Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moms worry too much - part 2

In case you missed it, back in April I shared the first in a series of (probably many) posts about Moms and worry. This is installment number two. If you want to read them in order, click here to go back to Part 1.

I see Moms worrying about perfection, or at least the appearance of perfection, in two huge areas - schoolwork and housework. First to tackle: schoolwork.

What Mom hasn't cringed a little at some point in her children's lives as they struggle with what seems a basic school-age task ... like writing their name? 

Mom - chill out. Learning to write, is like learning to paint, only harder! It takes time to learn the mastery of the tool (pencil, crayon, pen) AND it takes time to master the technique (manuscript or cursive.) While some of you may laugh now and think "Oh, I'm past that!" ... are you really? As Moms we see the details, and some days they yell at us "This is sub-par, and it's YOUR fault!" Let's think about this together shall we? 

Our children are growing and maturing at a fast pace. Each day brings a new skill to learn or master, each day brings new ideas to ruminate on, and each day brings a host of new or continuing assignments, books to read, or math problems to solve. So take a deep breath, and stop expecting perfection. Your child does not need you grading their penmanship/ writing/ reading comprehension every single moment of every day! 

It is exhausting to them (and probably not much fun for you either!) As your child matures, it is reasonable to expect their skill set to improve, and it is your job to encourage them to do their best work every time, BUT it is NOT a reflection of something lacking in you as a Mom if they don't progress as rapidly as the kid next to them in school, or across town, or as compared to their cousin.

The work of children is play. As they get older, we focus on specific education to hopefully help them become mature, responsible adults. This takes somewhere between 5 and 20 years. Seriously Moms, you've got to stop expecting your 4th grader to have penmanship like yours, or be able to do math problems and always get them right like the college professor you know. They're just kids.

Don't take this as an excuse to do nothing about expecting your child to improve or helping them perform to the best of their ability, use this knowledge as a freedom to love your child right where they are! Rejoice with them when they master (or at least improve upon) a tough skill. Encourage them, don't belittle them. Be the Mom that they'll remember as "always helping me, always encouraging me," not the "that's not good enough" Mom.

Some of you may say "but I'm a perfectionist by nature!" Are you truly? They realize not everyone else is, and creative people are often messy in the process, but wonderful in results. It is more important to teach your children the life skill of being able to clean up after themselves than to teach them 'don't make a mess, it'll make Mom mad.' 

For those of you who are still sure you're a perfectionist, does it paralyze you? Do you spend more time analyzing how big of mess that Art project will make than actually doing it and having fun? Our lives are so often filled with stress - that we make OURSELVES! How about instead of messes, we look for grace? How about we decide that tying heart-strings with our children is more important than what Great-Aunt So-and-so thinks about the final science fair project! If your child doesn't win the Science Fair, but still knows you love them, it makes it much easier to have discussions with them about good sportsmanship and being genuine in rejoicing for others' successes.

Now that we've had a little heart-to-heart about schoolwork, please allow me a few minutes to share my heart about expecting perfection in housework. (If your house looks like an episode of "Hoarders" or like the evening news shot that reads "23 dogs found living in squalor" - you need to stop reading right now and go clean something!) For the other 99.99% of you, feel free to keep reading!

As Moms, we can get this idea in our heads that our homes should look like a cover of "Better Homes and Gardens" or some other highly-staged, not real-life, magazine cover. Please change the picture in your mind to one of real-life, where toys don't always end up back in the toy box, and kitchen counters get messy - often! 

If you have kids who help make the messes, then have them help you clean them up. NOTE: it will NOT look like a cleaning job you did yourself for a long time - maybe even a few years, but it is SO worth it! Employing your children in the care of your home is essential to your sanity. There are some chores your preschooler is not ready for- like scrubbing the toilets, but there is no reason why your 10 or 12 year old can't learn how to properly clean a bathroom! Give the preschooler an appropriate chore, like putting away the clean washcloths, or picking up his toy trains before you vacuum. Each time you teach your child a new home-skill, there will be a learning curve, just like when she learned to write her name. Work with them, encourage them, and... if the job is done poorly simply because they're being lazy, make them do it again. 

It takes a long time to learn a skill like folding a fitted sheet, but each time your child tries, they are improving, and they are taking some of the housework load off of you. The Moms I see struggling with this 'perfection in housework' idea the most are the ones who think too much about what other people think. Wouldn't Grandma rather hear a story about how "I helped with the biscuits" from little Susie than hear you be terse with your child because you feel 'stuck in the kitchen?'

I am not a perfectionist, nor do I play one on TV, but I will tell you it took a lot of time for me to learn to let go in the areas of schoolwork and housework. Once I did, I discovered what wonderful things could be done by children. True, sometimes there is a dish that needs re-washed, or a spot doesn't come out of someone's shirt, but for the  most part, our girls are great at doing housework. Moms, it's OK if your child doesn't vacuum all the way to the edge of the room every week. Can't you just be thankful that someone is vacuuming every week?! If the corners really bug you, then once a month, offer to do the vacuuming yourself. Trade and let your child make lunch - (after all, pbj isn't that hard to make) - while you do the sweeping!

We might have just forgotten the grace that was extended to us as we grew up. If so, go find some to extend to your children! If your parents demanded perfection out of you, and didn't extend any grace... I'm sorry. If you have bitterness about your childhood, you might be pushing it off on your kids. Stop it now, so your kids don't grow up resenting you.

So Moms, the next time you're tempted to yell across the house about something that isn't perfect, stop, think, pray... and then come up with a plan that balances a decent education and a livable house with your life. God wants you to bring your problems to Him, where you often find out, they're not that big of a deal after all. God is big enough to take your worry away, trust Him.

Now about that messy kitchen? Sometimes it comes with benefits. Like this morning, when I came home to these yummy, warm scones, made by the girl who often messes up our kitchen. They were so totally worth the flour that needed cleaned off the counter!

Stop worrying, start trusting God, He's got this!

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