Monday, July 11, 2011

Preparation



What will your future be?

Do you have plans for your future?

This is the question asked to many high-school graduates. The idea is to get them into college. "Uncertain about which direction to take for your "future?" come spend 4 years and a tens of thousands of dollars with us!

"Shouldn't I have some plan for the future, just in case something disastrous happens? Should I have a back-up plan?"
Yes! 
You should prepare for the future!
You should have a back up plan!

When you are single is the time to prepare for the future-- get your back up plan* laid out and ready, get your preparations done now for the future. 
In a young girl's dreams, the future is rosy. Prince charming comes, she marries him and lives happily ever after. Maybe they even have maids to do the housework! There are no such things in our castles of the air as bills, lean times, sickness or exhaustion. There are not even interruptions. Thus we are often not prepared for the things life throws at us, even in our imagination. 

There are numerous difficulties that may come to a wife and mother in her lifetime, that she labels "disasters," which may not be as bad as real disasters (like tsunamis). Everything from severe illness, times without income, frequent moves, to lonely days, late (or burnt) dinners and crying babies will be called "disasters."
When I was younger, a daughter at home, I thought I was prepared for the future. I had a big trunk in which I put away dishes, cookbooks, a few small quilts and other household items in, and called it my "hope chest." I found treasures in antique shops and furniture in thrift stores that I hoped to take to my future home. I knew how to cook and bake, and sew.

Now I'm wondering if I perhaps needed a second or third "hope chest" for the times to come; one for baby things, definitely!
 The best preparation time for the future is as a single girl at home with her own family. Here are some ideas that I wish I had known, and some that I was glad to know already, as young women preparing for the future. There are more things mothers and grandmothers could add to this list, I am sure!

BE PRACTICALLY PREPARED IN THE DOMESTIC ARTS AND SCIENCES

Outside the Cottage



Outside the Cottage
Strachan, Arthur...

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There are some things you learn along the way in life, of course, but I wish I had come into my new home with a few more memorized recipes in my repertoire, and ideas for quick (15-20 minute prep) meals that were also healthy. Knowing good food combinations for those back-of-the-pantry-shelves end-of-the-month dinners that need to be stretched is another skill that would be useful to tuck away for the future. I am glad to know how to make my own sauces and salad dressings, many times a sauce really makes a humble meal shine.

A girl needs to know how to double and triple recipes for a big family, or half a recipe for just two, quickly and without having to take time out to hunt up references.

Learn to stock a pantry well enough to minimize long grocery trips, what to do during lonely times or sick times, how to decorate a home and the principles of interior arrangement, some basic gardening, yard and home maintenance (on larger scales than just the small one room decor or tiny garden plot one has as a girl).

The Apple Gatherers, 1880



The Apple Gatherers, 1880
Morgan, Frederick

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With the world going crazy in dangerous experiments with food and medicines, a wise girl will know how to grow a garden and educate herself on health issues. 

Becoming a master at organization is wonderful preparation for the future! That is something that many struggle with and when you add a growing family, it becomes vital to a smooth working household. If you do not know how to organize, you will be continually sunk. 

Know how to do things so that you need not be dependent upon services. Knowing how to cut hair, for instance, is helpful when trips to the hairdresser may be squeezed out of the budget.

Ideally, a girl should be able to completely take over the housework and cooking for her mother and family by the time she is married.

Home Sweet Home by Walter Dendy Sadler
Learn some skills that will make your house seem "homey." Many girls learn to play an instrument-- try to memorize some pieces so that you can snatch a few minutes to fill the house with music. Or be the lilting bird of the house and sing while you work. Find some item to cook or bake that is your specialty, and fill the house with wonderful scents. Learn to grow flowers and fill the house with beauty. 

PREPARE YOUR MIND FOR THE FUTURE

Good Mornin', Baby

Learn hymns and lullabies to sing a baby to sleep, know how to teach a toddler a Bible lesson, know how to teach a neighbor the Gospel, and know how to be careful and moderate in all you do so as not to neglect your family, for needs that will arise. 

A library full of books, even for homeschool, will come in handy someday. I save my old books because I know that someone in the house will need to look up the book as a reference, or may be interested in the subject 10 years from now. 
Read widely! There is not a lot of time for reading when you start to share your life with others. Don't waste time on trashy novels- read books with good morals and strong characters that will be worth keeping. 

Write letters! Now is the time to cultivate friendships with your grandparents and friends that are far away. Later on there may only be time for a card on their birthdays. 

BE PREPARED FINANCIALLY FOR THE 'EXTRAS'

Afternoon Tea, c.1914



Afternoon Tea, c.1914
Fischer, Paul

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A girl need not sew to be prepared for the needs of clothing and home linens. A savings account with money put by for the future is a wise idea. There are many times after marriage when something is needed, perhaps a need that cannot be foreseen, and the family budget has no stretching room. A girl can dip into her personal savings and buy that new stroller, or crib mattress, sheets and comforter for the bed, or a kitchen appliance. 

There are always the things that one doesn't really NEED (as in life depends on it), but would be nice to have around to make cooking or cleaning easier, or help out in other areas. Special kitchen tools and gadgets, a good quality sewing machine, a vacuum that works better, a set of luggage, or items for hospitality & events are some examples. Sometimes there are lean times when these things cannot be purchased, and if funds were saved up they could be used judiciously for these items. 



Learn to make a budget and stick to it; learn ways to be frugal and save money so that you can keep adding to your savings account.

BE PREPARED FOR CHILDBIRTH
It would not have occurred to me to think about nursing clothes as a girl in her late teens. Not to wear at that time, of course, but for the future. What teenager in her right mind would want think about that? Yet, after marriage, possibly being sick for 9 months with pregnancy, and then adjusting to the new baby, interrupted sleep, increased laundry and such, a new nursing mother may quickly find out that she has nothing to wear! Some new mothers are not even aware that there are special clothing items for nursing. If I could have seen into the future, I would have at least bought the patterns and maybe even some fabric so I could have them on hand, in my trunk.

(Speaking of fabric, have you ever lived in a place with NO fabric store? It could happen to you! Build up a stash of fabric and notions!)
All the grand plans for sewing cute rompers and dresses for the baby go out the window once you have a baby-- for some it takes a while to get back into a regular schedule, and there may not be a lot of leisure time for the fine sewing. It would be nice to have a few wonderful little outfits prepared in the hope chest for a baby. 

Even building up health and strength for the time to come is preparation for the future. A teen-aged girl needs to make sure she is getting adequate nutrients and not eating junk food and drinking pop, and getting adequate rest (not staying up late to party or driving the car around to hang out with friends) to prepare her body for that time when she needs nutrition and stamina in childbearing years. 





Life may not always turn out the way you planned it! A girl may grow up to marry a fellow whose work takes them on many moves. She needs to know how to pack and move quickly, and then to unpack and make the new house seem like home. Her homey ways and touches can mean so much to the family. 

A couple may start out in a small space, and a girl needs to know how to be flexible and not be depressed if she ends up in a less-than-grand house. 
One learns with a family the value of knowing how to be spontaneous, gracefully. Learn how to throw a picnic together for the times when hubby comes home from work and suddenly says "let's drive to the beach!" Or to take a dull day to a memorable one by having some treat in store for the children.



Learn to have a gracious attitude so that when your projects are interrupted by a toddler wanting to be rocked and read to, you can do it with love. 


There may be times when sudden company or spontaneous ideas throw your whole schedule out the window. Or maybe all the children discover mud puddles and make an extra big load of laundry on a day when you were planning on some other task. Learning to adapt gracefully is a great skill!

(It also does not hurt to know some super-quick housecleaning routines for the event of the aforementioned unexpected company!)

PREPARE YOUR CHARACTER FOR THE FUTURE
Learning diligence in daily tasks should mastered when one is young. Learn how to avoid being sidetracked, and to stick to a project and see it through to the end are as much character traits as they are practical ones. If you find that you have a lot of un-finished projects, or that your mother is finishing your projects for you, determine to stick with it until it is done yourself. 

Learn how to manage time wisely, to look around and find a need and fill it, whether cleaning up a mess or jumping in to help a family member.

The Gossips, 1887



The Gossips, 1887
Epp, Rudolf

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Listen to your parents when they tell you what kind of person can waste your time and what kind of troubles to avoid. Tuck away their wisdom gleaned from their life experiences-- so you can minimize mistakes in yours. You don't have to "learn for yourself" or "sow your wild oats." Use your time more wisely in preparing yourself for the future.

Bible memory is so important-- there will be times when anxious thoughts arise and must be replaced with passages from the Bible, or there may be times when you need some quick advice from the scripture, but a Bible or a concordance is not handy. If you don't have it memorized, it can't help you.

It is hard to develop patience, and it is something to work on no matter how old we are! Here is a little poem taught to me when I was young:
Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace;
Put both together
Makes a very pretty face.

(Just today I realized that the laundry will never, ever be done. It isn't like a project that you complete and put on the shelf as "finished." Ditto for the dishes. It is hard to have a patient spirit with these chores sometimes!)
Learn how to control your emotions and do your work through anxiety so that when disaster strikes, fear will not strike your soul and body numb. Add Fortitude to your character; try not to fold during an emergency. One new mother I know, for instance,  got a morning phone call with horrible news, and it rendered her almost immobile. It took a while to rouse herself up and take care of her toddler that morning. Whether it is bad news, hurt feelings, or some other thing that causes great worry, a girl should learn to keep in mind the others that still need her during these times. 

Girls are often accused of being "moody" and the teenage years are a good time to practice self-control in case of a future emergency. It is a time to learn that life is part good and part bad, and may not always go smoothly. It is difficult to predict when anxiety and upset may come, but one can weather it better with a strong foundation of self-control already laid. 


News from Sebastapol



News from Sebastapol
Cope, Charles...

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And in the event of a true disasters-- wars, losses and tragedies-- it is most important that your character already be equipped with good traits, to help carry you through and to help others through, too.

There are so many more ideas, but these may help you get started thinking and planning. Be prepared for the future! Be far-sighted and try to see what you need to become and what you need to set aside for your future!



Recommended reading (for ages 7 up to marriage) and Encouragement for stay-at-home-daughters:

Beautiful Girlhood  (google e-book)
Mom's articles (she allows her articles to be printed out for homemaker's notebooks, which if you started one would be a great resource!)
So Much More by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin
The Pleasant Times  articles section (and while you are here already, please look around at the other columns!)


*Definition of a Back Up Plan: "Back up God's plan with action, by learning to be a good wife, homemaker and mother in the most difficult times." -Mrs. Sherman
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