Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mother's Rule of Life

I am as in need of scheduling advice as the next person, and so last Mother's Day when my own mom sent me A Mother's Rule of Life I thought that perhaps this would be a useful tool for getting my home and life into a more scheduled routine. The subtitle is "How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to your Soul", and though my soul is already peaceful, my house could certainly use a little order.

Unfortunately, my first reading of it left a distinctly bad taste in my mouth. I wedged it into a bookshelf and left it there until last week, when the organizational urge struck again. Maybe I'd been too hasty with my first impressions and so overlooked some good advice. After re-reading it, I can say, upon careful consideration: Nah.

I just can't take this book seriously. My first presentiment of trouble came from the first page of the first chapter, in which the author recounts how she was pounding the table and issuing her husband ultimatums about schooling, the house, and yelling about how she just couldn't take it anymore. I could tell at that moment that the author and I had already diverged wildly in terms of personality and coping mechanisms for stress, but hey! the Lord works in mysterious ways, and if He had revealed the secret of organization to this woman then who was I to naysay?

Unfortunately, the rest of the book bore out my initial impressions. The book was more about the author's transformation than about the practicalities of creating and following a rule of life, and I simply couldn't get over her personal problems, emotional neediness, and relationship struggles. Merely discovering that using some common sense and a bit of stepping into the other's shoes will make a relationship a lot less stressful isn't going to fly with me as wisdom from on high -- I already knew at 18 what she was discovering at 30. I found myself irritated and bemused by her insistence that God was calling her to take every other Saturday "off" from her family. I felt sorry for her husband.

Also, it's no news to me that I need a schedule; this book didn't tell me anything I didn't know already. My problem is one of motivation, and for that I find books on housewifery almost useless. It strikes me that A Mother's Rule of Life is a book that will be of greatest assistance to women who are from the same mold as the author. However, if emotional displays annoy you and a lack of common sense vexes you, go straight to the source and pull your inspiration from the Rule of St. Benedict. At least he won't burden you with chapters of irrelevant personal details.

13 comments:

Bridget said...

Never heard of that book before! I know you wrote it a few days ago, but your homeschooling plan is very impressive! I hope it works out for you and I'm eager to read about your progress! I don't have much desire to homeschool and don't really feel called to it, but I enjoy reading about other people's experience and you never know what the future holds! I might do homeschool preschool and we've talked about doing religious ed at home if we're not in Catholic schools. Anyway, hope it goes well! And, good luck getting that schedule down! I know it's hard!

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Have you tried www.flylady.com ?

MrsDarwin said...

Yeah, I've heard of it, and I went and checked out the site once. Some of it I found useful, but the overly peppy "This is me giving you a big hug!" atmosphere started to grate on me. Credit where credit is due, though -- the suggestion of setting a timer and spending fifteen minutes on a task is very helpful, especially in getting the girls to work with me on something.

Still, I'm an adult. Not a FlyBaby, not a Sidetracked Home Executive, not any other cutesy acronym.

Big Tex said...

So, Mrs. Tex has read the aforementioned book, and also has done some of the "FlyLady" stuff. She has elected to take pieces from each in order to run our household quite nicely.

Personally, the part in "A Mother's Rule..." that really perturbed me was the taking every other Saturday off. I would not stand for that! When Mrs. Tex needs to get out, she can. But leaving for a day, open-ended really rubs me the wrong way.

And thankfully, my wife never refers to me as "DH." I may be a "Dear Husband" in her eyes, but there are nicer ways to speak of your spouse than two letters.

Alice said...

Interestingly, I believe that Mother's Rule is one of Sophia's bestsellers.

Have you seen her part in Catholic Homeschool Companion? It's pretty basic common sense stuff, but without the emotional display.

FlyLady has some good tips. I always shine my sink and do the timer thing. But I could never do the whole program. I can't spend my life reading her 20 emails every day telling me to get my life in order, and btw she loves me, her FlyBaby. Puhleeze.

MrsDarwin said...

I did see that section, and I agree with you that it's useful common sense. And that I appreciate. I would have enjoyed her book much more if the editors had cut the middle of each chapter where she talks about her personal life. (BTW, look for Darwin's contribution to the CHC in the essays by the students. His sister has a piece as well.)

I've no doubt that Mother's Rule is a big hit for Sophia, as most of their catalog seems otherwise to be reprints of older works that have fallen out of copyright. (That's neither criticism nor praise, just an observation.) Probably most people who read it benefit, because they aren't mean-spirited snots like me who have a low tolerance for women who seem to be emotional basketcases.

barbfromcincy said...

I wasn't too impressed with Mother's Rule either...in fact, I couldn't bring myself to finish it. She was a bit much for me also and I consider myself as a somewhat emotional female sometimes...especially when those old hormones kick in...hehe..
I was glad to see that some other people felt the same way.
I've told myself several times that I should go back and try again, but I have so many other things I would like to read instead...especially now that everyone is putting their reading lists online with the latest tag. I'm making a trip to the library tomorrow to get Brideshead Revisited and Declare.
A blessed evening to all...

MrsDarwin said...

Oh, I think you'll enjoy both of those, Barb! They're great favorites here.

Dorian Speed said...

Thank you for previewing this book so that I don't have to.

I actually have the FlyLady book and enjoy reading it, but then I go through phases of slovenliness where a glance at my spotty sink elicits involuntarily epithets tossed at FlyLady.

Deep Furrows said...

I've been taking care of the house during summer (although I still feel like the man in the fairy tale who boasted that he could keep house). I found the FlyLady very helpful at first with the schedules and the baby steps, but then I realized that it was based on task analysis: breaking things down so that they are more managable; making them smaller so that my low motivation could tackle them.

But I don't want to reduce these tasks to nothing. I want the motivation, the desire, the love, to do great things for my family.

Fred

Also, with the FlyLady, the Testimonials (i.e. advertisements) began to overwhelm the reminders.

Love2Learn Mom said...

Hey, Mrs. Darwin, if you find something you like, please holler. It sounds like just what I've been looking for. :) Seriously, I've tried a number of detailed scheduling things and discovered that when I follow them, they fall apart after a short time. It's partly about the personality of the family (and especially the Mom) as you mentioned. A mixture of patterns, some scheduling and "pegs" (as described by Melissa Wiley) works best for us. It definitely has gotten easier as the proportion of older to younger kids has leaned more in my favor.

bearing said...

I will pipe up to say that I found Mother's Rule of Life to be quite helpful. I agree with you about the emotional angst and such --- but I was able to extract a great deal of useful ideas from that book. And some of it really did stick. For example, it was only after applying some of the ideas that I was able to really make daily personal prayer (Divine Office, in my case) a part of my life.

And I want to defend her "Mother's Sabbath." Remember, it wasn't just a "day off," it was also a spiritual retreat... she used that time to attend Mass by herself (ahhh! doesn't it sound reasonable to be able to do that twice a month?) and to get to Confession. I admit to something similar myself... Sat mornings dh takes the kids on errands and I get to sit in a coffee shop to blog or write letters or do some paid freelance stuff. (MJF will be coming with me for a few months of course...) I really find that the mini-vacation keeps me from missing my Old Life too much.

The key concept in MROL is prioritizing... simple but a valuable reminder anyway.

Amber said...

Well, darn - I had seen that book recommended quite highly from several different blogs so I bought it a few months ago. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but I was looking forward to it... I'll still have to give it a go,but my expectations have been seriously diminished! Perhaps that will make it easier for me to get a few things out of it though, who knows.

One book I like is Confessions of an Organized Homemaker - there's some good stuff in there, and she isn't nearly as over the top as FlyLady.

I've looked at FlyLady a couple times, but I can't get past all the cutsey stuff and the way she assumes everyone is an imbecile who live knee deep in filth.

At this point I have my own system that I really like, and I really should write a blog post about it sometime... of course I've been thinking that for a couple months now so who knows when it will happen!