For the Mama Who Never Finishes the Work

I’ve been a mama for over seven years now and each time we’ve added a baby it’s added a lot of work. Laundry, middle of the night feedings, more food, more discipline. All the good stuff lives on work.

I have just tackled the added work and went with like a machine. Not only did I do this but I felt like I had to. That’s what good women do. Good women have a clean house; they have perfectly-behaved, beautifully-dressed kids; they cook organic, from scratch dinners, etc, etc, etc, with all the cultural standards (bonus points if you’ve been taught they are Biblical as well) for mamas.

At some point you think I would figure it out. But honestly, I like taking care of my family and occasionally I’m a slow learner.

Then I started coaching ball last year and toned down a lot. There was regularly laundry waiting to be folded. We ate in the van frequently. I constantly tried to juggle cleaning and doing school. Then we had another baby and summer happened and I’ve been forced to slow down.

We’ve survived. Even when we’re behind on the laundry, or eating takeout, or ignoring the dirty living room rug.

It’s not because I like that. I’ve dreamed of opening a bed and breakfast since I was a teenager. (Yes. I know that’s strange but have you met me?) I love a clean, happy place to live. And I do want to pursue excellence in whatever God puts before me. But we have two kids I’m homeschooling, a toddler, and a four month old. My husband works and teaches. He started taking Ph.D. classes again (GET IT, BABE) and ball has started up for both of our teams.

People ask me how on earth I write here and do the podcast. And they give me too much credit when they do. It’s self-preservation at this point. I couldn’t start this stuff in this season but since I’m already doing it, it’s an amazing change of pace from my normal. I force myself to sit for almost an hour and a half during quiet time/naptime and write or edit podcasts or letter something instead of cleaning or laundry or fill-in-the-blank with what makes this place run.

I am much better at giving this grace to other people than I am to myself. But I’m working on that. Some people need “get up and get to it” speeches. I need “calm yourself down here” speeches. Maybe you do too. So here’s what I would tell you, mama, that has too much to do to keep your life up to your own standards.

You’re just one person.

Seriously. It doesn’t matter if you have one kid or four, you are still just one person. You can’t expect yourself to do the work of three. And if you’re pregnant, really, it only counts half because being pregnant is exhausting. Your expectations of yourself is where it all starts. You are not infinite like God. You don’t have all strength. You can’t spin the world. That’s God’s job.

Your work is not your worth.

God doesn’t love you more if your house is cleaner.  Or if all the laundry is folded neatly in thirds and stacked in drawers. I love those things and you might too but is that what you want to be known for when you die? Your kids aren’t measuring the dust behind the couch. You aren’t loving your family better exhausting yourself. No one is handing out gold stars for any of this stuff. (Actually I haven’t found any gold stars and I think we should change that.)

Find your priorities.

Right now our major one is school. Doing school with our two older boys is the priority of our daily work. Next is food. Then laundry. And then cleaning. That’s the order of the house stuff. Cleaning is at the tail end because we can live with dust on the piano. We can have a cleaning session for an hour over the weekend when Justin is home and whip it into shape pretty well. What matters most? The people matter most. That’s why I coach volleyball instead of keeping every piece of our laundry folded.

Maybe get help.

We’ve done this recently and we’ve debated making it a permanent thing. If I add up the list of what I do during the day (including non-home stuff like the blog and volleyball) it’s literally impossible for me to finish it. There’s nothing wrong with getting help if you can afford it, or swapping services with someone. Definitely teach those kids to help.

Get used to seeing things not done.

Honestly, it’s my pride that makes me think I can do everything. And it’s outside standards that make me think I need to do everything. In my heart, I know that God isn’t standing over me with a checklist. He knows it’s impossible for me to do it all. He’s the only One that finished His work. Mine will always be there.

I don’t mean stop trying to take care of your family. I am asking you to quit trying to save your world. Love Jesus, love your people, do the part of the work that He’s made yours today. And maybe make yourself a chart and celebrate with a few gold stars like I did in first grade.