my attitude. We shall see. I’ll leave you with my all-time favorite Mrs. Sharp quote:
“There is no ill that can befall man, woman, or child that cannot be made more tolerable in a tidy front parlor.” (37)