If you’re like me (and I think most moms are), you’re always doing. Doing laundry. Doing dishes. Doing dinner. It’s our vocation, and it’s beautiful. Because, by its very nature, it requires us to serve. And while serving certainly demonstrates love, there are times we need to stop the doing. There are times we need to show our love by doing something else.
Like last week, when I was smack in the middle of washing the bathroom sink. I’d only just begun – right after the baby finally fell asleep. There were still a toilet, bathtub and tile floor in need of scrubbing, so I worked quickly but diligently. Who knows how long a baby will sleep? So, I cleaned with an ear waiting to be interrupted, which I was. Only, it wasn’t by the baby. It was by my five year-old.
“Mommy, play with me.” Inside, I groaned. Not that I didn’t want to, but this bathroom had been neglected for too long, and I was sure I didn’t have much time to give it the attention it sorely needed.
“In a minute,” I responded, rinsing a bit more quickly now.
“Mommy, you always say in a minute.” My son waited in the doorway, but I kept scrubbing. Sink done. Onto the tub. Might as well get the big job done before the baby wakes. In the mirror, I saw my son, his hopeful smile quickly disintegrating into a frustrated frown.
“Fine, I’ll play by myself.” I watched the superheroes in his hands droop and then hang, nearly slipping from his grasp as he walked away.
Oh, to be Mary. To neglect the housework in order to love by simply being with the one desiring our attention. But, today I was Martha. Too much to do.
Yet, I couldn’t get those falling heroes out of my mind. ‘Which is the worse to neglect,’ I thought, ‘the housework or my son?‘
With a sigh, I put down the rag and shut off the bathroom light. “Honey,” I called, “I can do the bathroom later. Let’s play superheroes now.”
When I was a teacher, before becoming a stay-at-home mom, we called such moments “teachable moments”. It was some of the most valuable time in a classroom. It was the time when you, the teacher, stopped your planned lesson to instead teach something you hadn’t intended. Something that interrupted your lesson, something a student brought up that you realized was more important to address or clarify at that moment than what it was you had planned. Sure, the lesson you’d stayed up late drafting last night might not get done, but your students would learn something they needed to know, something you weren’t aware last night they would need to know.
As a mom, I see these as lovable moments. They’re the moments that interrupt our plans of cleaning or cooking, that make us stop the things we need to get done in order to tend to what we hadn’t anticipated our kids or husband would need more.
They’re Mary moments, the times when you know that the house needs tending to, but so do the people you love. They need your undivided attention, your focus to be solely on them. And though the work calls, their voices ring more loudly in your ears.
So, you put down the rag and pick up a superhero. Or a doll. Or you take a seat by your husband on the sofa while the dishes stay piled in the sink. Because the work will always be there, but this precise opportunity to give yourself fully to the people you love won’t.
It took me a while to be okay with a pretty regularly messy house. But once I noticed that my relationships with my kids and my husband were what stayed in good shape, my home’s untidiness suddenly wasn’t so noticeable.