The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone and she mentioned that she was getting her 2013 family year book ready to be published. Are you kidding me?!? Here we are, only mid-way through March, and she was already putting the finishing touches on organizing and publishing all the pictures she had taken last year. I was impressed and disappointed at the same time. Impressed at her ability to stay so caught up and disappointed in myself. I am years and years behind on compiling our family pictures into something my children can look through and enjoy. I take pictures by the thousands, but aside from a handful that are enlarged and printed, there they sit on my hard drive.
After hanging up the phone with her, I walked past the living room and realized our leather couches were in desperate need of a good cleaning and conditioning treatment. I made myself a note, and went into the office to see a stack of papers that had been needing filing for quite some time. I started shuffling through the papers and came across a note that our pediatrician had given me several months ago with the title of a book he wanted me to read regarding children and sleep, which I have never gotten around to. The note reminded me that I needed to follow up on what has been a losing battle with one of my children's intestinal issues. As the day went on, I kept coming across things, one after another, that I realized I had fallen behind on or was completely neglecting.
I felt that all too familiar feeling of anxiety mounting in the back of my mind- that anxiety a mother feels when she feels like she isn't doing enough. But how could I possibly not be doing enough? I scrupulously organize my day with to-do lists and calendars, run errands, clean house, kiss owies, chase after kids, and go to bed every night completely exhausted. How is it possible that that still isn't enough?
I started thinking of all the areas that I felt I was falling behind. I should be exercising everyday, but that has been hit or miss, with more miss than hit lately. Chicken nuggets and Ramen Noodles grace our dinner table far more often than they should (hence my child's intestinal issues, I'm sure). I've allowed most of my friendships, with the exception of a few, to dwindle away, consumed by the busyness of my life. I don't call my mother nearly as often as I should. I only read with my children a few times a week instead of every day. The pile of clothes that needs mended hasn't been touched in months. And the list goes on and on.
And yet I feel like I'm killing myself everyday trying to do enough- to be enough. Will I ever feel like I'm doing all that I should- being all that I should? But then I realized, I've never met a mother who feels like she is- that isn't plagued with at least some feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Maybe they're out there, but I've never met one.
I recently read an article that statistically concluded what the ideal number of children to have was. And wouldn't you know it, I've exceeded the recommended number... three times over. A mother's love, they said, can be multiplied endlessly to accommodate feelings of affection for her offspring, no matter how many she chooses to have. Her time, however, is a finite resource. The pie can only mathematically be split so many ways. And who can argue with math? I know I sure can't because I suck at math. But even when I only had this "ideal number" of children, I remember still feeling like I was always grasping at straws. I remember telling my husband that I felt like I was president of the Deficient Spouses Club with just two kids, while mothers with four and five kids seemed to be rocking the heck out of carpooling and meal planning.
But my feelings of inadequacy and failure to successfully wear all the hats that are mounted on my head aren't unique feelings. I think every mother, in one or many ways, feels like she is failing. Epically so. And yet those resilient little creatures that we call children have a way of adapting and loving us despite all our short-comings and unfinished to-do lists.
This morning my son was getting ready for a class field-trip. Before heading out the door, I pulled him aside and slipped him a dollar, telling him it was to buy himself a candy bar when he was on his field trip. He quietly handed it back and told me he wanted me to keep it because he knew that finances were tight with the expenses of building our house.
Later on, as I dropped the kids off at school, my other son paused before opening the car door and turned back and said, "Thanks, Mom. I love you."
Then I watched my daughters play together this morning, hugging and giggling as they played with their ponies and dolls.
Somewhere in the midst of all the things I should be doing better, apparently things are turning out alright. Actually much, much better than alright.
I don't think God designed life in a way that we could do everything we should. He knew that there would be some things that we would have to let fall by the wayside- and really good things. That's part of the test. I think sometimes that the good things in life are like a buffet table, where we have to wander up and down the line, with plates in hand, deciding what it is that we're going to pile on. But once the plate is full, it's full. Adding more food to that plate doesn't increase it's capacity, it just makes some of the other food spill off. Spillage is expected, but what's important is the quality of what we leave on the plate.
Today I decided to start tackling my pictures, and while Calista was napping, worked on organizing and getting them ready to put into a book. This is going to take a while since I have let myself fall so far behind. I'm starting to cross one item off a list of what seems like thousands. And when I'm caught up on my photo books, I'm sure there will still be a million things I feel like I'm not doing right or enough of. But it's a start and I'll keep trying.