Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Survival Mode

I hate it, to begin with. Audrey was so sick this weekend, and when people are sick other things don't get done. I seriously woke up this morning to a kitchen full of pretty much every dish we own, dirty.

I have been thinking and praying about this quite a bit lately: why is it that I can't allow myself to just "be"? Much of my value is tied up in what I can accomplish. And I don't think I'm alone in that. Why do dirty dishes have the ability to make us feel like failures?

On Sunday night, Pastor Ross and his wife Aimee spoke at the Young Marrieds group at church. He married us, and we love them so much. They have this tenderness and affection that they constantly express for each other. Yet they are also playful and tease each other constantly. I love to watch them interact. Something that intrigues me is the fact that they often talk about expectations for each other. Aimee apparently doesn't do laundry much. All their clothes are either in the dirty basket or the clean basket. She never puts them away. Many women would feel so ashamed of that, and for their husband to tease about that, especially in public, would embarrass them deeply. He says about that, "I didn't marry her to do my laundry. I married her for her character, and because she's who I want my kids to be like." And he genuinely means it! And she just laughs and smiles.

Obviously they need to teach their kids to do laundry, and they talk about that. But the point is laundry is a small thing, not a big thing. Most of the things we get all tied up about are small things. Not having too many expectations for each other in our relationships is a topic for another day, and equally important. But I wonder, how can we avoid having too many expectations for ourselves?! How is she able to laugh about that? They're supposed to talk more next week, and hopefully I can get her to talk about that.

I have noticed recently that if the tone in our house is not light and playful during the day, it's usually either because I have expectations for myself that I'm not meeting, or I have expectations for Nick that he's not meeting. Yuck. I don't want to live that way!

It seems like much of life, especially with young children, is just surviving. They are unpredictable. Your best plans don't work. I hate survival mode because it makes me feel like I haven't accomplished anything of value. I don't want to make excuses for sloppy living though. How do you know the difference between "doing your best" and just plain being lazy?

I know this post isn't very well organized, but hopefully you'll get my meaning. I would love to hear everybody's thoughts, especially the "more experienced" voices here...Leslie? Kim? Jana? Anybody? :)


  1. Look I really think this is a struggle that any mom that stays home with young toddlers have. If laundry and dishes were the only thing that we really had to do, it would be an easy task. But we have to bath our kids, and feed our kids, and change diapers, etc. The list is really endless. It's hard and it's a lot of work. When they are older and can shower them selves and make their own lunches and those kinds of things it will get easier. Personally this has been my battle for almost four years of being married and I think recently it just hit me. Don't ask me how, I just prayed and oneday it happend. These expectations that I had for myself to keep laundry done and rooms tidy and meals cooked were things that I thought I HAD to do as a wife and mother to do my part. I think that thought mentallity was what was stopping me from getting it done. It was a chore. Then one day it hit me. My own personality does not allow me to relax when my house is chaotic or I have to push things around the counter to make room to make a sandwhich. I can't be light hearted and happy when my life is like that. When we are trying to get ready to go to church and I have to dig around in laundry baskets to try and find things for my family to wear...IT DRIVES ME NUTS and always makes us late. Those things make ME unhappy and I cannot force my personality to change. I thrive when there is order in my life. Not perfection, just order. I cleaned my whole house yesterday and it's now messy again because we live in it. But if I force my self to take just a little time maybe 2 hours every other day and push hard thats all it takes to maintain my happiness and gives me the ability to relax. I can sit and paint with the kids if I have a few dishes in the sink and a dirty laundry basket. I cannot sit and paint with the kids if my entire kitchen is trashed and I have 7 loads of laundry to catch up and every bathroom in my house needs to be disinfected. Then I look at it and it seems impossible to finish, I get grumpy, discouraged, and still don't do it because it's just too much. I just found the balance that made me happy. My house is NOT spotless all the time but lately I've been able to manage it to where it maintains the order that keeps me happy. Some nights I just don't want to turn of the TV to get up to wash the kitchen floor but I know that if I just do the little things consistantly I will have a good day the next day. It's kinda like you told me with the whole eating healthy thing. I figured it was all or nothing and it's not. Just a few changes makes a big differance. It takes a little more effort but with in a few weeks of getting into a mentality of trying a little harder but not overdoing it, it becomes a habit. Also I think it's important to try and keep up with the little changes because honestly skipping two or three days of cleaning adds to a big mountain and then seems impossible to conqure and that's when the feeling of failiur hits. I don't know if this was really the answer you were looking for it just really helped me to let go of my picture perfect image of a clean house because just a tidy house is what made me happy and my expectations changed because I realized what I wanted was unrealistic for my life. I just had to find the balance that made me happy and brought the order I was looking for.

  2. Irene-I appreciate your thoughts. For me, there are days when I feel this same way. If I just do a little every day, it'll be fine. Then I reach days when I just can't do much. You will need to have some of those when your baby is born, for example.

    Maybe my main problem is all of my commitments! I have chosen to do lots of other things in addition to raising my children. I feel that is where God has directed me specifically, but I have to be able to let some things go and not feel guilty about them, because I literally cannot do it all.

    I think what I'm trying to find is balance. The balance between cutting myself slack when I need to, and continuing to take good care of what God has given me.

    Maybe we all have to define that ourselves, between us and God?

  3. I think that the difference between "being lazy" and "doing your best" is in your attitude. If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is what you need to get done that day (which I do a lot!), instead of how you can enrich your kids or help a friend, etc., then if you let the house work slide it's just laziness.

    However, if your prayer first thing is, "Lord, thanks for another day. It's Your day, You know what needs to be done today here, I trust You to work things out", and the housework slips, then it's absolutely ok because you gave the day to the Lord.

    I'm with you on the survival mode thing; sometimes our house is too serious, also, because I'm too focused on work and not on relationships. I don't want my kids to grow up and remember their childhoods as being very neat and tidy, I want them to remember it as warm, loving, creative, and full of Christ.

  4. Oh, and BTW, along the lines of household cleaning/organization: I do thrive when my house is orderly, I seem not to be able to think or make descisions about anything if there is a mess. I"ve found the FlyLady website to be tremendously helpful. I don't follow her routines perfectly, but I've taken them and kind of made them my own. You should check it out if you haven't already.

  5. Shelly-I'm having a much better day today, (mostly because of spending some quality time with God last night!), and your thoughts are really encouraging to me. That is what I want for my family as well. I do okay at it for a while, and then I start to think some part of it is my skill, my strength, and I crash, big time. As I'm sure you understand, it requires constant surrender to God, as well as a constant awareness of His presence and hand in every area of life, in order to live like that. Thanks for the reminder!

    Also, I love Flylady too! Like you, I don't do everything she says (not a big fan of wearing tennis shoes around all day long - she's going to have to change that recommendation at some point if she wants our generation in it :), but the routines and the reminders to quit being a perfectionist sure are helpful.

    And, so are loving husbands who help you get the house back under control. :)

  6. I can really identify with these feelings. My personality is one that derives great satisfaction from accomplishments, a project well done, etc. Raising young children (and homeschooling as they get older) does not lend itself well to accomplishment, so I too struggled with this. We can take solace in knowing that no matter how little it looks like we have accomplished at the end of the day, we know that all the many things we did which are already undone and in need of being re-done have not escaped the Lord's notice. He sees, appreciates, and even rewards all our service. Another thing I think helps is changing our thinking to learn to derive our significance from the Lord, rather than our accomplishments. This is what allows us to serve and keep serving with the right attitude and outlook (Jn 13:3-5). (Also, there is a book which I haven't read entitled Search for Significance which addresses this.) But, now that my kids are older and I can see good results, I have to admit I still get alot of mileage out of that sense of accomplishment in having raised kids that know the Lord and endeavor to serve Him. But that's a looooonnnng time coming. And, there's NO way it would happen without God equipping me, drawing me into relationship with Him to the point where I would depend on Him for the grace, patience and wisdom I need in parenting (and to make up for all the mistakes and fleshly reactions to situations which arose). Not to mention giving me kids that did respond to the Lord --- some people just have more challenging kids. It's tough. One of the best ways to face these days is to hear from Him, because when He speaks to us, it is very powerful and energizing, and it keeps us going. Two verses that have encouraged me in being a mom are 2Chr 32:8 and Pvb 20:7.