It’s an honor and a challenge to keep track of the moving pieces of a home. Beyond the shopping, cooking, and cleaning, there’s the education and emotional needs of kids, the connection with a spouse, and–if there’s time left–care for my own body and mind. No wonder I’m tired a lot of the time.
A few years ago, I came across a term that helped me frame my exhaustion: “mental load.” It’s the responsibility of noticing needs, making decisions, and overseeing outcomes. Homemakers have a thousand things to think about, a household of people and goods to tend to. Check out Dr. Lucia Ciciolla’s work for more about her studies on mental load and its effect on women.
A passage from one of Swedenborg’s posthumous works gives me some peace when the busy-ness of earthly life gets overwhelming.
Before the battle [a soldier] raises his mind to the Lord, and commits his life into His hand; and after he has done this, he lets his mind down from its elevation into the body and becomes brave; the thought of the Lord–which he is then unconscious of remaining still in his mind, above his bravery. And then if he dies, he dies in the Lord; if he lives, he lives in the Lord.(Charity 166)
Sometimes I feel like I’m in the trenches, battling combat fatigue. So I try to schedule times of “raising my mind,” like regular reading of the Word, prayer, and blessings at meals. In between those times, it sounds like I can trust the Lord to carry my intention through the rest of my life. He promises to lighten my burdens and give me rest–not from our work, but in my soul.
Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.
We zoomed with a couple who are trying to navigate the uptick of covid cases where they live. She was unraveling the wool sweater she’d knitted, which didn’t fit. Part of me was sad to see her cable stitches unspool, yet she was clear. It was worth the effort to retrieve the soft fiber rather than go to the store and pick up an acrylic substitute.
Her husband is a minister, trying to serve his congregation without being in the same room. He spoke about the laborious process of dismantling his sermon and readings from the hymns. Then he could record and reconfigure them into a fluid service.
These are examples of the common need to take things apart before we can put them back together. It’s messy. I am in the midst of reorganizing my sewing room, which entails pulling fabric and patterns off the shelves, tossing scraps and refolding yardage. I purposely chose a week when there would be no students. The chaos is not a congenial space in which to be creative. But my hope is that when I finish the ideas will flow like silk ribbons.
People too need to fall apart. When the pieces lay in shambles at our feet, we can choose those parts that truly fit. It keeps us warm to be spun from innocence.
Before anything is restored to order it is very common for everything to be reduced first of all to a state of confusion resembling chaos so that things that are not compatible may be separated from one another. And once these have been separated the Lord arranges them into order. Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 842:3
The other day, out of the blue, one of my preschoolers said something about God. Since my center isn’t church-affiliated, I unfortunately can’t talk about the Lord much with those kids. So when J (4 years old) mentioned God, I was all ears. She told me she has a book about Him. Her eyes were wide with wonder, yet her expression was also sweet and tender – as if she somehow understood the combination of complete power and complete love that is the Lord. She told me with gentle amazement in her voice: “He created the sky, the trees, the flowers…even the snow, and the leaves…the branches…hair. And He even created the people….” She trailed off as if she’d never finish the list. We talked a little more, and I shared how special that was to me too. I could have sat in that moment, acknowledging something bigger than both of us together, forever. I am beyond happy that she knows that the Lord loves her.
One of the things I most like to encourage in children is a sense of wonder – in anything really. The world is so big and amazing to them, and we lose that a little as we grow up and have more of a sense of control. I want to encourage their curiosity, humility, and awe, partly because I think I’m supposed to be relearning those things from them too! I want to encourage them to ask questions that don’t have to be fully answered or understood. We put so much emphasis on knowing. At what point do we know enough that we forget to see things with that childlike wonder? It is good indeed for children to learn, and to grow rational so that they can make their choices in freedom. But I wonder if the innocence and wisdom in their recognition of more expansive and wonderful things is oftentimes underrated.
Who doesn’t enjoy ritual and routine? I find that without some kind of rhythm to my day, it can become chaotic and frustrating. That’s not to say I don’t have these kinds of days, because I do. But I prefer routine and my rituals within the day to smooth the path ahead.
When my three children were small, I found some kind of routine around eating and sleeping helped them and us as parents, and to a degree still does as they become young adults. Having a regular wake up time, bedtime and schedule to your day is great and I love the order of it. However, it’s not just having routine that I have found helps me focus my day and become more productive and effective.
I have found the surprising power of rituals in my life to help calm anxieties and help me focus on a particular task. I use my ritual each time I feel overwhelmed, if I have a big presentation to deliver, or a training or teaching session to do. For me, it’s taking a deep breath, closing my eyes and saying a prayer to the Lord to help guide me, help others get the most out of what I’m doing, and allow me to feel His presence in what I’m doing to give me confidence and strength. I end my ritual with the Lord’s prayer and a simple ‘thank you Lord’. It works every time, I feel more confident, my heart isn’t pounding, and I feel so empowered by my faith.