Recently a young mother on social media posted a quote about how quickly kids grow up and then commented about how she just doesn’t know how to do it all. She loves to make make make but finds it difficult to do that while having a baby, plus manage the other aspects of the household. She admitted to feeling guilty about neglecting her child.
This really struck a chord with me because I have been there. I mean, I am there. It’s this constant balancing act and I don’t think there’s any perfect formula like: spend one hour with the baby doing xyz, then do this household task, count down till baby is sleeping, then craft…. No. We all live different lives with varying schedules and we aren’t all going to fit the same mold. But using our time is a lot like budgeting money; there is only so much of it to go around so where and how we use it matters.
I do not have it all figured out, but I did want to use this post to shout from my virtual rooftop: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO IT ALL. I mean, it’s suffocating! So and so posts a gorgeous, perfectly lit picture and somehow we overlook their humanity (often, I think, because they want us to) and assume they don’t have a big pile of laundry or some clutter right outside the frame. And then, in our minds we form this picture of what we should be, because frankly, our society has brainwashed us into thinking that we need absolutely everything. If she has it, I ought to as well. It’s this entitlement that just spreads faster than wildfire and it catches us up all so quickly.
Back to that post I mentioned at the beginning: I was so disheartened as I read the comments on this post. I do believe they were well meaning, but not at all well founded. So many women saying, “your happiness is the most important”, “it’s okay because we all neglect the kids for other things at times.” Again, I believe the tone was one of “don’t beat yourself up”, but it wasn’t helpful. Doing away with guilt is terribly unhealthy if we aren’t first evaluating if that guilt is there for good reason. I believe we have all been endowed with a conscience for a reason.
Lest someone think I’m being “holier than thou” allow me to use myself as an example here. After all, this post struck a chord with me for a purpose.
A year or two ago I was producing handmade items at an all time high. I was exahusted, I was easily agitated as a result. I would snap at the kids and pretty much never had anything left over for Justin when he got home. I had a pretty terrible attitude toward laundry, dishes, dinner and any of the things that needed to be done because I was burning the candle from both ends. I was living for the craft, and you know what was funny about it? I actually grew to resent it. I resented what it was doing to my family. Actually, I resented what I was because it was pretty ugly. I had turned what should have been a fun, creative outlet into this “go go go” never stopping machine.
So that was the problem, but the why is equally important. I had my priorities WAY out of whack. And I had no one to thank but selfish me. And I had fooled myself into thinking “this is for my family! That’s why I’m doing all this!” But seriously? How much could I bring doing for them by bringing in a little money when the home front was lacking and I was mean mom? I realized they would never remember with fondness all that I had made and sold when in reality it brought them no greater quality of life. What is more important than having a present, caring parent? I certainly didn’t want the kids to think money was more important because it so isn’t. It couldn’t replace any of the things I was lacking.
So I identified this problem in myself, where I was being incredibly selfish with my time and robbing my family of a quality wife and mother (which is the most important of the roles of you are married and have kids even if you work full time, which I have done). Now comes the work. I had to put on a good habit where I had been living a bad one. That started with a serious examination of priorities. So it turns out that the guy on the bottom of the totem pole was actually the person who should be first- my husband. Period. He’s my soulmate and the person I’m building my life with so he is hands down first.
Next is the kids. I was expecting them to live their lives around my “hobby” (which we know had turned into my idol). Now obviously the dynamic may be different for you if your kids are in school, but for me, I have babies and a child who I homeschool. I was putting their needs on the backburner, and that is where their attitudes went because of it. How is my child supposed to be excited to learn when I’m not excited to teach? Why am I upset when my kids are selfish and argue when I am modeling a life of selfishness and being quick tempered? It just cuts to the core to see my kids model terrible behavior that I have taught them! Truly. That is my responsibility and the guilt I felt was there for good reason! It would have been so unhelpful for someone to think they were doing me a favor by not making me feel bad and helping to keep a bad habit. That just ties into this popular thought that “kind words equal love” and they simply don’t. Gentle honesty is love. Just like my husband, my children are my life. Unlike what magazines tell you where when you have kids “you don’t need to skip a beat!” “Be you! Spoil yourself”, you should absolutely alter your lifestyle to incorporate the greatest blessing there is- raising a child to be a responsible, successful adult. They do require a lot of work, but it’s not a bad thing, and it’s certainly not a chore. I can’t even imagine what my life would be life if my mother would have treated me like a chore. Praise God, she put me first ahead of herself. She did it right, and I know I’m blessed in that regard.
So what changed? Well I stated before that I am still a work in progress. I think life is like that; we are in a constant state of finding a new normal and adapting to, hopefully, be better. I am going through a book I cannot recommend highly enough called “The Excellent Wife” with our ladies Bible study at church, and a few weeks ago I was so thankful for the reminder that life is made up of seasons. We had gone over what an excellent wife ought to do and what her household should look like, and I remember thinking “alright, lady. You must be superwoman, so you just come over and manage everything perfectly while the baby breaks things, the toddler has accidents, and the six year old asks 400 questions”. I was a little discouraged, and feeling like I hadn’t made much progress at all, when an older woman pointed out that I’m in the baby/young child season of life. My most important role next to being a great wife to my husband is to teach my kids and to love them during these fleeting foundational years. It was as though she gave my soul such refreshment with those words. Hearing that I don’t have to do all the things perfectly was like having this burden of mythological perfection lifted from my shoulders.
My daughter needed me to have time with her to chat, and also just to listen. My Wallace needed some hugs and love. And Teddy… well as long as he can nurse he’s pretty good. I can say I’ve never held off on that. Haha! It’s good and helpful to get down on the floor to play with animals and dolls with the kids. I know it’s exciting when they want to sew too, but doing what they want to do will make an even bigger impression on their lives. It’s good and healthy for them to see us out their wants and needs ahead of our own. And I’m not advocating treating yourself poorly. Just keep that outlet where it belongs- as an outlet, as your place to breathe and unwind, even if you do need to use it to bring in some income.
You know what? My house is pretty messy most days and I would be mortified for you to come in. My children are like little tornadoes, and cleaning while they are awake couldn’t possibly be more fruitless. But they are babies, and I’m teaching them to pick up and do what they can for their age. I am in no way a neat freak or perfectionist, so I don’t expect my children to be that way. I want them to enjoy living and being children. I am making quite bit because of the tight financial strain we’ve been under for a couple years, BUT I’ve found what works well for me is to make during quiet time or after everyone is in bed. I am not an early riser, but I can stay up, and thankfully my whole family sleeps very well even when the sewing machine is buzzing. My husband is a very early riser who gets up at 4am, goes to the gym for two hours everyday, then goes and works a full day. He’s done and halfway asleep by 10:30 every night, but I make it a point to always have time for him, and only him from the time the kids go to bed at 7-7:30, until he goes to bed. It’s amazing what keeping a schedule in this way has done. It means my time to craft isn’t cutting into any of the responsibilities on the home front, and I don’t feel that guilt for placing my own wants above everyone else’s.
So if you are perhaps like me, loving your time of making, raising young kids, let me just encourage you. You do not have to do it all. Being married and raising children is seriously hard work, but it’s also the most rewarding. I don’t want to minimize how difficult it is. I realized I was subconsciously comparing myself to women who seemed to produce handmade goodness at an alarming rate, when one day one of these women posted about having her child in daycare several days a week so she could craft. I have no issue with that, and I don’t think homeschooling is somehow holier than sending your child to school so please don’t think that. But what I was doing was thinking these women had all the same circumstances as me, but were seriously winning at life in ways I could only dream of. Don’t compare yourself to what someone posts on social media! Most people only post the pretty things and don’t show you the rest of reality. Don’t let your hobby or outlet consume you. When those other parts of life start to crack you will either lose something or someone you love or you will resent that thing that should have been a healthy outlet.
I know this was a long post, but it is something that has been weighing heavily on my heart. I wish I would have had someone tell me this years ago when I was just discouraged and not doing anything well. Just remember it’s all a process, and your life and family is unique. If you could use some advice and encouragement about buying fabric (because the temptation to have every new line is real!), you can read this post about responsibly buying fabric.
If I can be an encouragement to you, please let me know. Life certainly isn’t a competition, and I hope this post can bless you in some way.