Last Updated on March 20, 2018

It was Monday morning. My to-do list was massively long, the house was a mess, the laundry pile was enormous, and to top it all off, I was recovering from being sick over the weekend.

I got the children up and fed, bathed, dressed, and helped them do their morning chores. All the while, I was thinking of a fun activity they could do that wouldn’t make much additional mess and would occupy them for at least an hour or two so I could tackle my ever-growing to-do list.

Inspiration struck as I picked up an empty cardboard box. “Hey, children,” I exclaimed enthusiastically, “do you want to make cardboard dollhouses for your little dolls?”

The girls squealed with excitement, and I knew this would be the perfect solution. Thrilled that I was about to buy myself a little peace and quiet, I went out to our recycling bin in the garage and rummaged through it for more dollhouse materials.

Hands full, I made my way back into the house to find my girls eagerly chatting about their dollhouse plans. I handed them the stack of materials, gave them some suggestions for what they could use the various items for, and then headed off to get as much done on my overwhelming list as I could while they were contentedly creating their dollhouses.

Not five minutes later, both girls came and found me. Each bore very sad expressions, and one was on the verge of tears. I was perplexed, as this was in complete contrast to their mood just moments earlier.

“We can’t do it by ourselves, Mama,” they chimed together.

“But I thought you were so excited to make dollhouses?” I replied.

“We were because we thought you were going to make them with us.” Six-year-old Kathrynne’s words pierced my heart.

Being the Type-A person I am, I wrestled with what I should do. The laundry pile was beckoning, the dirty bathroom was screaming for attention, and cardboard dollhouse-making was nowhere on my self-made agenda for the day.

But I saw their eyes, and I stepped back and asked myself a question I try to ask often: “What will matter 25 years from now?”

That settled it. I set aside my agenda, sat down with them, and started cutting, pasting, and dreaming up dollhouse plans. We made walls, beds, tables, and stairs. We concocted wallpaper, discussed flooring and wall-hangings, and even sewed a pillow for one of the beds.

Their eyes lit up. Their faces showed sheer delight. And I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that making cardboard dollhouses was more important than any seemingly-pressing item on my to-do list.

Truth be told, I never made it out of my pj’s that day. We had leftovers for dinner, and the laundry pile greeted me in the same spot the next day; but somehow, none of that mattered so much anymore.



Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to welcome Crystal from to the MomLife Today Contributor Team! Will you leave a comment to say hi and give her a warm welcome?

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  1. Hi Crystal,

    Glad to see you over here! I read your blog too.
    Such true words, the same thing happened to me yesterday with my two year old girl, a file folder game, and the messiest kitchen you ever saw. The mess was still there at 9pm later, but we made a sweet memory together. I like the 25 year question you ask. I will remember that! Thanks for the encouraging post!
    Caroline <><

  2. Laura Petherbridge says:

    Hi Crystal- Welcome to the writing team!! As a grandma…the older we get the more memeories we enjoy!! Blessings to YOU!!
    Under His Grace-Laura

    1. I'm so blessed, humbled, and honored to be apart of this fabulous writing team! Thanks so much, Laura!

  3. KatiefromTexas says:

    I just love that you listened in the moment here! {AND that you were transparent about the immediate cost, leftovers and laundry *smiles*}
    This is such a great reminder for me to remember that despite all the changes my little family has coming up soon that my focus needs to be on the long term. Thank you for sharing your heart and the fun time you had with your girls!

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Katie! I often forget to focus on the long term because the short term seems so much more pressing (and I like crossing stuff off my to-do list!)

  4. Oh Crystal—your laundry pile picture really made me feel good! Even MSM has laundry piles!!! So exciting to see you blogging here at Mom Life!!! Congrats!!!!

  5. Congratulations on being added to the writing team Crystal!

    This post is a great reminder to do what is really important rather than what's next on the list.

  6. Welcome to the team, Crystal–awesome to have you. And I so resonate with you…I am constantly thinking that a completed to-do list = success. Bet the dollhouse looked great and lasted a lot longer than the house itself :).

  7. Thanks, Crystal, I needed to hear that today, especially as we are gearing back up for a new homeschooling year. We have chosen the road of home education not just for checking off our to-do lists, but to truly INVEST in our children. Sometimes this means laying “pressing” things aside to choose what’s going to have eternal impact.

  8. Great post and encouraging comments. Like all moms, I constantly need this reminder. Furthermore, I need to remember that when I do drop everything on my to-do list for my children, that I do it wholeheartedly, not half-way. Sometimes, I find myself looking over my shoulder at what awaits me. You're always such an encouragement, Crystal, in so many ways. Thanks!

  9. Yikes, my 6 year old wrote me a note this morning that said, "Mom, will you play with me more often?" That just about broke my heart. As a fellow type A gal, I understand how hard it is to balance our daily to-do lists with the things that really matter the most. I'm afraid I still have a lot to learn!

  10. You are an amazing mom. Your children are so lucky to have a mom that will stop to cherish time with them! Hmm. What can I make out of cardboard?

  11. Great to 'see' you here! It's easy to get caught up in the routines and forget to really live with our little ones. I know my single mom life feels that way and a day of simple play with the ones who mean most to me makes a big difference!

  12. I basically made the same decision last night. There was a pile of laundry on the couch and a budget that needs updated for August and transactions input into the computer after a vacation, but I sat on the floor and helped my daughter dress her paper dolls and helped my son find pieces for his lego creations.

  13. Dana @ Budget RD says:

    I had a similar moment this weekend. I was at a work party and my daughter was happily swimming. She asked if I could join her. I blew off the question not wanting to stop "adult" time nor wanting all my co-workers to see me in a bathing suit. She asked me again and I did join her after hesitanting again. But I am very glad that I did. Life goes by too fast.

  14. MaryEllen says:

    Great post! I can so relate! I get panicked if that list is not getting done, but truth be told, the mess will still be there later. The little souls that we have such a short while to train will not. We can keep our houses as clean as we want one day when they're gone.(

  15. Thank you for sharing. I don't always remember the important when I'm trying to accomplish the urgent.

  16. Just posted this quote on my blog today from Loving the Little Years: "Prioritize your children far and away above the other work you need to get done. They are the only part of your work that really matters."

  17. Crystal, this is perfect! I love it. What will matter 25 years from now?” is an excellent question to ask. These are the things they will remember, not how quickly the laundry was folded and put away.

    Very encouraging! Thank you!

  18. Thank you for sharing, I struggle with feeling like i haven't had a productive day if i have nothing to "show" for it. Obviously, you day was far more productive by investing in your girls. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. Beautiful reminder for us busy Moms. What treasures and blessings our children are, if only we stop to enjoy them. Thanks for sharing!! I'm sure your girls will remember making this dollhouse with you 25 years from now!!

  20. So super Mom is not the answer? I thought all these years were supposed to find a way to do it all have it all finish it all and make all the money too! Gee I learn more everyday! My my how the pendulum does swing. It's funny my Mother's mother didn't believe a word Dr. Spock had to say and yet his baby book was the bible for my Mother's generation of raising babies.

  21. Sue Birdseye says:

    I can't wait to build dollhouses with my daughters! Thank you for sharing and can't wait to read more of your blogs!

  22. Your words are so true. Shortly after I gave birth to our third child, my daughter and I built a cardboard doll house one afternoon when her two younger brothers' were sleeping. Having just given birth and getting next to no sleep each night. I couldn't wait for the very rare opportunity of catching a small rest in the middle of the day. However, instead, I agreed to help my daughter with the house. As we dreamed up how to make furniture and how to make a secret passage way, my tiredness seems to melt away. God gave me the strength to get through those early days with little sleep and three lovely children relying on me. My house didn't get cleaned that day (am still working on it 5 months later) and I didn't catch a 30 minute rest, but I made a priceless memory with my daughter. And she is still playing with the house (turned knight's castle) today!

  23. Hello~ your post reminded me of the time my then 5 year old son and I made a "Ghostbusters" fire station together out of a fruit packing box. He wanted the store-bought fire station, but it was no longer available in the toy stores, so I suggested we make our own. We had a ball, and my son still refers to that homemade fire station with a tremendous amount of joy. And did I mention that my son is 23 years old now and just recently married his high school sweetheart? So yes, the time we spend with our kids trumps anything else on the to-do list!

  24. Crystal – It is so great to see you here! Your posts always manage to grab my attention because they are just so open and real. When moments like the one you described come along just remind yourself that always getting things done just like they're "supposed" to be would be very boring and not worth a good blog story. Keep up the great "non-work"!

  25. Sandy Sandmeyer says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you asked what would it matter in 25 years! You got time with your girls that they will probably never forget. What a blessing!