As a working mother (though currently on maternity leave) and a devoted wife, making time for family used to feel rushed and forced. We were just too busy with everything else going on around us. We would leave the house without breakfast and go to bed each at different times. It was clear we had to make some changes, but not so clear how. Over time, I’ve found the following to help us a great deal, and I hope inshallah in sharing it would benefit others as well.
Professional home cleaners. I guess I accidently, or not intentionally, stumbled upon this gift. I was pregnant and my husband did not want me cleaning with any sort of chemicals. He isn’t convinced with the ‘green’ or ‘kid friendly’ lines either. He asked that I look into a maid service, and I quickly took advantage of his proposal. Surprised at how reasonably priced a detailed home cleaning can be, I held on to the housecleaners even after giving birth. At first, I didn’t make it known to anyone that I had others clean my house. As a matter of fact, my mother did not know until after over a year of receiving the service. I didn’t want to be perceived as the lazy wife. But in actuality, I am still cleaning on a daily basis. The housecleaning service is doing a detailed cleaning which saves me many hours each week (in a 3-level, 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house), and the beautiful home they leave me with encourages me to keep it that way everyday instead of having things pile up for me to do. Best of all, I get quality time with my kids for a whole 2-3 hours while we get our home cleaned. We eat together outside our home, in a picnic-like setting while enjoying nature; we fold the laundry together while practicing and learning colors; we pray and read small surahs of the Quran in an area where they aren’t working, etc. Alhamdulilah, the home cleaning company I’m with has made me a less-stressed mama and wife with more me and family time.
Food. Preparing any meal of the day was always a struggle. No matter how early we woke up, we were rushing out the door without breakfast most mornings. During dinner preparation, I’d find myself yelling at my more-than-ever cranky two-year-old. Several changes have helped a great deal. First, anyone who ever tried entering a grocery store with an infant in a car seat plus an active toddler knows that it isn’t fun and it doesn’t work. Arranging with my dear husband in picking up the meats from the halal store once a month (an extra freezer helps!) and having everything else delivered (Peapod, for instance), solved that problem. I’ve made the most use out of my toddler by having him set the table, empty most of what’s in the dishwasher, and sweeping the floor (you’d be amazed at how particular and accurate little ones can be!) while I prepare dinner. Alhamdulillah, my husband is always willing to help out if he’s home before dinner is ready. The best way he can help out is with the two-month-old. Making sure he’s fed and changed before we sit on the dinner table ensures an uninterrupted and fulfilling family dinner. And for those rushed mornings…there’s nothing better than a meal that was made together. My husband and I (and sometimes the toddler) will prepare breakfast together. Now, we still haven’t been able to make time to sit and eat. But the togetherness of the preparation is worth it, even if it means it’s a to-go breakfast.
Bedtime. It has been agreed in my house that the last two hours prior to bedtime are free of electronic distractions. Yes, we slip every now and then, but for the most part the TVs and computers are shut off. Otherwise, we’d be wanting to see what happens next and wanting to reply to just one more email. We also make sure that the final hour prior to bedtime is spent in one of the bedrooms. There, we read together, share about our day, pray together, or simply have baba pretend he’s a horse giving rides around the room. After our toddler is down, my husband helps me in preparing our infant for bed so that we can have couple-time. Otherwise, he would be snoring while I am still running around the room like a mad woman, past midnight.
Online shopping. My sister, for one, refuses to shop online because she can’t actually see and touch what she’s purchasing. I, on the other hand, have found it to work out perfectly. Online, you can quickly shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal, and there are endless ways in saving some extra cash by the time you’re ready to checkout (retailmenot.com and ebates.com to name just a few). I also find that spending just a bit more on better quality saves me time in the long run because I do not have to replace clothes, for instance, until the boys grow out of them. Doing the majority of my shopping online allows for Sundays to be spent together as a family in places we otherwise wouldn’t have had time for (the zoo, museums, library, grandma’s house).
Working full-time, being a mother to two needy boys, completing house chores, and wanting to be the best wife I can possibly be, isn’t easy. There’s still room for improvement, but Alhamdulillah the above tips have helped us in remembering what matters most.
Hoda is a blessed wife, mother to two boys and a stillborn girl, and a third grade public school teacher.