Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Would they miss the kind of mom I was today?

I'm reading a fantastic book called Momnipotent by Danielle Bean.  In chapter 7, Danielle talks about the natural strength us women have to multitask.  On the flipside, she says, the quality of our work and our relationships suffer when we try to multitask too much.  

Now that we're fully into the thick of the school year, I'm feeling the temptation to multitask almost constantly throughout the day.  While it's sometimes necessary to multitask to get the things done that need to get done, more often than not I'm usually unnecessarily overburdening myself.  As Danielle wrote, I don't give myself "permission to do one thing at a time."  

Doing only one thing at a time can feel lazy or self-indulgent.  The Devil likes to whisper to me (usually when I'm scrubbing the bathroom floor), "All of this work you're doing around the house is so beneath you.  You might as well be getting as much of it done as quickly as possible so that you can get on to doing bigger, more important things."

Next time that happens, I need to remember Danielle's response to the Devil:  
"If you have trouble just 'doing what you are doing,' ask yourself, in moments where you are tempted to distraction, 'Does my vocation require that I be (fill in the blank here) right now?'   
No matter how small the task, if the answer to that question is yes, then it is enough.  There, in that moment, you are giving 100 percent of yourself to the work God calls you to, and you do not need to be thinking about or doing anything else.   
Repeat after me: 'This is enough.  I am busy enough.  I am doing enough.'"   
One one hand, there's much to be said for an efficient mama who works "smart, not hard."  For example, waiting for the clothes washer to fill with water is a perfect time to sort laundry, pre-treat stains, or turn on the iron.    

On the other hand, there's much to be said for laser like focus on the task at hand.  When was the last time you allowed yourself to just fold laundry in silence?  What about the last time you enjoyed your deck as you read a great book?    

It's a blessing that we have all of these gadgets and gizmos to make housework so efficient, but we feel miserable and worn out when we think we're not doing, doing, doing 'round the clock.  I sometimes envy the women of my great grandmother's generation.  While their work was hard and back-breaking, they didn't expect themselves to do it all in one day--the cooking, the baking, the cleaning, the laundering...In fact, I have some dish towels from my grandmother with a day of the week and a household task on each of them.  Aren't they adorable?

"Wash on Monday, Rest on Sunday, Bake on Saturday"
It makes me think of a blog Simcha Fisher wrote a few years ago.  She wrote about how she decided to give up electricity one night a week during Lent.  It sounded like a silly idea until I considered the implications.  Can you imagine an entire evening after sunset (which is pretty early around these parts during Lent!) without electricity?  I'm sure it would feel like an imposition at first since I couldn't get all of the nagging things I had left to get done.  A few weeks into the practice, I'm sure it would feel so deliciously simple!  Imagine spending the evening in candlelight, soaking in the family prayer time, the bedtime stories, the glasses of wine with your husband on the couch.  Maybe that's what our next at-home date night will be--Lights Out Night.  

Danielle's quote from the ever-wise and holy Father Benedict Groeschel's The Virtue Driven Life really hit home:
"Enjoy what's going on while it's going on.  If you go to the supermarket, enjoy it.  Don't make it drudgery.  Talk to the cashier.  Speak to the people at the fruit counter.  Chat with a neighbor.  Try to get to know people, get them to talk to you, and make your passage through life pleasurable...Slow down.  Smell the flowers as you go by, and then you won't need too much of this world's goods.  Enjoy your work and you won't need too much time off.  Enjoy being at home and you won't have to go away so much.  Many people are intemperate because they are miserable and suffering.  Their life is a big long misery, so they decide to brighten it up with mountains of potato chips.  They're addicted to potato chips or sweets or even beer.  Look at your own intemperateness and see if unhappiness is causing it." 

I need to stop feeling guilty for taking time to sit still, savoring time with my family, or "just" doing one thing at a time.  "In other words," as Danielle writes, "age quod agis.  Do what you are doing.  No excuses.  Start now."  

I liked that line so much that I scribbled it on a notepad, tore out the page, and have left it out on the kitchen counter ever since
There's still plenty to get done around here, but I'm working hard to view the work through a new lens.  When I follow St. Thérèse's example of doing "small things with great love," God sanctifies my day and makes me more productive--even when I'm "just" doing one thing at a time.  Starting my day with prayer, especially that powerful Morning Offering with its line about offering "all of my prayers, joys, works, and sufferings" of the day" for the intentions of Jesus' Sacred Heart, gives my work all of the purpose it needs.  Heck, even scrubbing toilets can be good for my soul!  

Perhaps my favorite thing about my new perspective is my attitude toward all of the stuff I don't get done each day.  I'm spending more time with the kids and Philip lately, so there's usually plenty left on the "to do" list when I go to bed.  That used to stress me out, but I've accepted that it's just part of this gig.  The work never ends.  There will always be phone calls to make, errands to run, laundry to wash (and fold, dry, iron...), meals to make, blah, blah, blah.  After reading this section from Momipotent, I'm  learning to be at peace with having plenty left on the to-do list.    

It took Danielle's tough love in this chapter to wake me up.  "If you died tomorrow, your family would miss you, not the sparkling toilet bowls."  While I enjoy keeping a reasonably clean and efficient home, but it's not what I want my kids to remember if I die tomorrow.  The test of a good day is the answer to these questions:  If I die tomorrow, would the kids miss the kind of mom I was today?  Did I give priority to the to-do list or their souls?  

Lord, please don't let me squander the gift of my family and this time I have with them.  Help me to be wise, remembering what work will have eternal rewards and what will become dust.         

1 comment:

  1. Wow - "the test of a good day" touched my heart tonight and it was exactly what my heart needed. Thank you for sharing! ��