Maintaining a Loving Home

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

As a woman, I wear many hats. Maybe you feel this way as well?

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a Christian.

I am a member of my community and my church. I am a volunteer.

I am an entrepreneur and the only employee in my business (yes, blogging is a business).

Also, I am myself, the sole person in charge of expressing and caring for my own needs.

Each hat comes with its own set of responsibilities. For instance, I eat fruits and vegetables. I pray. I read. I jog. I have deep, meaningful conversations. I prioritize sleep. I do laundry. I clean. I cook. I write.

But, it’s like my friend always says, you can really only do one thing well at a time. I always choose your top priority for the moment, even when I’m not consciously doing it.

Just like I can’t text someone and drive a car at the same time, I can’t maintain a perfectly clean home and take time to get down and play with my son on the floor at the same time. It just isn’t possible.

In the same way, I can’t work long hours and have a regular date night with my spouse.

Choosing my top priority for the moment bleeds into every decision, even when I’m not aware that it’s happening. If I’m eating well, I’m simultaneously struggling with exercising. If I’m sticking to the budget and monitoring every penny, I’m stress binging on Netflix at every given opportunity. If I’m exposing my son to lots of playdates and educational experiences, I’m simultaneously neglecting to clean out the fridge.

Life as a mom is a difficult balance, and perfection is not an option. Believe me, I’ve tried. There’s a cost to every action. Sometimes the cost is small, but other times it is absolutely gigantic.

When it all boils down, I don’t want to be wasting my life on maintaining house and home, or even cooking (which is a favorite creative outlet of mine).  I want to be pouring my life into my people to the best of my ability.

I want to be the best woman I can be.

I want my husband and son to know exactly how much I love him, not a guess, but to actually know because I took the time to remind them every day.

I want to be the type of person to drop everything and just show up when someone needs me to.

I want my home to be a safe and welcome place. I want neighbors to feel comfortable knocking on my door.

I want to draw nearer to God, because I know He listens and draws nearer to me.

I want to savor the stuff in life that really matters and to just maintain the responsibilities that don’t matter as much. I want lasting impact, not temporary impact.

I want to be present while my son plays in a patch of sunshine on the floor without guilt about what needs to be done.

Easier said than done, ha.

And I absolutely don’t want to be spending my life doing the housework, cooking and cleaning… unless the heart and soul of doing it is to show how much I love and respect the people who live here too.

And, that last point is exactly where it gets a little fuzzy for me sometimes. I crave clarity on how to maintain a loving home, both relationally and physically.

I want to love my family in the best way possible. Sometimes that means doing chores. Sometimes, that means ignoring chores.

At any given moment, I have to choose my top priority.

And, for me, that also means that I have to have a system in place to maintain my lower priorities while I’m focusing on what’s most important that moment.

Here are a few things that are rarely top priority for the day but still desperately need to be taken care of daily.

Cleaning

Here is my system for cleaning the house, which prioritizes resting on Sunday.

I’ve found that when I don’t take a day off from these chores, I get behind on housework. Or even worse, I get too wrapped up in doing them perfectly.

By setting aside a day to rest and NOT DO CHORES (wooohooo!), I am more motivated to get them done throughout the week.

It doesn’t always go perfectly smoothly, but that’s ok. If the last week (or month) has been rough, I just try again the next week.

Cooking

I have written extensively about my meal planning strategy and my pre-made grocery list.

Meal planning is an established routine for me now, but that certainly wasn’t always true.

There was a time early in my marriage when I would buy all the wrong things at the grocery store in an attempt to try new recipes and please my husband just to have those ingredients slowly go bad while I ran back to the store almost daily for quicker dinner options.

By the time my son was born seven years later, I was desperate to be able to maintain a healthy, frugal lifestyle without spending a lot of time shopping or cooking.

I’ve learned some of these kitchen and cooking tips the hard way, and I am still learning.

Maintaining the finances

A few years ago, my husband and I took a financial planning course together, and it was very eye opening for us.

We have found that it’s best to make all of our financial decisions together. It takes time to write out a budget and to use a cash system, but it is well worth it.

We have time scheduled on the calendar and reminders on our phones set up ahead of time. It’s good to have a system in place to keep this habit  from falling to the wayside.

Feeding My Heart

Someone told me this over the cries of my screaming newborn: “everything about motherhood is spiritual.” When you spend your days (and nights!) caring for littles, your own heart is filled and emptied and refilled moment by moment.

But, there are chapters in mom life that writing long entries into prayer journals and keeping up with a Bible reading plan is just not possible. And, that’s ok. God put you in this exact place.

When doing more is just not possible, finding little cracks of time to reading a single verse is enough. Praying in your head while you put your child to bed is enough. Listening to worship music and letting the praise bleed into your actions is enough.

It helped me to have certain triggers to remind me to spend time with God. For instance, during the quiet of nursing during the night, I prayed and read. While in the car, I sang worship songs. A friend teaches Bible stories to her pre-schooler during bath time.

Life is always busy, but I’ve found that by pairing my time with God with a daily activity, it reminds me to be present and aware of His benevolence.

 

And, the Grace

After becoming a mom, I’ve learned that I have to allow myself to accept the same grace God extends to me.

Sometimes, I fail. Actually, it happens daily.

I choose wrong. I get wrapped up in a project and get resentful when nap time is suddenly over. I get impatient when people interrupt me while I’m trying to get things done, even if they’re low priority. I forget God.

And in the midst of wrestling with pangs of guilt, I have to clean the slate and start that day anew. It’s the only way to move forward.

Grace is key.

I absolutely don't want to be spending my life doing the housework, cooking and cleaning... unless the heart and soul of doing it is to show how much I love and respect the people who live here too. And, that last point is exactly where it gets a little fuzzy for me sometimes. I crave clarity on how to maintain a loving home, both relationally and physically. I want to love my family in the best way possible. Sometimes that means doing chores. Sometimes, that means ignoring chores. At any given moment, I have to choose my top priority. Cleaning, cooking, finances, caring for my own heart, need a routine that maintains the status quo while caring for my family.

Are you struggling with clarity on how to maintain a loving home too?

Join me on this journey. We can navigate this together in tandem.

I write new content each week. Sign up here to receive notification of new content and the weekly newsletter, which includes a meal plan for the week and list of encouraging reads.

As a new subscriber, you will receive access to the Inspiration for the Kitchen bundle. This includes a dinnertime brainstorming video for more meaningful meals, a free cookbook including retired and never published recipes, and inspirational printables for your mom heart to display in the kitchen.

Everything I send you will always have one thing in mind: to savor what matters.

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How to Survive Cooking with Babies and Toddlers

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

Moms, cooking with a baby or toddler is not easy. In fact, this is a chore that seems nearly impossible most days. Here are some tips that might help!

The core sounds simple: cooking dinner. But, the reality of the situation is that moms are trying to complete a task that requires a moderate amount of focus in a room FULL safety hazards. The hot pots, pans and knives are of course a concern, along with the chemicals under the sink, but with littles around there are countless minor accidents and injuries in the kitchen involving the hard non-cushioned flooring, the countless furniture corners at a toddler’s head level, and all the cabinet doors and drawers for pinching fingers.

(And each bump and scrape pulls you away from your cooking task.)

Since my son was born, I doubt I have spent any significant amount of time in a kitchen without something happening.  Whether it was him as an infant demanding a series of cluster feeds right in the middle of making dinner, him throwing toy after toy off the high chair tray at 9 months, or him now, at 15 months, trying to crawl into the dishwasher to retrieve a favorite cup, it’s always something.

Just as you start to find a strategy that works, a strategy that keeps those little hands busy and that little mind occupied, these kids grow up and change a little bit, just enough that yesterday’s perfectly formulated plan no longer applies.

Every day is different. Every. single. day.

And that’s awesome! Because when I think back to all of those daily kitchen moments over the course of the last 15 months, I realize that I was watching my son grow every day right before my eyes. It’s messy and stressful, but that’s so cool!

But it also makes the simple chore of cooking dinner DIFFICULT.

Cooking dinner is a chore that you can’t just skip, either. At least, not most nights. There is now an additional mouth to feed (and diaper and take to the doctor and put through college etc. etc.). Eating at home is a financial decision for most families, and getting take out every night is just not realistic.

Moms, cooking with a baby or toddler is not easy. In fact, this is a chore that seems nearly impossible most days. Here are some tips that might help!

Ask for help.

I don’t know why it was so difficult for me to ask for help with cooking.

When my son was first born, I would try to be the one who made dinner every night. I enjoy cooking. It’s a creative outlet and it’s stress relieving for me… normally… before I became a parent.

But, in those crazy early baby days, making dinner would ALWAYS seem to be timed with a feeding.

(And forget those lies that all the baby books say about nursing every 3 hours… my son was an every hour kid from the day he was born until he started eating solids.)

So, cooking became the thing that I did while someone tiny was grouchy with me. I was pretty hesitant to give up the only chore that I actually enjoy. I was brand spankin’ new to this food blog thing, and I was relishing every minute in the kitchen possible.

So, I had to ask my husband for help.

There were a few days that I would try and do the cooking while he attempted to pacify the unhappy bebe. Often we would switch half way through.

The point is that I often needed help. There were days when cooking dinner was something that required two people to accomplish, and I had to ask for help in some way every night.

Snacks are a game changer!

Hallelujah, there came a day when the baby grew up and SNACKS became my help. Do you know how long it takes an older baby to get one of those rice puffs off the high chair tray and into their mouth? Usually long enough to at least put something frozen into the oven.

Involve babies and toddlers in the shopping process.

This is going to sound easier than it is, but involving my son in the grocery shopping process early on and continuing through toddlerhood was a good decision for me.

First, it has built his food vocabulary. I remember holding up all the produce for my son to examine from his infant carrier (and feeling like a crazy woman while doing so). Now, when he sees a banana, he starts flailing around making the sign and just about jumps out of the cart.

I narrate the names and flavors and colors and anything else I could think of about every food we see. I remind him why we don’t buy cookies EVERY time (just most times… haha).  I tell him why I am buying it. “This green zucchini squash is going to be for dinner on Wednesday.”

Also, it makes new foods, or foods we don’t eat often, a tiny bit less foreign.

When Wednesday comes around, and we pull out the squash, it’s a tiny bit less foreign (even though it will, inevitably, be tossed onto the floor… all part of the learning process).

And yes, there are some trips to the store where I’m tired and grouchy and I don’t do this. And, those trips are usually quick and more difficult.

Just a note: after learning the hard way, I really prefer building vocabulary at the store vs. at the dinner table. We hit a rut where my son would only eat the foods he knew the words for and he was asking for, which was only fruit bars, apple sauce and bread. Now I just plop something in front of him and tell him it’s dinner without telling him any of the names for the foods. He’s much more willing to try “dinner” than 10 foods with new names all mixed together.

Hand out age appropriate tasks.

When it comes time to cook the squash on Wednesday, I usually try to involve everyone in the family in some way. My son can help me wash it in the sink. And, after I cut it, if I need the pieces transferred into a bowl, he could probably help with that.

When he was younger, I might have him hold one of the big spoons, or he would help get the pot out of the oven drawer.

When he was even younger than that, old enough to be alert, but not old enough that he was mobile, he would just watch from his bouncer on the floor while I talked to him.

There is always an age appropriate task. It takes patience and some creativitiy to think of it. It also takes some willingness to let go of the adult agenda and just have fun together.

Yes, handing out these tasks takes A LOT of time. I can wash a zucchini in 10 seconds, but with help it might take a minute, if all goes well.

Manage your expectations.

Every day is different, and every dinnertime is going to be different. You could cook frozen chicken nuggets every evening for a year, but it’s still going to be nearly impossible to do some days.

Here is how I manage my dinnertime expectations:

1. I always ALWAYS have a quick back up on hand. Usually, that back up is bread with peanut butter. I’ve said it before: peanut butter is the glue that holds this family together.

2. I limit myself to trying new recipes. If you subscribe to my newsletter and receive my weekly meal plan, you probably notice that I typically try a new recipe on Tuesday. I spend the rest of the week cooking things that are familiar staples, many of which I have written about here on the blog.

3. Some chores can be saved for tomorrow. There are some nights when dinner, bath, bed goes bang bang bang, and all of a sudden the house is quiet and I’m exhausted. Except, nobody remembered to scrub that one pan. THE PAN CAN WAIT UNTIL MORNING. I promise you, that one friend of yours with a spotless house will never know (if they knock on the door, just hide it under the sink). You’re a mom of littles, and that takes some serious energy. Allow yourself the time you need to take care of yourself while you are able.

Best of luck to you, friends! If you have an more tips that are working for you, would you please share with everyone in the comments section below?