Tears of frustration streamed down my cheeks. “Homemaking is the thing that defines my entire life, and I’m not even any good at it!”
It was the end of another long day.
As I looked around, all I could see were the toys littered over the floor, the dirty dishes that still weren’t washed, and the mound of rumpled clothes that wasn’t yet folded.
The hateful self-judgment screamed at me, “You’re a loser! You can’t even keep a house clean! Other women with more kids than you keep their houses clean. What is your problem?”
When my husband and I were engaged, one of the questions our pastor asked in pre-marital counseling was “What is your biggest fear as you enter marriage?”
My answer without hesitation was, “Not meeting up to my own expectations.”
I think I’d seen a few too many episodes of Leave it to Beaver. June Cleaver always had an immaculate house, was always dressed beautifully, and had a perpetual smile on her face in spite of Beaver’s mischievous boyhood antics.
Perfection was my ideal, and it was my goal to reach it every single day.
I would do it all. Cleaning, organizing, homeschooling, self-care, preparing healthy meals from scratch – that would be me.
Boy, was I in for a rude awakening!
First of all, four crazy children against one mama is not fair odds. Add to that the other obstacles I have in the way (chronic illness, tiny house, living in an unsafe area where kids cannot go outside unattended, etc.) and expecting perfection is entirely unrealistic.
But I still struggle with setting unrealistic expectations and come down much too hard on myself when I can’t reach them.
Never mind the fact that toys strewn about are the result of disobedient children who did not clean up when told to do so.
And never mind the fact that I spent all my cleaning time teaching, training, and correcting said children.
Never mind the fact that the extra loads of laundry would never need to be washed except for said children “cleaning their room” by dumping piles of clean clothes into the laundry hamper.
Never mind the fact that the dirty dishes had to wait because I was busy bathing a baby with a blow-out diaper.
I was measuring the results of my day by what I could see instead of taking into consideration how I had spent my time, even though the results were not necessarily visible.
I’m completely opposed to laziness and looking out for number one, and I’ll preach hard against it. Sometimes my own pride is what keeps me from successful homemaking.
But there’s a difference between giving ourselves a little kick in the tail when we need to straighten up and beating ourselves over the head because we can’t meet up to impossible expectations.
Even though your homemaking obstacles are most likely different than mine, the truth is that expecting perfection from yourself is also unrealistic.
So next time the voices of self-judgment start whispering in our ear and telling us what a horrible person we are, let’s stop and write down all we have accomplished. The results of our day’s work might not be visible, but we need to recognize what we’ve done lest we get discouraged.
It may be that we:
- Fed hungry mouths
- Gave lots of kisses
- Played outside
- Read books
- Straightened up toys 4,682 times, even though they are out yet again
- Corrected and prayed with a naughty child
Ladies, there are only 24 hours in a day. If we’ve filled up every single one of them with loving our families, why should we tell ourselves we’re a failure?
Success in life isn’t measured by how few pairs of socks have been left un-mated, how few dishes are left in the sink, or how few toys are left out of the toy box.
A clean house will get dirty again. There will always be another chance to work on it.
But I will never have this day again to love my husband and children. I will never have this chance to do what is best for them even though it might not be best for the house.
If I end the day as a failure of a housekeeper, it may just be that it’s because I took the time to be successful at loving people.
And there’s no reason to feel guilty for that.
~ MaryEllen Bream, ImperfectHomemaker
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