"As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind passes over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer." Psalm 103:15-16
I wasn't planning on writing today, but some posts just write themselves. I was struck by both bloggers and their views on the things that can hinder your feelings of well-being and serenity. One was written as a way to encourage moms who can't keep up with their housework, the other written by an overwhelmed mom who feels that she can't keep up with anything. I remember those feelings well- having several small children at home, potty training one while changing diapers on another, feeling like I am two steps behind while cleaning. I thought I had the "mom" thing figured out until my youngest came along. My first two children were easy, happy, compliant babies. My third cried for his entire first year, refused to sleep or be held by anyone but me, and then started running at age 10 months and never stopped. He was a difficult, strong-willed toddler compared to my other two, and so often I felt like a failure. I couldn't make him behave, I couldn't keep up with the mess and chaos, I couldn't NOT yell, and I couldn't get out from under those feelings of guilt and shame. Why can other moms do this? How do they make it look so easy? How can people keep their houses clean and laundry done and still have time to engage in crafts and story after story without reverting to the tv to achieve anything that could at the end of the day resemble productivity? To this day I still feel a little rise of indignation at people who claim to have all of the answers about keeping your house clean or never yelling at your kids and managing to do it while feeling blessed and joyful.
I wish I could say that I have a magic answer about how to do it all. I don't. The only thing that brought me any peace was realizing that the picture in my head of what life was supposed to look like was wrong. This is what life looked like for ME. And that's okay. I was in a season of life where my house was going to be messy and my ministry to my family was less housekeeping and more child-rearing. I took steps to help control the chaos- I dedicated one day of the week to cleaning and the rest to maintenance, I invited people over to spur me into more of a cleaning mode, I DID utilize the tv to give me a chance to catch up on laundry- but the thing that helped the most was realizing that the guilt and shame I was heaping upon myself was doing so much more harm than good.There were days when I literally pictured myself using a garden rake to scrape up the mess from all over the house into one big pile. Some days I envisioned just burning the whole thing down and starting over. Some days I would feel satisfied because you could look around the house and physically measure my productivity, and other days I would be exhausted and still feel like I had accomplished nothing. But then... I decided just to get over it. Life is messy. Children are messy. Intentional parenting is messy. It is easy to measure our productivity by what we can SEE, but the things that will truly tell how productive our years were as moms of young kids won't appear until much later. Measuring our worth by our perceived productivity is futile and depressing. Once we stop comparing our lives to other people's Facebook feeds and perfect blog pictures, once we stop idealizing motherhood and accepting the reality of what it looks like for us, it becomes easier to bloom where we are planted.
Now I have three children who are gone for most of the day. My house is clean, I have a routine. The chaos of toddlers and babies has been replaced with a new kind of chaos- homework and sports and friends and heartbreaks. My kids fold their own laundry and deal with dirty dishes, but I worry about bullying and test scores and dread the onset of puberty. I'm in a different season of life, with new joys and struggles. Looking back at those 8 years I spent in the throes of parenting small children, it seems like it went by so very quickly. I know that this season will go quickly as well. Sometimes it is hard not to miss the bloom for the effort it takes to make it grow.
Most flowers only bloom during certain seasons of the year. Some flowers flourish in rocky soil while others would simply perish. Rainfall, temperature, sunlight- flowers depend on all of these things to bloom and grow... but not in the same amounts. It does us no good to covet someone else's season, someone else's soil, someone else's rain. Just as God has placed flowers in the ideal location for perfect blooms, He has placed us in THIS season, THIS soil, with THIS rain because it is the best place for us. Seasons are short-lived and blooms fade- but there is something new and beautiful in each new season. Embrace your season of life, in all of its hardships and joys. Realize that it is JUST a season. Your bloom doesn't look like someone else's bloom, but it is beautiful. Your soil might be rocky, but it is exactly what you need to make you the woman and mom you need to be. It might be a hard day or a hard week, but ultimately the things that you feel guilty about now won't even be a memory. I don't believe in the "enjoy every moment" philosophy because there are a lot of things that just aren't pleasant- but don't miss the beauty by focusing on the barren. You aren't a failure because your house is a mess and your kids won't stop fighting. You aren't a failure because you can't keep up. Stop trying to keep up and start enjoying where you are. That mountain of laundry will slowly disappear, only to be replaced by new mountains- but this season, this time with your beautiful children... well, it is fleeting. Having a clean house is a great thing, but having happy, healthy children is better. Seeing your living room floor is fantastic, but seeing your children learn and grow is more important. Feeling like you've accomplished something at the end of the day is a very nice feeling, but it means nothing if your children have a stressed-out, exhausted mom. If you can do both and keep a sincere smile on your face, more power to you. If you can only manage one at a time, pick the kids. A clean house is nice, but a contented mom makes for a happy home.
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