I have been hobbling around lately. Figuratively? To be sure. But, mostly, I meant literally -- foot bandaged up and confined to a ridiculous, black and bulky, Frankenstein shoe.
I had some minor foot surgery near-on two weeks ago. Actually, I have no idea about foot surgeries and their classifications. Perhaps I’m underselling this. Perhaps it was major foot surgery. Or, at least, undeserving of the piddling appellation “minor”. But, much as I adore a big to-do, I don’t really think so. I imagine one isn’t typically given the go-ahead to wander about so soon (hobble mode or no) after any type of major procedure.
Still I’ve spent several days with my foot “on ice and raised above heart level”; followed by limping about, bathing with one foot perched awkwardly on a ledge, and crawling up stairs to stop a crying child in the middle of the night. AND, I nearly fainted clean away while standing in the hall talking to another lady at church. (Which did allow for a bit of a big to-do, but was not the to-do I was after and was more embarrassing than actually physically worrisome.)
Through it all, there has been much of frustration; but . . . there have also been some rather marvelous developments around here . . . .
My kids have learned to vacuum. And do the dishes. And do laundry. I don’t know why they haven’t learned this sooner. Partly, I suppose, because the idea of showing someone how to do something right (and working out a system for making them actually do it) sometimes feels more exhausting than doing the thing myself. And, partly, because an inefficiently loaded dishwasher troubles me more than I care to admit.
But, necessity is the mother of invention (or of simply forcing you to take care of things you should have taken care of long ago), and now my children are regular vacuuming, laundry-ing, and dish washing fools (bless their hearts).
As we’ve muddled through these last two weeks (husbandless and fatherless for the greater part of the time), I’ve occasionally fretted about how I’m doing as a mother. At one point this summer I read an article about choosing the most important parts of mothering: Let the sink and it’s dirty dishes be. You have children to play games with and read to. A messy house is a sign of children well-loved.
I’ve typically been encouraged by such thinking, “Maybe my windows are in a near constant state of fingerprintedness, well, and so what? I’m raising children.” And, of course, we all do truly love the “Song for a Fifth Child”’s lines of:
. . . quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
But, as I read that article this summer, I felt rather the opposite. “Oh dear heavens!” I fussed – biting my lip and looking nervously about. “My counters are clear. My dishes are done. And, horror of all horrors,” (here I began frantically chewing my fingernails) “the laundry is folded!” I had failed my children. “Surely,” I decided most conclusively, “if they were given any amount of real love and mothering my house would be in disarray. My priorities are in shambles!”
Really I felt that way.
Not long afterwards, I read another article. This one was much the opposite: encouraging order and talking about the importance of using summer’s school-free months to teach our children responsibility: a strong work ethic, the reality of expectations needing to be met, and a sense of duty and purpose. “For crying out loud!” I thought, “I’m danged if I do and danged if I don’t.” (Yes, “danged”, dear reader. “Danged” from your gentle Mormon friend . . . who might be slightly less gentle when she stubs her toe just hard enough.) Anyway, here I was, failing on all counts (this was, of course, before I, of necessity, championed the cause of the second article by teaching my kids to load a dishwasher – breathing deeply and turning a blind eye to the willy nilly fashion in which it was done).
Luckily, I have some type of (likely faulty) wiring in my brain that gradually sifts “heightened sense of worry” to a nice dull, “Eh. We’re all right.” That’s a far cry from seeing inspiration and making good change, but it makes for a lovely emotional survival trick.
“I like to keep things tidy. My kids are certainly suffering a lack of motherly attentions!” Worry! Worry? less worry. . . . “Eh. We’re all right.”
“My house is a little tidy, but mostly still just really messy! If I was on the ball it would be totally clean – kids and all. But look: messy windows! Uncleaned showers! Years of unfiled papers! Numerous Jesse-created makeshift ‘machines’ strewn about the house!” Worry! Worry? less worry. . . . “Eh. We’re probably all right.”
“My kids are being too lazy.” “No, my kids are working too hard.” “I’m not teaching my kids enough responsibility.” “No, wait, I’m expecting too much.” Worry! Worry? less worry. . . . “Eh, We’re doing fine.”
Certainly there is room to be inspired. Certainly it is good to rise up, recognize poor paths and habits, and make necessary changes. It’s what I should be doing more.
I don’t want to portray a lazy, “all is well in zion” attitude.
But . . . sometimes a lazy attitude makes it so you can manage a home and raise six small children . . . not perfectly, but in a way that allows you to feel that life is rather pleasant for all your shortcomings and imperfect homemaking and mothering techniques.
And, sometimes, well, I really think . . . Eh, . . . we’re doing just fine.