Over the past six months or so, I have analyzed myself in search of those areas in which I need to improve. I’ve done my best to find contentment in circumstances that I’d otherwise like to change, and I’ve tried to highlight the joy in the simple pleasures of life. I heap a lot of guilt on my shoulders when I find I’m not enjoying my kids, so in the midst of craziness and chaos, I’ve learned to take a deep breath and say, “I am blessed.”
Yet even with these goals as my mindset, I’ve noticed that I’m not content. I’ve tried to figure out why, and when I hear myself complaining, I find I’m repeating some of the same sentences over and over:
I need a break. I need some alone time. I just want to sit down for a minute.
But the reality of the situation is that I’m not going anywhere, and alone time is very hard to come by. However, this weekend I had an epiphany. I started asking myself why I couldn’t seem to get that minute alone or the small break that I needed. Why was I going to bed so tired every day, waking up more tired, and not feeling fulfilled?
And I realized it was because of that stupid cleaning routine.
Nine months ago, I wrote that I had found a cleaning routine that had changed my life, and for nine months, I followed this plan religiously. Every single day, I made sure to clean the rooms assigned to that particular day of the week, and if I didn’t finish or missed the goal for some reason, I made sure to finish on one of the other days.
Don’t get me wrong–the plan is good. If one follows the plan, one will have cleaned the whole house in a week. I liked the structure of the plan, and I liked feeling like I was giving my family a clean home, and it was the cleanest it had ever been.
But sometimes a clean house isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
In order to achieve this clean house, during the one hour that the kids had their ‘Quiet Rest Time’ in front of the T.V., I scrambled to accomplish the task at hand for the day. If I didn’t finish, then I’d either extend T.V. time and feel guilty, or I’d try to finish at night after the kids were in bed and Matt and I had had our late dinner at 8:30 or 9:00. And if I decided I was too tired, I had extra chores the next day. Forget about extra tasks like sorting through random papers and organizing closets–there wasn’t any wiggle room in the schedule.
And what did I have to show for this effort? A messy house two minutes after I cleaned it and a frustrated spirit that I hadn’t finished a book for pleasure in about six months.
The problem is that I had become a slave to a plan, a plan created by a woman that I had never met, a plan that she had made for herself. And while the plan is good, it wasn’t working for me.
Who said that I needed to clean my whole house in a week? Why did I feel the need to take on this goal at the expense of my sanity?
When I reread over my post, I saw my good intentions. I wrote about the flexibility of the plan, how it was just a guideline, but I didn’t stick to those intentions. I, instead, let a cleaning routine control me and rob me of something I had never realized was so precious–a moment to do nothing.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Perhaps a cleaning routine has never dictated how you spend your hours, but maybe you are a slave to something else.
Perhaps you are controlled by the need to work out. No matter how you feel, whether or not you really should take care of some other items on your list, you feel guilt if you don’t hit the gym. It’s no longer a matter of obtaining good health and showing discipline–you have become a slave.
Or maybe you can’t say ‘no’ at church. Your family really needs you right now as you have a wife and house full of kids, one a newborn, but the church needs you. How can you tell your church ‘no’?
Many times, good things aren’t good for us.
Cleaning my house is definitely a good thing, and I still plan to clean every day–as I stated in my original post, I want to fight against idleness and take my job here at home seriously–but I also realize now that if I don’t occasionally take a moment for myself, I will continue to burn out. And if I continue to burn out, that joy that I am so desperately seeking will continue to seem elusive, out of reach.
And, frankly, I’d rather have my children suffer a dusty house than a cranky mama.
To what are you a slave? What is robbing you of your joy?