The Myth of Catching Up
This is not written for all the homeschool moms out there who have their days neatly scheduled, their homes picked up, their to-do lists checked off each day, their meal plans in place, their checkbooks balanced, and their children’s curriculum plans on a spread sheet for the next five years.
This editorial is for the other moms out there that continually re-write their schedules, fail at chore lists, carry to-do list items over from week to week and month to month, and generally keep house and hearth together by the seat of their pants.
I often find myself thinking, “Oh yes, I need to do ______. Oh well, I will get ________done as soon as I catch up.” And somehow I fully expect to reach that nirvana of “being all caught up”. In fact, my expectation is that this pinnacle will be reached in the very near future.
Of course we are not just homeschool moms, we are daughters of aging parents, siblings of sometimes needy families, and wives of busy husbands. All of these tasks make demands on our time, our energy, and our emotional stability.
When we decided to homeschool our children, I remember well my mom’s response. It went something like this, “But why do you want to make your life so hard?” My mom admitted that she loved sending her three daughters off to school each day. She kept the house immaculate while we were gone, met her girl friends for coffee, sewed, baked, and shopped while we were occupied at school. Now don’t get me wrong, my mom was there for us 100%. I have the fondest memories of walking home from school for lunch at home each day as I attended a parochial school in our neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago. Still, we were away for the bulk of each weekday and Mom could do all the things she needed to keep our home running smoothly, adhering to her Dutch standards of everything clean and in its place.
Perhaps it is just my temperament, but I cannot seem to get it all done–EVER. I cannot remember a single moment after having children when I felt like I had done everything I needed to and now I could just kick back and enjoy some leisure time. Oh, I do enjoy leisure time, but I pay for it by feeling even further behind.
I am finally realizing the toll feeling constantly behind takes on one’s psyche. There is a feeling of failure, a sense of always running and not seeing the goal reached. There is a humming noise of stress, knowing there are at least thirty things I need to get done each day and that I might accomplish less than half of these. I find myself staying up into the wee hours of the morning, trying in vain to “catch up” on email, reading the paper, reading a favorite news magazine, or doing the laundry.
Some of the ladies at our church have a joke about how the experienced homeschool moms try to get the newbies to lower their standards in an attempt to decrease the frustration level. One might think the role of older women is to encourage the younger women to reach further, to aim higher, but not at our church! Reality has set in and, in this culture where women are told they can do it all, it is kinder to tell the younger moms to relax, cut themselves some slack, and figure out how to prioritize the tyranny of the urgent.
That tyranny seems to have grown exponentially with our high-tech society. We are more connected than ever with smart phones, texting, email, Facebook, and internet. On a recent trip to NYC, I was struck by how tethered to their own private worlds everyone seemed to be and how lost and lonely at the same time. Almost no one interacts with any one else unless there is a problem of some sort. But I digress. That is perhaps fodder for a future editorial.
However, all this technology does clutter one’s life. It becomes a huge black hole of a time waster. It causes us to feel that we must stay up with all of these networks, thus creating even more things to do in a day. And that is NOT what we need. I have no easy 10-step method on how to tame the tech monster. If you know of one, please let me know.
But I do want to have a right view, a biblical view, a relational view on this idea of getting caught up. Obviously if one is neglecting important deadlines, keeping a slovenly house, allowing one’s children to ignore their lessons, and noticing other red flags, something needs to change. That kind of life is not honoring to the Lord, nor is it a witness of his grace and provision to the world.
A few practical ideas would be to find out what is important to your husband that you need to do, and what communicates your care to your children. If they are older, they will tell you what they REALLY need from you. Husbands are often are bothered by things that don’t bother you and are not bothered by things that do bother you. Go figure.
There is hope. Before I was married, I visited the home of a homeschool mom who was in the throes of those years of having young children and homeschooling older ones. Her home looked very lived in, to put it kindly, with a goodly bit of clutter and apparent disorganization. Not too long ago, I visited her again. All but one of her children are either married or out of the house, and her house was organized, neat, and clean. I remind myself that there are seasons in one’s life. In the busy tired season of life with young children, and/or homeschooling a variety of ages, your home may not rise up to bless you. Instead it might rise up and mug you! We can only do so much. God gives us twenty-four hours in each day. He puts limits on our energy, our resources, and our abilities. As fallen creatures, we do not always make the best decisions of how to use that time. At the end of each day, we should remind ourselves of the reality of God’s grace to us and to our families. We should take heart that a season is coming when we will be able to devote more time to housework and maybe even a favorite hobby or craft.
But my reality today is a house that is more disordered than usual thanks to much needed remodels of all of our bathrooms. Not one room is in order at this time. It is starting to wear on me, but I remind myself each day that it is a temporary situation and momentary messes are the path to home improvement.
This is not a treatise to defend slacker moms. We all know when we shirk duties, when we put premiums on “me time”, or when we indulge our natural tendencies to laziness. Those behaviors need to be confessed and not excused.
However, constantly feeling behind and beating ourselves up about it is not kingdom living. Accepting our current position, asking daily for God’s wisdom, keeping lists of what needs to be done when, and being cheerful in the midst of it all is what God is calling us to right now. What He calls us to do, He will enable us to do. That is no myth, but solid rock. May we find courage for each day in His promises.