Balancing Holidays and Home Chores

When your free time at home is very limited because of work obligations, and you want to spend time with family on holidays or weekends, what wins out? Home chores or celebrating? Tackling that messy garage or going to the mountains for a hike or lake for a swim and picnic on a gorgeous summer holiday?

But guess what: life has always been busy and there has always been this conflict.

Like many North Americans celebrating either Dominion Day on July 1 or Independence Day on July 4 (and this year many of us in the U.S. end up having a nice long weekend), I’m faced with the urge to knock out all kinds of chores on summer holidays. Cleaning windows, whipping the garden into shape, washing/waxing/vacuuming the car, cleaning flowerbeds—not to mention the various projects my husband has waiting for him for which I will likely be enlisted as major helper. He’s been working a lot of overtime, which is basically a good thing, except for not having time or energy to tackle things in downtime on evenings or a half day on Saturday.

Now that we are grandparents, on holidays we also want to indulge in weekends of baby time as often as possible. Already, our two grandson’s “early infancy days” seem long behind them and they are advancing to scooting and crawling, first teeth, and noises that sound like “da da.” While we want and need to stay connected with these cherubs and even enjoy helping the kids out with their bigger handyman chores, traveling any distance at all means you arrive back home pretty much exhausted and with nothing completed on your own chore list. Instead, you have a huge laundry and more stuff to put away.

But guess what: life has always been busy and there has always been this conflict.

When I was growing up we were knee deep in work when summer holidays rolled around. There was corn to cultivate, wheat or hay to bale, chicken houses to clean, the garden, helping with canning and freezing of fruits and vegetables, plus normal every day chores like gathering eggs. Yet Dad would make a real effort to include some fun on a holiday like July 4.

For many years our church had a community potluck on the grounds of a local Christian high school with fun softball games pitting girls against moms, and sons against dads, kids waving sparklers, and ice cream (kept cold with dry ice, always a marvel for us kids) and watermelon. So if we spent the morning at home working, Dad would knock off by 11ish so we could rush to the church picnic.

Mom’s birthday on July 30 was always like an extra summer holiday. We tried to make it special because it was the only summer birthday in our family. In Indiana, sometimes we would go to the dunes of Lake Michigan. Or, Dad would make sure that if there were farm chores we just had to do in the morning, we would go to a nearby lake for an afternoon swim and evening picnic. Lakes were plentiful in northern Indiana/lower Michigan. On the rare occasion when he truly felt he couldn’t get away from field work, he would tell Mom to take us kids to the lake for the afternoon. We also were blessed to have a log cabin (Dad built) and pond in one pasture field where we could retreat on Saturday night if all else failed.

Today most people’s idea of a holiday weekend is not a half day spent at a local lake—it’s gotta be a cruise, amusement park, or beach getaway. But as anyone with kids has learned, sometimes the best entertainment can be very cheap and the backyard variety: a fire pit where you can roast marshmallows and make s’mores, a hose or sprinkler to run through, or even just a trip to the nearest country or convenience store for ice cream or other frozen treats. Many times we worked late in the garden on summer evenings, we bribed ourselves and our kids with the promise of just such a treat.

Taking time to enjoy friends and family is for most of us a higher priority than having the neatest house and yard on the block. Yet there is, as with so many things in life, a need for balance—getting work done as well as going to that first birthday party, that wedding, that memorial service or funeral.

I hope you have or have had grand summer holidays and remember: celebrating doesn’t always have to happen on the day. Make time now for family and I’m pretty sure of one thing: the work will either somehow get done, or maybe it won’t matter in another week. I know it won’t matter in a couple of decades, or facing Peter at the pearly gates!

F or a free copy of the booklet, “Struggling to Balance Work and Family,” write to me at, or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

Posted 7/3/2014 7:00:00 AM

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