I always looked forward the time when my husband and I would start a family. We both hoped that I would be able to stay at home with our children, especially through their preschool years, but I never really knew what the experience would be like until it came to the time.
Coming from a teaching background, I have found the transition from classroom to lounge room floor relatively easy to get used to, however, I did spend some time in the first year or so with my head buried in books reading up about how to parent purposefully and intentionally so that my ‘job’ as a mother would be just as fulfilling and satisfying as teaching had been in my life . . .
Did you give your partner a Valentines present this year? Maybe some little heart-shaped lollies? Do you ever cross your heart when making a promise? Or listen to music about someone nursing his or her broken heart? We see and hear about hearts everywhere. But what makes the heart muscle in our body so special? It’s special because of what it does. The heart sends blood around our body. The blood provides the body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. It also carries away waste (http://www.kidshealth.org/kid/htbw/heart.html).
Like the heart muscle in our bodies, I see mothers being the heart that keeps the house “pumping”. As the ‘heart of our home’ we are generating the warmth, care and consideration necessary to create a safe place for our families to be themselves, feel accepted, learn, play, invite friends and make mistakes.
In Robyn McGraw’s book, Inside My Heart, my favourite part was the final chapter entitled, The Heart of My Home. Robyn says,
“Aren’t all women the hearts of their homes? Whether we live alone or in a household spanning three generations, whether we work outside the home as well as within it or stay at home full-time, it’s the women who make sure there’s the food in the fridge, curtains on the window, sheets on the bed, and a hug for whoever needs it. With few exceptions, it’s the woman’s spirit that brings a house its warmth, brightens its shadowy corners, and provides those who live there with a soft place to fall. There are as many ways to do this as there are women: we all have our own unique way of being in this world and creating the joy and warmth that make a house a home”.
Without realising it, you are already the heart of your home and, I’m sure, you can give numerous examples of how you create the warm loving atmosphere that allows your family to feel happy and comfortable in the ‘place’ where you live. This month though, I thought I would share some of the ways that I purposefully try to set the mood and maintain a certain atmosphere inside my home.
One of the things that I love to do is to create memories. Not just at Christmas or Easter but every-day ordinary ones too. For us, eating warm porridge on a cold morning isn’t just about eating breakfast; I like to dramatically tell the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears while the kids listen to the story and laugh at the different voices. It’s interesting to see on mornings that I haven’t told the story how they will comment on their food being too hot or too cold and then we laugh and say “no, it’s just right!”
In our home, my husband and I both love to sing with the children and make up silly rhymes and nonsense songs. We use songs and music in so many ways: to comfort, to distract, to cheer up, to celebrate, to teach and to set a mood.
I love a good theme song so when the four of us snuggle in bed on the weekends, we all sing that song “There were four in the bed and the little one said ‘roll over, roll over’, so they all rolled over and one fell out”. We love to sing this one when our foster girls come to stay for the weekend too because there’s seven on the bed…and the song goes on a bit longer! Another favourite in the morning is that one about the monkeys jumping on the bed (I will include the lyrics in your goodie bag). Yesterday I made some chocolate spiders with my son and I was delighted that he spontaneously started singing ‘incy wincy spider…’ to which I cheerfully joined in.
I don’t claim to be a great cook but I do enjoy baking and I have noticed the wonderful satisfaction that comes from baking fresh scones, biscuits or a cake for my family and watching their joyful anticipation as the aroma fills the house. I must admit I truly do love to see their faces as they eat something freshly baked and how much pleasure it brings.
I also like to make meal times extra special every now and again by adding a different table cloth or fresh flowers to the table as the children eat their lunch or some scented candles at dinner etc. There does not to be an excuse for a ‘special’ meal. My family is so special to me that they deserve to be celebrated in some way every day.
I love traditions and I think that there is so much stability that comes from knowing what to expect at certain times of the year and being able to look forward to those times with excitement. We choose which traditions we carry on from our childhood and the new ones we add. My son still talks about when we cut down our Christmas tree, went on our family Easter holiday, and how hard he ‘whacked’ the piñata at a friend’s birthday party.
My children mostly remember these occasions not just because they were special but because of the time I spend reliving the events with them. Photos are a great way to remember these events. I have made little photo albums for them that are stored with their books that they love to ‘read’. My son, being a bit older, especially loves to retell the events of his second birthday by looking through the photo album. He also recalls the Bob the Builder concert, Christmas and many other everyday activities that he likes to talk about. I enjoy telling my children about when they were babies or when they started to walk etc. Obviously they will understand more of this as they get older but I feel it’s important for them to know their life’s story.
I started a memory box for each of my children when they were born which includes cards, special keepsakes, cuttings of their baby hair, hospital bracelet, drawings etc. For ideas on memory boxes see the handout in your goodie bag. Scrap booking and journaling are also ways to preserve memories of your children’s childhoods. I know in just a few years I am forgetting information about my children such as how old they were when they did certain things so I am really grateful for the notes I made in their baby books back when they were born.
Having an attitude of gratitude is a central theme in our family. It sounds simple, but getting children to say thank-you without prompting can be quite a task! The best way my husband and I find to make this a habit is by modelling. We always thank the person who has gone to the effort e.g. “Thanks for cooking Daddy”, “Thanks for cleaning up…”
There are so many things that happen over the course of a week. Some things we do purposefully to instil value and love into our children, while other things happen incidentally and become funny stories that are retold time and time again. But all of these things meld together to make a strong family unit. We mums have a wonderful opportunity to set the tone for our family, to celebrate the lives around us and continue to be the hearts of our homes.