Life without carrots would be horrifically boring. I'm not saying that because I have rabbit-like tendencies (though I do love my veggies). A "carrot" is another term used to describe a reward or reason for working. Perhaps I am secretly a very un-motivated person, because my life is filled with prizes I use to keep myself moving forward.
Rewards are essential for the stay-at-home life. We usually don't have many people around us telling us we have done a good job. Nor do we have clock-out times or commute time to decompress. We are our own bosses, more or less. Though supportive husbands, appreciative children, and loving friends & family keep us strong, we also are in charge of encouraging ourselves.
You don't have anybody but yourself watching what you do or what you accomplish. I know how frustrating that is. By 9am you might have the house immaculate with happy children who have read books and did art. But by 5:30pm when your spouse comes home the floor is littered with chaos and grungy grumpy children answer the door. Nobody but you knows you spent the day cleaning, teaching, caring, cooking, and organizing. But YOU know. And more than likely whether or not you rewarded yourself with 10 minutes of crosswords puzzles or a iced tea as you chatted with a friend, the 5:30pm result would be the same. The only difference is you--an emotionally healthy human being who feels appreciated and successful. Your spouse wants that person to meet him/her at the door and your kids what that person putting them to bed, not the frazzled, angry, human who didn't get a break today and desperately needed one.
I have not kept a job outside of the home for over five years. At first it was difficult for me. As a teacher I always had the drive of deadlines and learning goals to keep me focused and active. When that was gone I was stuck in a weird cycle of working-too-much and not-hardly-working at all. I had no balance. And balance, no matter where or for whom you work, is key.
If you are a stay-at-home body (parent, stay-at-home job, retired, etc) I recommend trying a reward system of your own. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but it can help you keep your drive and enthusiasm for each day. Plus, who wouldn't want a world in which you get to pick your own goals and prizes?
Just today I have lined up the following rewards:
A serving of jelly belly jelly beans if I exercise and eat healthy today.
Micaela's entire nap full of writing for me if I finish the house chores.
A walk outside as soon as I finish the laundry.
Uninterrupted audio book and drawing time after the girls have gone to bed.
As you can see, each prize is designed around my own interests and personality. I also use a good movie, reading, social networking (but I have to give myself a time limit or I will fall into that black hole of Facebook and Pinterest forever), and baking as prizes to keep myself motivated.
Sound fun? It is.
This is very simple.
1. Make a list of things you enjoy, both big and small.
2. Think about how you could break up your day with short rests & rewards. Think of bigger rewards for weekly or end-of-day prizes.
3. Assign appropriate incentives for chores, errands, etc. that allows for a balance of both productivity and rest.
4. Get started and enjoy.
My carrot system also eases a lot guilty feelings for me. I think "I can sit down and enjoy a chapter of my novel. I just finished all the cleaning chores of the day. I can work on the bills in a moment. I earned this." instead of saying, "Oh, my goodness. It is already 11am and I haven't even started doing paperwork. Guess I will keep going." Because though I can keep going, by the end of the day I am not looking forward to tomorrow at all except that there will be another pot of coffee to drink.
Most of all, your reward system has the potential to make you even more productive.
1. It motivates you. There is always going to days when you don't feel like doing this all over again or you want to procrastinate important jobs that need doing. A reward will get you going and give you something to look forward to.
2. It keeps you focused. Multitasking has been proved over and over to be less productive than focusing on one thing at a time. If you concentrate on doing one thing so you can get to your prize you will find that you get more done in less time.
3. It reminds you of your successes. You do a lot of thankless jobs. Not that nobody appreciates them, simply no one is around to see your hard work. But you can remind yourself to feel satisfied in your own accomplishments.
Take care of yourself. Recognize your worth, your uniqueness, and all the things you do for your home and family. You deserve to be cared for and if you care about your family, then you should be taking extra-awesome care of your family's chef, housekeeper, child-care provider, smile-maker, and encourager.
May your day be fun and full of carrots.
And may it be a very blessed day.
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