Editor’s note: We thank Seton Home Study School for their sponsorship this month and appreciate their permission to reprint this article which originally appeared in Seton Magazine as the sixth part in the series Making Relationships Matter. Lisa
I was experiencing an unusually stressful Friday and desperately needed a break. I just wanted time away from preparing meals (do they really have to eat three times a day?), washing dishes, wiping noses, mastering multiplication tables and singing mnemonics of states and capitals the entire week.
So, in a desperate attempt to de-stress, I felt an urgent need to clean our kitchen floor.
I told the children to stay downstairs because mommy really needed to mop and I didn’t want any of them to slip and hurt their heads (nice excuse, right?).
I had barely begun my task and there came a faint knock from the door leading the the basement. It was my youngest wanting a hug from mommy. I hesitantly put the mop down, gave her a quick hug and told her to go back downstairs because the floor was still slippery. She looked at me with a hint of defiance, dug her heels, and watched intently as I continued my “urgent” task of mopping the kitchen floor.
You see, my friends, mopping the floor was on my to-do list for for quite some time. The Melancholic Martha that I am needs this list to feel useful and productive. As if being present to the needs of my children isn’t productive enough.
The only problem is that this list, inanimate as it is, feels like another child tugging at me and demanding my full attention. I feel that the only way I can keep this “child” quiet is by crossing out as many tasks as I can so I can focus on those who matter most.
But do I really focus on my children better after the list is done?
Or does the list just keep getting longer and longer?
Will there ever come a day when everything on this list is finally crossed out?
Although I really wanted to finish my task, I decided to put the mop down and play my daughter’s favorite CD. I looked into her hazel eyes, took her tiny hand and asked if she wanted to dance. Her eyes grew wide with excitement. I picked her up and literally swept her off her feet. She wrapped her arms around me. We began to dance.
As the music played, I begged our Lord to help me find a way to balance my tasks as a work-at-home mother and a homemaker. But how?
The answer was happening right in front of me. All I needed to do was to… Doo-Bee-Doo.
But let me explain further. Let me spell it a different way so it will make more sense.
Do. Be. Do.
First I DO a task from my list. The next thing I need to do is to just BE a mom. Then afterwards, DO another thing from my list.
So after washing dishes, all I need to do next is to just be a mom and try to bond with my children. After this, I can do another task from my list.
Doing this dance forces this Melancholic Martha to slow down and just be. I cannot plow through the next thing on my to-do list or the dance will not work. On the other hand, I cannot just sit down the whole day with my little ones and neglect my ever-mounting household responsibilities. This dance will not work either.
I need to strive for balance.
As the music wrapped up, my daughter gave me a kiss and wanted to get down. I didn’t want to let her go. I enjoyed her presence, her baby smell, her warmth.
She squirmed and said she was ready to play downstairs. I thanked her, let her down, picked up my mop and finished cleaning the kitchen floor. Our dance was over yet profound realizations continued to twirl inside my head.
My child needs me. My list doesn’t.
My child loves me back. My list doesn’t.
My child will grow up one day. My list will be here for a long time.
Our Lord knew that dancing with my daughter was exactly what this stressed-out mommy needed.
All of sudden, cleaning the kitchen floor didn’t seem as urgent anymore. In my heart, dancing with a mop just doesn’t seem to compare with the joy and memory of dancing with my baby girl.
Photographs courtesy of Anne Arias Photography, used with permission
Copyright 2015 Abby Sasscer
Born in the Philippines, Abby came to the United States in 1986. She is a wife, homeschooling mother of three, author, and speaker. In 2008, she founded Project Nazareth and continues to advocate simple living through books and speaking. Visit Abby at www.projectnazareth.info