I don’t have the messiest family, but we aren’t exactly perfect either. For one thing, Jonas isn’t old enough to make his own messes yet (savoring these last few weeks before he starts to go mobile). And my husband isn’t messy, but he does like to see everything he uses on a daily basis, which means there are little piles here and there–neatly organized piles, but still piles. And since I am always writing and journaling, I constantly have a parade of pens, paper, and books following me from room to room.
During the first year of marriage, the piles used to really bother me. Every day hubby would come home and unload his pockets and line all his possessions up on the kitchen counter–wallet, chapstick, eye drops, pocket knife, keys… how can one man carry so many things in his pockets without his pants falling down!? I would cut my eyes at him in disapproval. After a couple of weeks I thought I had found a solution when I brought in a wooden box where he could neatly line his things up as usual but where I could close a lid and not look at them. Boy was I wrong! Some couples have passive aggressive feuds for years over socks not going in the hamper or over the toilet paper coming off the roll the right way–ours was over a wooden box. No one ever said anything about the box, but we both knew the other was secretly harboring resentment over it.
Fast forward two years and the box still sits in the entry way, but its original purpose has long been discontinued. It holds a few of my husband’s less used odds and ends, but generally serves for decoration. I’ve learned to let the pile be and be glad to have a husband to leave a pile.
If I wasn’t totally over it before bringing a baby into the mix, I am really over it now. Can I get an amen from all the moms out there?
If you are still struggling with resentment as you tidy up after your family, here are a few ways I reshaped my thinking and learned to keep house with a cheerful heart.
1. Work as unto the Lord. One of the “affirmations” I say to myself every morning is derived from Colossians 3:23. The verse reads,
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…
I personalized it to make it more actionable for myself so that it reads:
Whatever [I] do, [I] work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…
This one habit has made all the difference in changing my attitude as I corral the every day messes. I try to imagine that I am tidying up for a visit from the Lord himself and if I don’t get around to getting everything cleaned up, it is because there was something more pressing or more important that needed my attention and He would understand that. Which brings me to my second point!
2. Be at peace with an imperfect space. It took me all the way up until we had Jonas to really accept my space being imperfect. In the past it would really bother me if things weren’t how I wanted them or if my husband wouldn’t return things to their place, even to the point of depressing me. When I finally decided to be happy despite my surroundings, I was able to get more done because I didn’t feel debilitated by my dissatisfaction. I also learned to get over being a perfectionist and started letting myself work to the best of my ability without being so hard on myself.
3. Learn a few shortcuts. When you have kids, it always pays to be as efficient as possible. Take advantage of nap times, group like tasks together when you are working, keep a few frozen things on hand for quick dinners on stressful days. I recently discovered I could cut the time I spent on laundry in half by hanging my clothes outside to dry instead of over night inside. I also recently adopted the principle of “don’t pass it up.” Any time I leave a room, I quickly glance around to see if there’s anything that doesn’t belong there and take it with me as I go. Even if all I do is drop a dirty onesie in the hamper as I walk by the laundry room, it’s one more thing in its proper place. Little shortcuts like these can really begin to make a difference as they add up.
4. Reward yourself. One thing I’ve learned from my husband is that it’s okay to reward yourself. Sometimes after a long day’s work he will catch up with his friends on Xbox live over a game of COD. For a long time I was under the impression that in order to be a wife (and later a mother), I had to give up doing all the things I enjoy. I dragged along and moped until one day my best friend put it to me very bluntly: “You are being a martyr,” she said, “Your husband is doing what he always has and you are giving up all the things you love and feeling sorry for yourself. You need to go play your guitar.” She was so right. Now, at the end of the day, I make sure to take some time for me.
5. Know that your tedious work won’t go unnoticed. I’m so blessed to know that my husband appreciates that I take care of our son and do my best to manage our house. But perhaps you feel like you are totally unappreciated or that your hard work goes unnoticed by your family. If that’s the case, let me finish the Scripture passage I referenced above:
…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:24)
Know that even if those you love don’t appreciate your work or take advantage of you, your dedication to your home won’t be in vain. The Lord entrusted you with the job of caring for your home and says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Luke 16:10). You may consider what you do expendable, but God does not! How great to know that God cares about your work and will reward you accordingly!
As moms in the home, we get up every day and do the same things: make the beds, wash the dishes, do the laundry, cook meals–keeping house is the job with which we’ve been tasked. The work can become monotonous, but it’s so important that we work with faithfulness and recognize that our job is God-given. Even on the hardest days, I get up and press on, looking forward to hearing those words, Well done, good and faithful servant, knowing that even a job seemingly as small as washing the pots and pans will be rewarded if done with a cheerful heart.