photo credit: he-has-a-plan via photopin (license)

An Unexpected Trigger

As I  stand at the kitchen sink and reach for the 8th glass with some crusted-on remnant of something that doesn’t even look like it was safe to consume in the first place, I feel it starting to set in. With every dried out plate of mac n’ cheese that would’ve been 974x easier to clean if it had just been rinsed or scraped off immediately, my frustration levels are creeping up. I finish the dishes, turn around and see all of the stray plastic cups in the most absurd corners of every bedroom and hiding on the windowsill behind the curtain. Seriously? Seriously! How hard is it to just put a cup in the sink? Give it a swish of water, and drop it down. That’s all I ask! Too much? Obviously.pela-self-cleaning-kitchen_a-l-8362901-0

For a moment, I consider going on strike like this mom. Then, the story of the husband who comes home from work to find the house a certifiable war-zone while his wife is locked in her room reading a good book runs through my mind. He asks what the heck is going on, to which she replies, “You know how you’re always asking me what I did all day? Well, today, I didn’t.” Ha! Got ‘eem. To be fair… I actually don’t do much on the daily. These days, I am on full-time “make sure the baby doesn’t choke on that random chunk of petrified cheese she somehow managed to find in the carpet and put in her mouth” duty. I swear I save that kid’s life at least 10 times a day. *please save your comments on how I should probably vacuum more. I get it.* And also, my husband never comes home from work and throws the lack of progress in my face. He works from home. He sees it in real-time. So taking a “vacation” for a day would certainly lose it’s “sucker-punch” power and would also pretty much guarantee a terrible choking incident. That’s the very definition of counter-productive. So… no strike for me.

Where Is My Heart?

In this moment, this moment that seems to show up time and time again every single day, I am faced with the same decision that, to be quite honest, I am tired of making but is the mark of not only parenthood but servanthood. When I ask in frustration, “Am I your mother or your maid?!?”, the answer is not going to come from my kids. It’s not going to come when they start treating me “better” or start making my job easier. The answer lies where my heart lies. The real question is, “Do I have the heart of a servant or a slave?”

I realize that I can go through my day performing the same tasks of cleaning up after my children, maintaining a certain level of cleanliness in my home, and making 4 different breakfasts for my toddler because she can’t make up her mind, and my heart and attitude towards doing so has the power to alter the entire mood of the home. I have to decide if I “have” to take care of my family, or if I “get” to take care of them. When I go through the day with a “have to” mindset, I get bitter. I feel alone and mistreated. I begin to take on a “me vs. them” outlook and immediately feel defeated. I cannot win against the 6 other people in this house. It makes for a frustrated and angry mom and I see the downward spiral as that mood sets the whole household on edge. When I choose to have a “get to” mindset, I see the blessing and gift my family members are. I am reminded of the grace I have been given in that I have a house that fits my large family and that we have been able to raise our kids in. I see that in this very practical way I am serving my husband who works so hard to provide for us to the extent that I don’t have to work outside of the home. I know that clutter and messiness stress him out, so when I take the time to clean, I am actually taking the time to ease his load a bit. I am making a way for my kids to be able to do homework on a clear surface. I am removing baby hazards left and right and creating a safe place for her to roam and explore and grow.

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It Goes Beyond Our Home

Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom is nothing to scoff at. Being any sort of a mom, regardless of where or how she works, is hard. Being a wife is not easy. All of these responsibilities are amazing gifts and I am grateful beyond words to be able to be both a mom and a wife, but it is also because of these things that I have to not do what I want to do A LOT. I have to decide to think of other people before myself. I am in no way saying that as a mom/wife we should be treated as servants. It is also the responsibility of our husbands and kids to love, honor, respect, and serve. That’s the goal here. To out-serve one another, to stir one another towards love and good deeds. I am trying so hard to teach this to my children. Currently, it doesn’t seem to be going very well, but it’s a life lesson that is necessary to repeat. They will get it. By God’s grace, it will sink in. This is how we want to function as a family, as members of a community, as people who want to participate in the redemption of culture.

So I will continue to wash the never-ending pile of nasty dishes. I will continue to launder the mountains of stinky clothes. I will probably continue to ask questions like, “What the crap is this?!”, and “Who did that?!”, or “Why-oh-my-gosh-WHY????” because of the craziness I’ll come across in a house with 5 kids and weird little dog. The way I go about my daily routine, even my daily frustrations or outbursts of anger, is forming the way my kids view work and responsibility. It is shaping how they value serving others and the level of joy they will find in self-sacrifice. I will try to remember that the only question that I really need an answer to is, “Am I serving in love or resentment?”.

This is always helpful as well. Lessons from Sesame Street… belly breathe!