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    Planning to Carry My Load

    April 12, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    When I was engaged, an older and wiser wife advised me to learn to plan a menu for grocery shopping. I really don’t remember the context of this conversation, but I remember it being the first time someone had told me to do such a thing. Later, I read the suggestion again in a book on homemaking. And then a friend told me that she made menus for an entire month at a time to help with her once-a-month trip to Costco. And so on and so forth.

    When we first married, there were only two of us, so I pretty much winged it. We both worked, and ate a lot of frozen foods and boxed meals and the like. We were just out of college {actually, I was still in grad school}, and we ate like college students. I planned one meal {from scratch} on my once-a-week day-off of work. It was good practice for me on many levels, and I slowly gained confidence in my cooking skills.

    Then, about four months into marriage, I realized I was pregnant. Two weeks later, I was bleary-eyed and exhausted {oh, and vomiting, but that didn’t seem especially pertinent to the conversation}. I’ve been that way ever since. Just kidding! Seriously, though, children — especially young ones — add an interesting dynamic to family life. They are often hungry. They are often sleepy. They have lots of needs and little-to-no ability to meet those needs themselves. And this can wear a woman thin.

    Unless, of course, she plans.

    My primary “load” in life as a young wife is carefully mapped out for me in Titus chapter two, and informed by Proverbs 31 {which is, of course, the ideal}. What this means is that I am to love and help my husband, care for my children, and make the home {cook, clean, wash, create a peaceful environment} as part of my daily life. On some days, this is pretty simple. On others, it is more challenging.

    I’ve shared before about my Average Day chart, and that it really works for me. The Average Day chart is a visual representation of an entire week spent at home, with the exception of grocery shopping, E. going to Awana, and church on Sunday. But one extra trip or errand can make me feel crunched for time. And one sick child can make the goal seem unattainable.

    But my load is still my load, regardless of someone needing to go to the doctor or being sick. If I don’t clean, the house will be dirty. If I don’t do laundry, we will run out of clean undergarments! This is because it is my job. My husband doesn’t come home from work with his job undone and expect me to do it. And I try not to let him come home to my job undone and expect him to pick up my slack either–even though he is usually more than willing to do so. {I think sociologists call this Division of Labor.}

    I spent some time early on trying to answer the question, “How does it all get done when things go awry?” And then I took the advice that all the wise women were repeating to me over and over and followed it. I made a chart. I make a weekly menu. I put the kids on a {flexible} schedule. And in the process, I learned the value of planning.

    Once a week, I sit down and make a menu, and I plan in light of that week’s events. This means that big meals that will create leftovers are planned for the day when they will reap the most benefit {usually the day before a day that I know will be hectic, so that I only have to heat food up on the hectic day}. Recently, a sketchy plan for lunch has been added to the menu to ensure that Si doesn’t go hungry while at work. Someday, when the kids are old enough that a banana just won’t cut it, I am sure I will add in breakfast as well.

    This winter, one or both of my kids were sick almost constantly for 4 months. Two years ago, this would have created a huge amount of chaos in our family. And it did create some. But we never went hungry. The habits of planning that I had been taught helped me carry my load in this harder time. I didn’t have to think about meals. I just checked the menu and followed my own instructions. I didn’t have to think about cleaning. I let some of it slide and took care of the worst offenders during the kids’ regularly-scheduled nap.

    I remember that old saying, “No one plans to fail; they just fail to plan,” and I think I’m finally beginning to understand what it means. It’s the same wisdom that belongs to the ant in Proverbs. Planning ahead. Working hard. Taking the job seriously {even though it doesn’t pay a dime}. And when the winter comes, there is no cause for stress or discontent, because everyone has planned to carry their load.

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  • Reply Si April 13, 2006 at 3:30 am

    Can I just say, what a wife I have in you, Brandy. You make me so proud. And though I do not sit at the city gates, you crown me with honor from our peaceful home. I love you much.

  • Reply Brandy April 12, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    Grace, It’s funny that you mention how organized you have to be. I’m learning that more people doesn’t necessarily equal more stuff, especially when those people are little. The grocery trip might be a bit longer, but you still have to go whether there is one person in your family or ten! What is nice is that you will already have the habits when the times get harder and you need them!

    Kim, thanks for the Calendars that work site. It’s great! I’m always trying to invent my own little calendar and it never works with the formatting. Now I know where to go next time! And I’m thinking I might use the HTML one for the Newlyweds Site…

  • Reply Kim April 12, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    The flylady website is great. I also use it as well as (the free section) for planning out our weekly meals, grocery shopping, and events. I have found that D and I are so much more productive when we have structure. The calendars also help when one of us gets home later than the other, or gets sick as has been the case for the last couple weeks, the other person knows right where to pick up. Stucture is good =)

  • Reply Grace April 12, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    Hey Brandy! Great entry! I’ve always admired you for being so organized with your life. And yes, you’re organized. Everytime that I’m there, you’re always doing one thing after another and entertaining me! It’s simply amazing!

    It’s funny to read this and see how much I have to plan for myself. I don’t have a husband or kids to care for. I just have me, but I feel like I can use part of my 40 hours work week to: make grocery lists, balance my checkbooks (yes, plural), return calls/emails, pay bills, laundry, take my car in for an oil change, go shopping for groceries, organize my parents accounts, etc.

    My roommates and I always ask “Where is that personal asistant/maid? She never shows up! That’s it. She’s fired.” Yeah, we joke about it, but I REALLY do wish I can hire/afford someone!

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