I walked into my friend’s house yesterday to look at paint colors and she immediately mumbled, “Don’t mind the mess. I don’t even know how this happened in the last 15 minutes before nap.” As I looked around, there was an art kit that had been dumped all over the floor and other toys strewn about.
I told her there was absolutely no need for explanation. I realized that she had probably already cleaned up 3 times that day. I just wouldn’t know it by the latest mess. And while I knew she couldn’t prove it to me, there was no doubt I knew it to be true. We laughed together at the reality of it.
Sometimes I find being a stay-at-home mom challenging because there is an ambitious side of me I once knew in another life that sometimes feels at war with my choice to be with my precious babies. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m away from them for more than a few hours, I find myself missing them. And I often kid that my children have become like my security blanket, I’m so used to life with them (even with all the added complications that come with parenthood), I truly feel strange when they aren’t around.
But it’s funny to have a job where you work all day but at the end of it can have no measurable results. No formal progress. No anything of concrete value to show for it.
I find this to be one of the most challenging parts of motherhood for me. The thing that makes me miss having an outside-of-the-home job–I find myself missing the ability to be able to gauge and monitor my productivity. Because when I worked outside the home, I had the ability to make a list at the start of my day and mark things off. I liked knowing that if I set a goal, I could most likely accomplish it within that work day.
I long for that certainty some days. Not enough to want to separate from my babes, but I still find it eats at me more than I would expect. My ambition wants to see results. And who can really measure that I patiently used my energy that day to respond in love to my unreasonable toddler 20 different times?
Who can really measure that I took time to sit down and talk with my oldest son about his day even though I really wanted to sit down and zone out on Facebook while he ate after practice?
Who can really measure that I took the time to cut up vegetables for the kids’ nighttime snack instead of letting them eat a processed (but pre-made) treat?
I can measure, but who would notice that I have cleaned up the kitchen with toys more than four times in the last two hours and done two loads of laundry only to have the hamper filled again before bed?
It sometimes even makes ME wonder, am I actually doing anything all day even though I know I am. Does anyone see my effort (other than my Fitbit)? Is there a boss that wants to come and tell me how impressed they were with the passion I displayed while wiping up the puke off my white chair? (Because I know I displayed some passion and mad scrubbing skills.)
I started this blog Sanctification and Spitup because I am convinced there is no greater way to come to know the Lord than the process of raising your children. It IS the moments when no one is watching when our greatest character is being formed.
It is the menial moments that go unnoticed that make all the difference in the long run. You might even say for eternity. Because the Lord is watching. And so are our children. And they have more value than any boss could ever have. They just can’t leave a 5 ***** review on your desk or give you a salary increase when they see your effort. Maybe just a sloppy, wet kiss.
The Lord may not audibly say, “Great job today, Quin, on not losing it when that woman cut you off with a car load of kids and you were tempted to yell out something rude. I saw you kept your mouth shut. And I know it was hard. Well done.” But He sees it. And it’s noticed.
And so do they–our babies. And while their little mouths and their young minds may not have the maturity to put words to their gratitude for you, they feel it more than you could ever know. And they are the ones that have the ability to give us the most beautiful review we could ask for. They are the ones that will tell stories of us for years to come. They are the ones that will carry our legacy. They are the ones on whom we leave our imprint. And they are the ones that can learn of Christ’s love just by our love.
One day when we’re old and grey, they will be the ones to sit and tell their friends, “Our mom is just the sweetest. She was always patient in ways that we could never understand. I’ll never forget the time I puked pink koolaid all over her bedspread and instead of yelling, she just pulled it off and held me. She always took the time to make me feel so loved, even though I bet she wanted to kill me. I learned how to love from her.”
“Our Dad was so patient. I remember when I used to take 30 minutes to tell him everything I ate at lunch that day at school and instead of rushing me along, he would just listen. As if there was nothing more he had to do, I always felt so valued.”
A boss will not carry our legacy. When we stop working under them, they will likely begin focusing on their next employee. It doesn’t work that way in parenthood. We are the one and only mother. We are the one and only father. And this is our one and only time with them.
When I think about these things. When I really think about them. I can’t think of a sweeter way to spend my life than doing things that can’t be measured. Because I know that I’m actually doing things that will be treasured in the hearts of the little ones I love. For years and years to come.
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The author of this article is a wife, mother, blogger and licensed marriage and family therapist. 99% of her time is spent keeping her 3 boys alive and the other 1% is spent writing about their crazy times in her blog Sanctification and Spitup, which is also found on Facebook.