You may remember that this past summer, I taught my daughters to sew. Around the same time, I helped my boys learn more about woodworking by doing a few projects. In both cases, I was rather inexperienced myself, but I felt it important to give the kids some experience with different potential hobbies, and some rudimentary skill. The summer before, I taught them to cook, because that is, in my opinion, an essential life skill.
In the case of cooking, my son tolerated and did well with it, and my daughters took off with it. The girls now love cooking and continue to cook often for our family, purely because they enjoy it. The boys have a similar enjoyment of woodworking, and continue to build new creations weekly in the garage.
But the sewing? That’s a different story. My daughters did well with their projects and gained some valuable skills, but they weren’t feeling the love for sewing. One of my daughters in particular seemed bothered by her own lack of enthusiasm for sewing, worried about letting me down.
Of course, she does not have to worry about letting me down. I’m super proud of her. She’s an amazing girl with many skills and passions. If she chooses not to make sewing a regular pastime, that’s okay! I am simply glad that she knows how, she can do it if she needs to, and if she ever decides to take further interest in the future, she can.
But this experience made me think:
How often and how easily we can feel pressured to do it all…
and how unnecessary that is…
and how sad that is…
for us and for our families.
Mom, you don’t have to do it all.
Your life, your passions, your energy, your time, your gifts… you are different than anyone else. The way you spend your time serving your family and serving others will reflect this, as well it should.
Your life is different than mine. You may be in a different season of life, busy with young children and no help, and have less time than me… Or maybe the opposite. Your circumstances may give you more time and energy to expend. You may love to do things that I dislike doing, and you may dislike things I enjoy. Don’t compare your own life to mine. I promise I’m not comparing either!
You don’t have to be the family hairdresser. I cut my family’s hair. I do it because I enjoy cutting hair. I like watching YouTube videos to learn new techniques, and I can imitate those techniques pretty well. In some ways cutting hair is an expression of my enjoyment of art. I have trouble trusting hair salons with my family’s hair, especially my own! For me, cutting hair is enjoyable, and saves my family a lot of money.
I use disposable diapers. I do use cloth swim diapers and training pants, but otherwise we are a disposable diapering family. Maybe cloth diapers are your thing, but they are not for me. I know they are the more ecologically responsible thing to do, and over time, less expensive… I get it, and I admire cloth diapering families, but I don’t feel guilty.
You don’t have to grind your own wheat, or make your own bread. We actually started grinding out own wheat a couple of months ago, and we have lots of reasons why this is a good idea for us. First of all, my daughters love to bake. Seriously, they used to ask me three times a week if they could make cookies, cake or brownies. Not because they wanted sweets, but because they simply love baking. The sweets were getting to be bad for my figure (!) so I taught them to bake bread instead. They now bake six loaves at a time, once a week. A few months ago we added to the nutritional value of the homemade bread by investing in a wheat grinder. Grinding wheat has added very little time to the bread making process, and has been a worthwhile way to add to our family’s nutrition.
But understand this: Five or ten years ago, I thought about buying a wheat grinder, and at that time, it would have been a bad decision. When all my kids were younger, life was kind of chaotic. Hard to believe, right? (Joking!) Life was joyful too, but yes, chaotic at times! If I had started grinding my own wheat back then, I would have done it out of guilt.
You see, I would read how Mrs. A, B and C ground their own wheat and provided wholesome bread for their families, and I felt as though I was a bad, lazy mother for doing less for my own kids. It didn’t occur to me that maybe Mrs. A, B, and C enjoyed grinding wheat and baking bread. My motivations would have been born from guilt and comparisons, not from a genuine desire, need, or calling. I’m glad we waited until now, when we can truly enjoy the labor and fruits of our labor, to add bread making and wheat grinding to our regular homemaking schedule.
Decisions made from guilt or fear are rarely good decisions.
Do the things you enjoy, or provide a great benefit to your family, that you have time for.
Cut your family’s hair. Grind your own wheat. Sew all your family’s clothes. Cloth diaper your babies. Be the family photographer. Scrapbook. Blog. Wash the windows every month. Iron the clothes. Write your own homeschool curriculum. Make your own hand soap, deodorant or sun block. Lead a women’s bible study. Grow all your own organic veggies and herbs. Start a community play group. Go on a missions trip. Teach a co-op class. Run the homeschool newsletter. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Sew baby booties for a crisis pregnancy center.
Do any of those things.
Do several if you like, if you have the time.
But please, please… don’t do them all.
You’ll burn yourself out, and you’ll have little of yourself left to give those who you love. Truly, being there and giving of YOU to your loved ones is so much better than any of the other stuff.
Pick those things you like best… which you have time for. For the rest, you can scale back, outsource, settle for a substitute, or skip all together.
Can’t quite grasp the hair cutting? Go to a hairdresser. If you have a small budget and a big family, try a place like Great Clips, or find a hairdressing mama who will cut your hair in exchange for free babysitting.
Don’t like photography? Try Sears.
Is window washing your biggest burden? Wipe the fingerprints off the messiest windows once a week, and do the outside of the windows once a year… or look for a window washing company that can help if you have the budget.
Hate ironing? Try hanging up the clothes straight out of the washer, and “iron” with your fingers, or look for “no iron” fabrics when you have to shop.
You don’t have to do it all, Mom!
Your kids don’t have to do it all.
Like you, kids have unique natural bents, and natural weaknesses. Be prayerful and wise in how you handle these.
Case in point: Myself as a kid.
I didn’t play ball.
I sang. I drew. I played piano.
In fact, I still shudder to think of middle school gym class. No matter what the game, I couldn’t hit or catch a ball to save my life. The ball was pretty good at hitting me, though! (Ouch!) I remember practicing for hours in the back yard trying to master the art of hitting a volleyball. My gym teacher felt sorry for me and tried in vain to coach me through the process, but I was truly a hopeless case. I was always the last one picked on a team of any kind, and you could not have paid me or threatened me to get me to sign up for a team sport.
If your children have an interest in something, help them pursue it in a big way. Give them ample opportunity to become an expert, especially as they grow older. Their passion could be an indication that God has plans for them in that area.
If your children are uninterested in learning a particular skill that you believe to be essential in life, help them to achieve a moderate level of skill, and be satisfied with that. Don’t try to make them great at something they have no interest in. As much as possible, give them freedom to pursue skills they are passionate about.
Maybe your friend’s ten-year-old is winning contests for their essays and stories, while your teenager still makes capitalization and spelling mistakes sometimes. Maybe it seems your son is allergic to pencils. He’d much rather be reading books about engineering and how things work. Now, you know that writing skills are important in nearly every profession, and you’re wise not to ignore his writing struggles. Teach him to write, to express himself clearly, and to edit his work. Maybe even encourage him to study technical writing. But don’t try to make him the next Tolkien, if he’d rather be studying rocket science. Be happy for the success of your friend’s son, and appreciate your own for his awesome, analytical intelligence.
Maybe your daughter’s friend has an Etsy store selling her handmade dresses, and yours (like mine) just hasn’t been bitten by the sewing bug. However, she may be a skillful musician, writer, or she may have the sweetest heart for babies. Encourage your girl to be happy for her friend’s creative gifts, and appreciate her own special ability to weave a story, bless others with her music, or make children feel loved.
Maybe your children aren’t interested in academics at all, but they have deep faith, compassionate hearts, and a unique ability to make deep and lasting friendships wherever they go. Teach them to be competent, and help them find books that will inspire interest in the world, by all means! You want them to love learning. I want that for my kids too, and we need to try to light that fire. But appreciate your child’s amazing character, because that is infinitely more important than book smarts.
Avoid comparing your kids to others. Yours have their own unique personalities and giftedness. Celebrate the special people God made your children to be.
No, Mom, your kids don’t have to do everything. And while we’re at it…
Your children don’t “need” to do everything.
Maybe your children want to do everything. They want to play soccer, baseball and basketball. They want to join a community chorus and join the traveling theater group. They want to join the debate team, participate in boy scouts, take gymnastics class, and learn to play the violin.
Looking at all the benefits of these activities, all the gifts they could hone, fun they could have, and friends they could make, the temptation is there to join them all. Those activities are all good things. But, is it really a good thing to do them ALL? What would that do to your family?
The above example is a bit extreme, but it really is easy to fall in the trap of overextending our children to their detriment and that of the family.
Moms, set limits. Your kids don’t need to do everything. There’s no magic formula for how many activities are ideal for everyone. We have our own limits, and yours may be different. That’s okay! Decide how much is truly good for your children, for your family, and choose wisely based upon their needs and interest.
Leave time open for service. Sometimes kids can be so busy with their own pursuits, there is little time left to serve others. Teach your kids to be givers and producers, not merely takers and consumers. A heart for service and love for others will serve your children more than any class or club they ever join.
Teach them to prayerfully prioritize, pick, and choose. Your kids don’t need to do everything.
Your husband doesn’t have to do everything.
Comparisons, comparisons… How they hurt us, and our children! But they can also hurt our relationships with our husbands!
Maybe your friend’s husband teaches math and science to the kids, but you do all the homeschooling yourself. Someone else’s husband helps with cleaning and laundry, while yours leaves his socks on the floor. Someone else’s husband is an amazing handyman, while yours has trouble keeping the grass cut. Someone else’s husband frequently brings her flowers for no reason, while yours forgets your birthday.
Someone else’s husband teaches a Sunday school class… Someone else’s husband coaches the kids’ soccer team… Someone else’s husband takes the kids on weekly dates and reads to them every night…
Someone else’s husband is super funny, or super romantic, or super intelligent, or super handy, or super creative, or super something you wish yours was.
But you know, your husband is probably some kind of super!
Maybe your guy is the one who doesn’t cut the grass… because he’s working long hours every week to provide for your family.
Maybe he’s the guy who doesn’t help with the homeschooling or laundry… because he’s busy cutting the grass or coaching soccer.
Maybe he’s the guy who doesn’t remember birthdays, but he does read the bible to the kids every night.
Maybe he’s the guy who forgets to pick up his socks, but he’s the most kind-hearted, patient man you ever met in your life.
Ladies, don’t compare your husband to someone else’s husband. Appreciate him for who he is, and give him grace.
Give your kids grace too.
And while you’re at it, give yourself grace.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)