I was in my 30’s and had two small children. A young mom, whom I didn’t know very well, had come to visit. She was the mother of three very active young boys and she was tired! As we sat there chatting I noticed she was looking around at my house. Finally she said, “Whenever I come over here, I feel rebuked. Your house is so perfect …”
I was standing in the foyer of a friend’s home. Her three little girls were sick, and I had decided to bring her a meal. I delivered the meal and was chatting with the mom. While standing there, one of her little girls came running out into the living room and she was carrying a movie. “Mommy, can I watch this movie?” she exclaimed. Looking very uncomfortable, the mom motioned for the little girl to go back to her room. “NO! And take that back to your room now!” She yelled. The rest of the conversation was very uncomfortable as she tried to talk and pick up things that were laying on the floor.
A mom with three young children had come to my home to spend the day. Somehow fleas had taken over her apartment, and the family had to leave so that the exterminator could come take care of the problem. I invited her to spend the day with me. Our children were the same age, and I thought they would enjoy a day of playing together. Dinner time came and I invited she and her husband to eat with us. I served homemade lasagna, homemade bread, salad, and dessert. As I was serving them the meal, the young mom exclaimed, “Man! I hope my husband doesn’t start expecting this kind of meal every night from now on!”
Why do I share these stories? What do they have in common? As I look back over my early years of being a stay-at-home mom, what I see that I imposed on myself a standard that was very unreasonably high. Not only was it hard for me to live up to, but I (whether intentionally or unintentionally) imposed it on others as I tried to live up to it! In my desire to be the perfect homemaker, wife, and mom, I set the standard so high that it made others feel uncomfortable at times. In doing that, not only did I miss out on some time with my own family, but I missed out on opportunities to serve other women by making them feel more comfortable in my home.
As I look back at me in my 20’s and 30’s, I see that I could have loosened up some! I needed to let my kids, and others, live life in my home. For whatever reason, my goal was perfection. I have learned over the years that a person can have a clean and orderly home without it being perfect or spotless. I have learned that nutritious meals are very important, but they can be simple as well. Trying to make everything from scratch all the time, and keep a perfect home only set me up for frustration and caused me to miss out on some of the more important things in life (people!).
I also have come to the conclusion that I don’t have to be busy 24 hours a day. It’s okay to have some time in the day when you sit on the couch and relax, read a book, watch a movie, or chat with a friend! We need times of relaxation and refreshment!
We as women have a tendency to compare ourselves to each other, and even though it’s good to be challenged by others lives, we need to make sure that what we decide to implement into our lives is really God talking to us. I love a clean home. I love being organized. It’s something I am good at. But everyone is different and may not have the same standard. That doesn’t mean they are wrong.
Be challenged. Be convicted. Make needed changes. But remember that some people have limitations that we may not have.
Making bread, homemade meals, being busy at home, and cleaning the house are all good things. But is there balance? Are we taking time to serve, laugh with, play with, talk with, and relax with our family and others? Are we allowing them to live in our home comfortably? Are we willing to allow others to be in our “lived in” homes and see that we aren’t perfect? That our bathroom gets dirty? That dishes pile up in the sink sometimes? That our bed sometimes doesn’t get made because a child or a friend needed our time?
Do we hold our standard loosely, praying that God would show us what we can let go of and what needs to be held on to? Do we impose our standards on others, sharing them with all who will listen, making it hard for them to be in our home or making them uncomfortable when you are in their home. Are they afraid that you will see something you don’t approve of when you are in their home?
If I could do it over, I would have been more prayerful about what I did, and then I would have sought to do it quietly. I wouldn’t have striven for a perfect home, giving the illusion that I am perfect. (I actually have had women tell me that they were afraid to get to know me when my kids were little, because they thought I was perfect! What a joke!) I would have focused more on serving others and less on striving to have the perfect home. I would have been much more laid back in my approach.
A few years ago (now in my 40’s) I had a young mom over for dinner. After dinner I sat down at the table with her to chat while her little ones watched a movie in the living room. She was so blessed and challenged that I left the dirty dishes in the sink and saw her as more important than getting the kitchen clean right away. Not only did it bless her, but it challenged her, because being a very young housewife/mom, she was caught in that same “trying to be perfect” mode.
I am so thankful for how far God has brought me, but that incident also showed me that it was much more of a blessing to others for me to sit down and focus on them, rather than focusing on getting things in order all the time. It made me more “real”.
So … take some time to evaluate. Pray. Ask God to show you your heart. Why do you do what you do? Do you need to change your approach? Do you need to give yourself, and others, a break? Let me tell you from my experience! I enjoy my home and people much now that there is balance and I have left behind the standard of perfection. And I think that others enjoy my home and me much more as well!
I also struggled with this, Gina. I compared myself to others constantly and fell short. I now live a very imperfect life. Lol. I figure people should come over to see me, not my house. And dinner is often imperfect. sometimes it’s frozen pizza. I know when dinner is ready as soon as the smoke alarm goes off. Yum!
I suppose I might be the poster girl for imperfect. Sometimes it makes me sad that I seem to have so little together, but I am only one person. I can now often find rest in my imperfections. 🙂
Jennifer – You have challenges that most of us will never have to face! Rest! You are doing what is most important!