We women pride ourselves on our ability to multitask. We're different from men in that way, which is why God charged man with providing for his family, and women with the home-front tasks, such as the daily rearing of children. You can't care for children without the ability to multitask.
Case in point: a man gets his three children ready for church, his wife having gone to church earlier for choir practice. The wife did set out clothes for the children, but somehow Dad sent his youngest son to church with last year's high-water pants (two sizes too small!). The wife looked at her son in horror later, wondering where her husband even found those pants.
No, this did not happen to me. It could have, except that the choir would never want my awful voice. But once, when I went to a morning doctor's appointment while pregnant with my fourth, my husband let our middle two children out to play in their pajamas because he had no clue what to put on them.
Yes, multitasking seems to be God-sent, but even women can take it too far. One morning last week, trying to do too many things at once, I forgot to spray the bread pan before rolling up the dough and placing it in the pan. Instead of falling out nicely with a minor shake, I had to butcher the bread to get it out of the pan.
This week I again tried to do too many things at once, and I added the salt to the bread dough twice. We couldn't even eat it. Nasty. What a waste of groceries and time, but the lesson is well learned.
Here's what I've learned through breadmaking: We don't have to be everything to everybody all day long.
The sky is not going to fall if the house is a mess longer than a day, or two days. We can say...right now, I will focus on one thing. I will enjoy that one thing, and I will be grateful for the opportunity to bless through that one thing.
Too often we look around the disheveled house--disheveled because after all, kids do live in it--and we're dissatisfied with ourselves. We assume all the other moms do it better...balance it all better. Have cleaner living rooms, shinier refrigerators, wiped-down bathrooms, laundry that's folded and put away.
But this is closer to the truth: Sometimes, we read to the kids nice and long and the bathrooms don't get wiped down. We take the kids for a walk and the laundry doesn't get folded. Other days, we try to get caught up, wondering how it got so messy so fast. We fuss at the kids about their messes, making them feel like they're a bother, rather than a blessing.
The bottom line is this: Focus on relationships and don't regret what doesn't get done while you're enjoying the blessings God placed before you. Look at the messes and be grateful for them...marvel at the smart children who used their imaginations and had a good time with those fall nature specimens, even though they made a mighty mess in the process. Good minds make messes.
If you wipe down the bathrooms, give yourself permission to do it mindfully, while not trying to keep the laundry going, get snacks for the kids, and get online to pay a utility bill all at the same time.
A dissatisfied homemaker feels worthless and depressed because even though she's worked herself to exhaustion, she looks around and doesn't see much to show for her efforts--and the whole crazy thing starts all over the next morning. This is a common reason women prefer to leave the home and get a job. A job is often less maddening then being home with the kids.
The secret to happy homemaking is understanding choices and learning to be at peace with them. We all make choices for how we'll spend our time, and the women who consistently choose the house have less satisfying relationships.
I have one child who has twice said funny things about how it's going to be when he grows up. Once he announced that he was going to be strict with his children and they weren't going to make messes. Recently he said he was going to have a neat house, not one like ours.
My first reaction was irritation, because of course my husband and me are not the ones who generally make messes. It's the children, and this particular child is the second worst offender in that department. But quickly, my irritation melted down to amusement.
I gently prodded him and got him to admit that his house wouldn't be very fun for children, or peaceful for them, or intellectually stimulating, if no one was allowed to make messes.
And again, I prodded him to think about the mother who spends all her time cleaning, ignoring the children all the while. Would that convey love? Would that convey value? Who would be happy in a home that was made to feel like a model home you could only look at, not get comfortable in?
A home is, above all, a place for love. It's a safe haven: a place to try and fail, succeed and triumph. It's a place for exploring our talents, expanding our intellects, sharing ideas and sorrows, rejoicing one with another.
A house welcomes you in and lets you mold it to fit your unique family. It's grateful for the attention all the while. A house lives with you. It stretches with you. It's like The Velveteen Rabbit who was loved so much it became real. A house becomes a home.
A couple gets married, comes home giddy from the honeymoon, then throws themselves into making their home just so...cozy, warm, but orderly and clean. Life is good and predictable, and the state of the house is fairly uniform, except maybe around the holidays. Caring for it isn't a challenge. There's always an hour here, two hours there, to give it some attention.
Soon, the first baby appears; the couple arrives home giddy from the hospital.
Suddenly, come the feedings and the changing and rocking. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.
In no time the house deteriorates to a shocking state. The new mother shudders to think who might visit and see it like that.
Five years later, the house is still shocking, but the messes look different.
Five more years, the messes change again but the shock value persists.
Five more years pass with no progress on the house, except when Mom gets single-minded before holiday guests and ignores everyone until the house is perfect---perfect for one hour.
Seven more years and you drive home, quiet and reflective, from the last child's wedding reception.
Now there's an hour here, two hours there, to care for the house, which reverts back to its pre-baby state.
But it's too quiet. Too clean. Too empty.
Momma's heart aches at the sight of each clean surface. At each quiet, orderly room...because the best years of her life all got married and moved away.
As she passes from room to room, imagining the scenes of their childhood all over again, she wonders if she made too much of the house and not enough of the kids. Did she marvel at their brilliant messes often enough? Their colorful, bold paintings? The elaborate dolly tea parties that quickly morphed into disaster areas? Their fall leaf collages that made getting the table ready for dinner a nightmare? Their mud cakes on the driveway?
Our houses go through a transformation just like we do. The walls will echo with the joys of childhood, long after the children have gone.
Make the right choices now, so you can enjoy those echoes later. Let the echos speak of love, patience, joy. Choose one thing at a time as much as you can, and let it more often than not be relationship. Let the kids bake with you, cook with you, clean with you, fold with you. Mundane tasks need not always depend on Mom alone. A task can turn into togetherness, into memory-making, into an abundant life.
Enjoy the stage your house is in now. Let that house echo of you and your family's legacy of love for centuries to come.
Wishing you and your home love, patience, joy.