An Ode to Tired Mamas Revisited: Desperate Chapter 9



Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid


There once was a sweet mom with children,
Who worked day and night just to serve them,
She cleaned and she cooked
and she taught and she booked,
Till she died of exhaustion and left them.

Ok, ok–it’s not great poetry, but I did think there should be a short dedication to all the moms who have given and given and given, with nary a one to appreciate them!

I got tickled a while ago. I had written the blog about taking Nathan to dedicate him to the Lord after taking him out to lunch and a hike, and then the little story about taking Joy out for her 13th birthday. A sweet mom who read the blog was probably sending a comment to a friend … but accidentally pushed the reply button and sent her email to me which said, “She makes me tired!” (I have done this before, too, much to my horror–meaning to send a comment to Clay and instead sending it to the person who wrote it! Grace and peace–don’t worry!)

We all compare ourselves to others too often and we all come up short on someone’s scale. When you compare yourself, it leads only to pride and causes you to criticize others, or you will have envy and think, wrongly, that others are better than you and wish that your life was different. Comparing never accomplishes anything positive in the long run–and thank goodness, God does not judge us by someone else’s arbitrary standard. (Though we do have so many voices in our heads telling us otherwise.)

But, I do think this task of “ideal” mothering is such a tiring calling and we all put ourselves under so much pressure to be perfect when we have too many sinful children, no support systems, no breaks, no full time maids, and they all want  to eat and wear reasonably clean clothes every day !  And we are responsible for their character, manners, education and spiritual outcome, sense of well-being and happiness! A lot to ask.

If there is one area of family life that takes the breath out of me, it is housework.

The relentlessness of housework is probably my biggest source of stress. I was never taught how to keep house or how to cook or wash clothes or how to organize, or or or.

The work just happened in my home (and my mom did have outside help!) But I just never took notice.

Clay is naturally organized and is much better at organizing the house than I would ever be. I am great at decorating and building ambiance and loving, but all the things that have to be organized and the details of the fridge, the wash, the bills and the toys and the papers–well, you get the picture–these are just too much for me.

But God gave me my personality and He knows my limitations and isn’t biting His nails to see if I am going to be perfect at the task. 

Knowing that He knows my limitations takes a little pressure off. A perfect house, a Martha Stewart standard is not what is expected.

As Joel, my son, once well said when I was in a tizzy over the messy house. “Mom, we will clean the house and it will just get messy again. But when you are sad, we feel guilty, like we have done something wrong. But when you are happy, we feel happy and like we are the greatest family in the world.

So, Mom, lighten up and we will all be ok!”


We moms are giving out at a much faster rate than we are taking in and so depletion and exhaustion are normal.

Add to that, the fact that most of us were never trained. I love the verse in Proverbs that says, “Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean.” I have at least six oxen in my stalls all the time, so my stall is always in different degrees of clean-ness!

So, I will give just a few tips that have helped me. I have learned that my capacity to keep everything going and to create a home that is orderly is much more than I thought. I have learned to work harder and to accomplish more than I ever thought possible. It is like exercising a muscle–eventually you do become stronger. Doing it for so many years over and over again has shown me that I have gotten stronger and more able to do a lot of work.


1. Copy other organized women. I am not natural at this, so I actively take notice of other’s systems and articles that give me practical advice.

2. Have at least one time during the week when you do a basic cleaning. (Bathrooms, vacuum, dust, etc.)

3. Daily, put on up-tempo music and pick up the main areas (with your children all helping) for 15 minutes. It makes going into the evening a little easier if the messes are not all over.

4. When possible, simplify–fruit and homemade bread and cheese or nuts for dinner. Simpler and fewer clothes. Boxes or drawers or bags for everything to go back into at nights, routines daily that teach and give expectation to the kids and you what needs to be accomplished as an anchor to the life of the home.

Another essential is to always make sure your children are involved in all of the tasks, starting when they are little. (I started all of my children around 3 to put the silverware in the silverware basket. It helped them to learn sorting and they actually liked it! This is to give them a self-image or sense of it being a “part of their lives” to help and work hard. My kids have learned to do a lot of work, learning one task at a time, and practicing it over and over again. We had a “team” effect in our house–we are all in this together sort of community–it was an expectation and so we didn’t have to talk about it daily.

I just want to affirm all of you who are hard on yourselves and want to give up—

You are making a difference in this world! Your work is eternal and extremely important! Your little ones don’t know if you are good or efficient at housework, they just want to enjoy that place they live and have a happy mama. 

Don’t give up– ever, ever, ever!

But …

take a break!–schedule it in–every day, for a one-woman cup of tea or coffee and tell yourself, you are good, you are valued, you are precious and you matter a whole lot! Live only in grace and not overwhelmed-ness–even 15 minutes a day of a self-pep-talk and peace can make the whole day work better. (I see the pep talk as taking every thought captive to the truth about you–He loves you and is with you.) A little mama break is as important as getting all the rest done–because you can do it all with a lighter heart and maybe even exercise joy!


Blessings and blessings, oh dear fellow mama civilizer!


What is your most difficult task in housework? What gets you down the most? How can you make a plan to lessen this stress?

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  1. says

    This is such a great post! Of all my housework, my least favorite job is emptying the dishwasher. I would rather clean bathrooms! Last summer, I decided to start washing the dishes by hand after every meal and putting them away. Strangely, this didn’t bother me and in some way I actually enjoyed it. We still use the dishwasher on the weekends, but so far this system has worked well. My seven-year-old daughter is now helping with dishes duty and she sings while doing the dishes, it’s pretty sweet!

  2. Stacey says

    Sally you spoke directly to my heart today. God bless you. What a day!!! We have six darlings under 10, we are homeschooling, have been living in a shed (barn) for four years while we build our own home and my husband has for the past year been receiving treatment for bowel cancer which invovled us all moving 500kms away from home for two months, surgeries and currently chemotherapy. Weary does not begin to describe…. And yet the expectations are still there. Today the kids seemed particularly contrary, the house ever so messy, the dinner too hard and the mumma friends on facebook were all baking and crafting and organising with their superkids. I threatened the children with school and spent a good part of the day in a puddle of tears feeling like a complete failure. And then God gives a stranger words to speak and encourage this tired, tired soul. Thank you!

    • Sally says

      So many difficulties here in the broken place. Praying for you today; that the Lord’s grace would be enough. Breathe deep … eat some chocolate! … keep serving those babies. You are not a failure as long as you continue to love! Bless you.

  3. Erin says

    Sally, I have loved all your posts I’ve read and I so appreciate your support and wisdom for mothers! This post really, really spoke to me because housework is my toughest area, too. I love to be with my kids, cuddle, talk, encourage – but keeping up with the house is like doing complicated word problems for me. I’m learning. I’m becoming less lazy. ( I’m not lazy if I’m doing something I love;) but I do need to be more regular in my habits. Working on it slowly, as God is working on and in me. Anyway, thanks for all you do!!

  4. says

    I would say my biggest stress is organizing as well. We have a very small home and 3 children (4,3 and 8 weeks) and no playroom. Their toys are all in our living room which I love most of the time because we can all be together…except when I hate it because we are ALWAYS together! haha! I need to be more diligent in teaching my older 2 kids that everything has a place and helping them to put things away at the end of each day so I’m not doing it once they’ve gone to bed.

  5. Cindy says

    Sally, this post describes me to a ‘T” and I am so grateful to be in wonderful company. I am always so encouraged by all of your posts, but this one especially spoke right to my heart and reminded me again “that comparing myself/family to others robs me of joy.” Like you always say, my puzzle will look different from someone elses. Also, I keep a printable on my fridge that says” “Creativity is messy and I am very creative.” I struggle with my lack of organization and keeping everything clean, but by God’s grace He has also given me a husband who is so opposite from me who loves to organize and to clean. Good is so good and I am thankful for mentors like you who can relate to spur us on! Love You!

    • Sally says

      Yes! And I think God gives us husbands very different than us for the sake of balance. ;-) Sounds like the two of us have a similar balance. Grateful for my husband’s organizational gifts! Have a wonderful day.

  6. Michelle Clinton says

    Floors!! Once a long time ago I was able to hire some help. She said, “You’re house is pretty clean, but your floors!” We don’t even have a dog….just three very active boys!

    To make myself feel better, I did read once in a party planning book “Don’t stress over scrubbing your floors before the big event. Five minutes after all your guests arrive, no one will be looking at your floors.” Do you think that is true? :)

  7. says

    My mother always worked full time and our home was always clean but cluttered. However, I have such fond memories of spending time with her and that is what matters.

    I’m one of those rare creative people who was born organized but I think it is God’s equalizing chronic illness. :)

  8. Darcey says

    The thing that gets me about house work is that it is never done. Laundry is my most daunting task. I have 4 kids and we are taking care of my mother in law with dementia. She makes at least 2 loads of laundry a day. If the kids clean their room, I get 4 more loads. My plan is to always do at least one load a day. It helps it from getting too out of control. As for the rest, I am hoping I come up with some great ideas soon.

  9. says

    Dearest Sally, you are in many ways my opposite, and the Lord has faithfully used our differences to stretch and grow me. While the housework and organization are naturally easy for me, I have struggled in intentionally bringing true beauty into my home. Praise the Lord for how He uses His people to encourage and sharpen one another! Thanks for your honest words today!

  10. Sarah says

    Sally, Thank you for your life-giving words. You are always a breath of fresh air! So thankful to our Lord for you and Clay and your ministry!

  11. Amber says

    Sally thank you so much for writing these encouranging words!!Finding your blog has been such a blessing in my life!! May God Bless you and your family!!

  12. says

    Oh my goodness! Must the children wear clothes every day? :)
    My mom spent her days playing with me, which meant no near enough cleaning. I am a work in progress as I attempt to train my girls to be keepers of our home (and, eventually, their own homes). I fail daily. With a birthday party tomorrow, I am trying not to turn into an ugly mama today, as I clean things up. I don’t want my girls to resist having guests over, because of my attitude. Thank you!

    • Sally says

      “Must the children wear clothes every day?”
      In most societies, I suppose so! *smile*
      Have a lovely birthday party. You are doing a good work.

  13. says

    Dishes get me the most down because they are never done! ;) Part of what I’ve tried doing, is cleaning up as I cook and trying to clean them/load into dishwasher IMMEDIATELY after every meal…doesn’t happen very often, but I’m trying!

    Great post!!

  14. Jennifer says

    Love your post. For me what overwhelms me the most is laundry. I feel like its a never ending task. We are a family of five so lots of loads!

  15. Melissa McIntyre says

    I am one of those organized types with a clean house most all of the time. And we homeschool our 6 kids! Everyone has reponsibilities around here, so I don’t do it all myself. My struggle is being intentional with each child and not getting wrapped up in what I call ” the business” end of motherhood i.e: cleaning, running the household etc….My most hated chore is DUSTING! I would rather scrub toilets, vacuum, pressure wash the deck…ANYTHING but dust!! :-) It’s not that I have tons of stuff to move around to dust, I just don’t like it. So, if you come over my kitchen will be clean, floors vacuumed, toilets gleamimg…..but it might be a bit dusty! And on that note…I am off to dust… for the first time in 3 1/2 weeks! :-)

    • Sally says

      Isn’t it funny how we all have our differing challenges? It’s so hard to get it all done … at the same time! And if everything’s done, someone’s probably been put off for too long. Grace to you today! And draw a smile in the dust before you wipe it away. It represents time well spent. ;-)

  16. Thia says

    I just had a conversation with my husband where I said I get so caught up in WHAT I do that I forget WHO I do it for. There’s a constant voice of “hurry” in my ear.

  17. Elliejoy says

    I am so so thankful to God for you. You have encouraged me, inspired me and challenged me .
    I hate house work – hate it. I love our four children, love reading stories, taking them to the park, snuggling with them….but it is amazing how little of that I do compare to all the repetitive cleaning. My husband really likes a clean an orderly home, and cleaning the house is a way of showing him love. I am always praying that I will get more efficient at it for his sake. He helps me out a lot, and thank god I have too come a long way in the 8 years of marriage. Night time finds me hanging up clothes, folding clothes, sweeping floors, loading dish washer, scrubbing our dinner table and sometime if really needed cleaning the toilet…which to my dismay can easily be every day with four kids under seven, and scrubbing soiled underwear…potty training has been rough with one of my sweet children. Anyway …..what I am really terrible at is finding time to do those much needed projects…organize closets, draws, with homeschooling cooking from scratch on a frugal budget I just yea…don’t open closet doors….or come to my house and expect it to be clean at 3:00 in the afternoon. Thank you for your encouraging words. One thing that god is challenging me to do is interceded for my kids while I clean or my husband, or just sing to him….so hard to do. On hard days ( every day almost) you will find me saying I can do all things with Jesus who gives me strength, and I personalize it too I can use a gentle voice, cook supper, get my kids to help around the house , be submissive to my husband, be patient with Jesus who gives me strenth!!! Because alone frankly I am a mess and so is my house and marriage, but he turns my weaknesses into strength and is doing a new thing in this tired momma. He is bringing me joy.

  18. Myriah Christine says

    I was most touched by the mention of what your son said: “…when you are sad, we feel guilty, like we have done something wrong. But when you are happy, we feel happy.”
    It’s so important to keep a good attitude. I realized years ago that I was such a grumbler about housework that I was giving my children the feeling that I hated my job! When I reminded myself that I do these things for love of family, it all became much easier.
    Thanks you for the encouragement.

  19. Jaime says

    I appreciate your words. It is easy to compare myself to others and become discouraged. But I know this isn’t what the Lord would have me do. Thank you for encouraging me in the race!

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