Redefining “Perfect” & “Productivity”

Cleaning and cooking can wait ’till tomorrow

For babies grow up, as we’ve learned to our sorrow.

So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,

  I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep

In case you didn’t already know, I have a confession to make; I, Heather, am a perfectionist… Maybe even a little obsessive-compulsive… Ok more than a little!

It drives me crazy when I have a sink full of dishes. I get stressed when my house is messy and disorganized. It irritates me when my floors are dirty and crumbs stick to the bottom of my bare feet, or when I step in a sticky spot in the kitchen. (no, the answer is not to wear shoes!). Or when my bathroom mirror has toothpaste specks/smudges on it. Or when there are piles of junk mail on my kitchen counter…

Does all this mean I have a perfect house? Um, no! Not by a long shot! The truth is, one of my biggest fears as a homemaker is that company will show up unexpected, me still in my pajamas (bed-head, bad breath and all!), with my house a complete mess!

And so I run around with my mental “to-do” lists, trying to be “productive” and make my house look “perfect” all day long.

And you know what? Most of the time, at the end of the day I’m left feeling exhausted and discouraged, because my house doesn’t look like a picture out of Country Living magazine! (Where oh where did I go wrong?)

Seriously though; what is “perfect” anyway?

Is “perfect” a spotless clutter-free house that looks sterile and unlived-in? (how does that sound for warm and inviting?)

Or..

Is “perfect” a home with toys scattered and dishes in the sink, but filled with laughter from happy children who know they’re loved!

Why do I worry what other people will think of my house? Why don’t I instead focus that worry on whether or not my family is healthy and happy? What eternal worth does a spotless house have to offer?

The other night, after I put the boys to bed, I was hit with the realization that in my effort to be “productive” and make sure our house was clean (aka- “perfect”), I had not spent even 15 minutes of true, quality one-on-one time with BE! This was more than a little disheartening…

I remembered him asking;

“Mama, can you read me a book?” “Sure, but let me first switch over the laundry…” (20 minutes pass as I move from one task to the next, completely forgetting the previous request)

“Mommy, can we go on a walk outside?” “Maybe after I finish doing xyz…”.

Or there are the times that I do sit down to read the boys a book, but rather than just pausing and enjoying the moment, my mind is somewhere else…

Is that how I want my children to remember their childhood? Mama always being too busy and distracted to stop and play with them? I think not! It is long past time I set my priorities straight, and change my perspective on what it means to be truly productive!

“Children will not remember you for the material things you provide, but for the feeling that you cherished them” – Richard L. Evans

The next day, despite the dirty dishes in the sink, and the pile of laundry, we put on our shoes and sweaters, I put CJ in the baby carrier, and we went on a little nature walk.

It was fun, and it was freeing! I will admit that I had to purpose to slow my pace.. The intention of this activity was not to get a cardio workout! No, this was about slowing down, spending quality time with my little boys. It was about clearing my mind to be able to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of nature…of childhood!

We heard birds. We saw airplanes. We talked about bark on trees. We gathered leaves, acorns, and lots of pine cones (or as BE calls them: pine corns ;-)).

At the end of the day, My house wasn’t spotless (quite the opposite actually!), but it was perfect, because my children were happy! And though I may not have crossed everything a single thing off of my “to-do” list, I had been productive. Yes, productive in a much deeper way; I had shown my children LOVE by spending TIME with them!

I’m still learning.. I still have (many) days where I get caught up in the day-to-day household responsibilities.. where I have to take a step back and reevaluate what I’m doing.. but I’m hoping to be more intentional about what I deem “important” and “necessary”.. For the only thing truly important is my children’s souls!

“I hope my children look back on today

And see a mother who had time to play.

There will be years for cleaning and cooking,

For children grow up while we’re not looking.”

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3 thoughts on “Redefining “Perfect” & “Productivity”

  1. Mary Behrens says:

    Good job, sweetie! There will be time for a Country Living magazine home later and you will miss those sweet mess-makers so much! {tears} I always said if someone didn’t like the way the house looked, they knew where the door was. The balance between happy and healthy is a tough one some days. I miss you and love you bunches! Forever yours, Marmee (or is it Mommo now?)

  2. patchofheaven says:

    Preach it, sweet sister! It always gets me, when I realize that I haven’t spent any focused, quality time with my kids all day. I’ve been trying to play a lot more “Go Fish!” these days! =)

    (And LOL, Mary! I love your saying!)

  3. Great Post! I totally can relate….the definition of perfection by the worlds standards will leave a busy mom and wife exhausted and discontent. Children grow up and away so fast – these times are very precious. You are a wise young woman to see and have your priorities balanced! (:

    I wrote a blog post about this very subject some time back in my own blog –

    http://lastingimages.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/that-unattainable-thing-called-perfection/

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