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!
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?