Jaroldeen Edwards was in my last ward. If you don't know why this is amazing, then you are seriously missing out on a wonderful lady! If you haven't read her book, Things I wish I'd known sooner: Personal discoveries of a mother of Twelve, you ought to! (She's written several other books, many of which I'd read before I knew her, as well.)
She quickly became my total hero as I got to know her. She was one of our Relief Society teachers and I always looked forward to her lessons. Let's just say that I want to be Jaroldeen Edwards when I grow up.
The other day as I was going through my daily routine, I thought of a lesson she gave. I was totally stressing over the house staying clean. I had spent all morning cleaning everything spotless and the kids were quickly undoing every single thing I had done. Then one sentence from a Relief Society lesson three years ago just popped into my brain, and I started feeling pretty darn guilty.
Here's what I remember:
The lesson had a lot to do with motherhood, though I can't say if that was the exact topic or not. Sister Edwards told a story about going visiting teaching to a woman who was so worried that she'd be judged for the fingerprints on her walls and the toys on her floor that she literally followed her children around cleaning up after them. If someone showed up when anything was out of place, she was completely mortified. Then came the phrase that impressed me deeply:
"When I go to a house of small children and I don't see any signs of them--no toys on the floor and everything spotless--I think to myself, this house isn't working correctly."
Is my house working correctly? As the mother of young children, I find it extremely difficult to strike a balance between letting kids be kids and keeping my house clean. But what is my home for, anyway? Is it to be a cold, sterile environment where the children aren't allowed to breathe without permission for fear they'll somehow make a mess? Or is it to be a warm, comfortable place where the children are loved and nurtured? The answer is obvious...but where do I draw the line? I often feel like the woman in Sister Edwards' lesson...I am so worried about what other people will think of me if they saw my home in disarray. Even more so now that I have been the Relief Society President...I mean, if I can't even keep my own home presentable, then what business do I have in this calling?
I think it goes back to tent work vs. well work. In fact, I know it does. It doesn't make it any easier to strike a balance, though. I mean, the well work has to be done. If I spent all my time in the tent, I wouldn't have much of a tent after a while and it would cease to be the nurturing environment it is intended to be. But if I spend all my time at the well, my children are not growing, they aren't learning, and worst of all, I am not there for them. Does it really have to be a toss up? Messy house but happy kids, or clean house but unhappy kids? Can't I have it both ways?
Probably not. I mean, there are always compromises that have to be made. If I want my kids to learn, I need to let the toys be out. After all, a child's work is his play, right? But I can also teach them to have only one toy out at a time and to clean up after themselves. If I want my kids to be creative, I need to let the art supplies come out. But I can also be there to supervise so paint doesn't end up on the walls instead of the paper. I can teach them to put the lids back on their markers. And I can teach them that Play-doh isn't meant to be ground into the carpet. What it all means, is that it requires more time from me. It is much harder to stay in the tent then it is to work at the well. I've always been taught that the difficult things are always worth it, though. And I think in this case that is definitely true.
So, is my house working correctly? I guess it's the question of the ages. I'm trying though. I'm really trying.