Most of the time, I like being a stay-at-home mom. I love taking care of our girls, and I’ve made myself learn to like cooking and taking care of our home. And I’ve always just loved being at home.
But there are always times when I get frustrated or discouraged about things being so repetitive, or when my work feels so useless. Why wash the floor when it will get dirty the very next time someone comes in the door? Why try to teach the girls how to communicate better when they’ll just start fighting again in about two seconds? Why fold all the laundry when it will just get used up again?
Usually, these feelings mean I need to get out of the house, and have a break so that I can remember why I’m doing all of this in the first place. I need to remind myself why it all matters, because otherwise, my life starts feeling very, very small.
But this week, I started reading an incredible book, and I’m being reminded all over again that the small things, done faithfully, make a big difference in the long run. All the ways in which I’m trying to create a home for my family will impact them in some way, even if they don’t know exactly how.
Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes. (Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne, p.98)
When I was growing up, my mom always did laundry in the same way: she sorted all of the clothing into similar colors, and then she spread out a shirt or a towel over the pile, to make it look neat and keep it together until she threw the pile into the washing machine. That is just how it was done.
Did it impact my childhood in any way? No, except that it was normal and predictable. I would have noticed if she hadn’t done it. Something would have been off. It wouldn’t have felt like my mom doing the laundry.
Or I remember the way she answered me when I called. I would yell out, “Mommy?” And she would, without fail, call back, “What-y?”
One day, I guess she thought I was old enough to move past this tradition, and she answered my call with “What?” And then I cried.
Even when I started referring to her as “Mom” instead of “Mommy”, when I called out for her, I would still say “Mommy”, just so that she would answer with her rhyming “What-y?”
Such little, little things. Family jokes and traditions, like my dad always being late for lunch on the days when we were having fried potatoes. He had no way of knowing, it just always worked out that way. My mom would be frying the potatoes at the stove, and we’d all say, “Oh, Dad will be late for lunch! It’s fried potatoes!”
Or popcorn balls for night lunch, while we all watched Brady Bunch episodes together as a family, convincing my dad to let us watch just one more before we had to go to bed.
And the decoy ducks that floated in our pond every year, long after my mom figured out the joke, and learned they weren’t real.
Or sitting on the big swing with my mom on a spring evening when the lilacs or apple blossoms were in bloom, talking until it was so dark that we could hardly see my dad coming across the lawn to join us after his long day of work.
Oh, those were the happy days.
And now Ben and I have the chance to create our own happy days. Listing “Favorite Things of the Day” at supper each evening. Family walks. Reading stories in bed. Saturday morning pancakes and “happy music”.
The other day, Kaylia said to me, “Tomorrow morning, I will do a play with the Barbies, while Daddy makes breakfast and Mommy exercises.”
Because that’s what we do, and she knows it. If the girls get up in the morning, and I’m not stretching on the living room floor, they’re a little lost, and have no idea where to find me.
I wonder what things my girls will remember the most. I’m sure my mom never thought I’d remember the laundry piles covered with T-shirts and towels. Or her red kerchief over her hair on baking days.
Here’s what I’m thinking: Some things we do intentionally. We try to build a good home, and good memories for our children. We carefully create family moments and times of bonding.
But some things just happen. And because we are creatures of habits, we do the same, quirky little things that give predictability and comfort, just because the quirks belong to the members of our family – the people we love.
I think the best family moments are a mixture of both. Plan to have fun, but also embrace the way things just are. Notice them. Remember them. Soak in the every day things, the normal stuff.
And then wake up tomorrow, and do it all over again.
Meaning hides in repetition.