Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cutting Yourself a Break

David and Becky Grothe, the marriage and family pastors at church, came to our small group to visit last night. We had been wanting some older couples around to encourage us, and they so graciously volunteered to come, even during the busy Christmas season! As we talked with them, I had to ask a question that has been bugging me for months.

"What do you do when you're too tired to be nice anymore?"

Everyone chuckled a bit, as I expected. What parent of young children has not felt that way?

Their response surprised me.

I expected a long speech about asking God for strength, taking a minute to pray, reading your Bible more... What Becky said was to relax the expectations on yourself. She started telling stories about just sprinkling Cheerios on the carpet for her twins to pick up, because they would end up there anyway; about her feeling of shame over her small house and old furniture. She said having peaceful happiness is more important than a clean house. Don't do more house-keeping (or other stuff!) than allows you to be kind and happy with your children.

Then, I opened up my reader today and saw Kim's post about the same thing.

I have been concerned about the habits our children form, based on what they see while growing up. Obviously we don't want to raise our kids thinking it's okay to live like pigs. However, personally, when my kids are grown I would much rather their houses be messy than constantly tense, overworked, unhappy, and tired. Striking the balance between an appropriate level of cleanliness and not overworking ourselves is a tough thing, but I'm grateful for the "permission" to have a messy house. Thoughts?


  1. Amen to that! That part really spoke to me last night too...I definitely have very high expectations for myself and our home and it was so freeing to hear (and really be reminded) that things don't have to be perfect! A happy, loving home is way more important than a picture perfect, clean home. Such a blessing to have them there last night...thanks to you and Nick for setting that up!

  2. I love the cheerios idea! It's like reverse physiology. If I give it to them in a bowl it will end up on the floor. If I put it on the floor it might actually end up in the bowl & keep them busy for a while! That's absolutely fantastic!

    I completely agree about rather having my kids remember that we were happy and close rather than stressed and tidy. Because honestly, they aren't going to remember that their laundry was on the floor and mom's sink was full. They could care less. Also toddlers will be toddlers and you can worry about them forming good habits when they are older. You can much easier tell a 10 year to clean their room than a 2 year old.

    We just have to keep reminding our selves it will get easier! So for now put down the dishes when we feel like we are starting to get "not nice" and color with the kids. It's hard to just let go, and I'm still trying to myself.

  3. Yes it was such a blessing to have them there. And such freedom in those was exactly what I needed to hear.

  4. Why, yes, I have thoughts!! tee-hee! You've seen my many posts on that subject!

    I agree that there does have to be a balance, that letting go completely of your housekeeping is not being a good steward of what the Lord has provided to you. So clean away, just make sure you're doing it with a happy heart and a good attitude!

    I can't remember the reference but there's a verse somewhere in the Bible that speaks about doing whatever it is that your doing for the glory of God...

  5. Shelly-Totally agree that we have to steward well. I probably didn't give enough context to what I said, but she was only saying not to clean at the sacrifice of your relationship with your kids. Like, you can live in a sparkling clean house, but if you scream at your kids all night because you're so wiped out from cleaning, that something is out of balance. :)

  6. Good post.

    What if what makes you tense and unhappy though, is a mess?

    What I mean is... I am more apt to laugh, to play, to interract with my girls, when the house is in order.

    Maybe the point is I need to be happy in spite of that, but I have noticed that the way I operate best, is in organized space.

    It's not about an expectation, or how I want anyone to view me, it's purely how I feel when my eyes hit mess.

    Things used to be a bit more stressful 'round here, but lately, the house is generally clean most of the time...

    It probably has a LOT to do with the fact that the girls are older now though.
    They are perfectly able to clean their own messes, even spills in the kitchen, etc.
    Sera helps me dust, fold laundry, etc.

    Visit me after I have another kid or two, and I will probably be reciting this post aloud to myself in between pulling my hair out.

    Maybe my version of clean is also not someone elses... for example I don't mop or dust every day but it still feels pretty clean to me! ;)

  7. Flo-I agree with you 110%. I too function better with a clean house. So does Hannah, even moreso than me, I think. I don't know about you though, but there are definitely days when I have been upset or beat myself up over the things I "should" be doing, simply because I "should" be doing them. God doesn't like me any less when I have a messy house. :) I want to steward the things He gives me because I love Him, not feel condemned because I'm doing something more important than cleaning that day - tending to a sick child, helping out/hanging out with a friend, etc. And like you said, after having babies is a great time to cut yourself a break!

  8. It was so good to have the Grothe's the other night! I felt very blessed by their visit and for someone who DOES stress about a clean orderly house (probably because if my home is in disorder I feel emotionally out of order or that I am failing Rich and the kids somehow) it was good to hear that my world can't and shouldn't revolve around meeting other peoples expectations of me. Especially at the cost of my relationship with my kids.

    When I think about my growing up years...I remember caring more about having fun with my mom and siblings than having a clean house. It wasn't until I was older that I HAD to have a clean house. I believe it was a pride issue more than anything...that became a part of me, "If my house is out of order or a bit shabby...people will view that as a reflection of me!"

    What I want to impart to our kids is if you're happy and healthy (spiritually and physically) that is a 'picture perfect home' it isn't whether or not your home could appear on the cover of Good Housekeeping.

    It will be a process...but Becky Grothe's encouragement was a HUGE stepping stone for me. I could sit and listen to she and David for hours at a time - 'been there, done that: here's how to succeed' perspective is great! :o)