Sometimes life gets busy. No, chaotic is probably the more appropriate word. Sometimes our schedules are upended and our routines are ruined and we fall into that if-I-can-just-get-by-until-things-settle-down-a-little way of thinking that some might call “survival mode”.
Living like that is hardly ideal, but sometimes it’s necessary. And, hopefully, temporary.
I’m sure you go through those chaotic times, too. Maybe your chaos looks something like this. Or maybe it looks nothing like this! It really doesn’t matter because either way, the craziness of the scheduling and the resulting breakdown of normal productivity are bound to look a little familiar…
On very little sleep you travel as a family to a 3-day homeschool convention in a neighboring state, which is both wonderful and thoroughly exhausting. You come home long enough to wash clothes and repack so you can fulfill your commitment to chaperone a 4-day youth trip, from which you and three of your children come home sick.
Now there are suitcases everywhere and piles of dirty laundry all over the house and fevers, coughs, and unbelievably snotty noses to go along with all of it.
And what about the books and curricula you bought at the homeschool convention? They’re still in random piles, waiting to find a home somewhere.
You keep homeschooling because the kids have already missed more days than you wanted and you want to take a spring break and still be able to finish school in May. But Easter falls in there, too, and then there’s also a ladies retreat to prepare for and a workshop to help with, though the coughing and hacking and nose-blowing continues and you still haven’t found a place for all those books and curricula you bought.
But then you find a great deal on a dishwasher, which is awesome because you’ve needed one, but it’s a now or never purchase that involves some headache and then requires some cabinet repair and pieces and parts and tools end up all over the place and add to the mind-numbing, avalanche-prone clutter that’s been piling up for WEEKS now.
You buy more books and curriculum, in spite of the fact you’ve never found places for what you’ve already bought, but it’s spring and as a homeschooling mom you have to be thinking about next year NOW in order to take advantage of the best deals.
Keep homeschooling. Keeping washing clothes. Keep blowing noses.
You move clutter aside so you have a place for more clutter. The clean laundry pile gets so high you can’t really wash anything else until you have the time to fold it all and put it away, and who knows when that will be? Maybe everyone will have enough clean clothes to get them through a few more days…
The ladies retreat comes and goes and you collapse on the couch that night in something akin to a coma, but oh-my-word you haven’t even thought about your Sunday school class tomorrow or children’s church either.
You realize the kids need clean clothes. DESPERATELY. In fact, you don’t know, (and don’t particularly care, so long as nobody else knows,) how many times they’ve actually worn dirty clothes in the past few weeks.
There’s a stack of schoolwork a mile high to be graded and sorted. The new books and curricula are still in messy stacks, still waiting for a home.
You haven’t had a chance to change out the winter and summer clothes. Your kids complain about wearing sweaters in 70 degree weather and you know the boots have to be packed away at some point.
The house is no longer just messy and cluttered; now it’s downright dirty, too, but there hasn’t been time to worry about dust and soap scum and sticky floors. The kids have been helping, but they’ve been as busy and tired and sick as you’ve been and things have just gotten out of control.
You’ve been surviving. And that’s all that has mattered.
So when all the major events have passed and normal life resumes, (or, as in my case, spring break arrives,) the hardest decision is what much-needed household project to start with first. Finally the sheets can be changed. Finally I can finish changing out the winter and summer clothes. Finally I can get that bathroom scrubbed from floor to ceiling. Finally I can find a place for all those books!
So where should I start? What long-neglected task should I tackle first?
When I thought long and hard about it, I knew the answer: I should start with a trip to the zoo.
Because in all the hubbub of the last few weeks, I’m pretty sure my kids may have often been left to wonder just where they fit in mom’s list of important things to do. They may not have said it, but I could see it in their eyes sometimes when I was too busy to listen or too preoccupied to give them my full attention.
Listen, moms, I realize we are busy people, committed to good causes and active in worthwhile things. I also know there are certain tasks we have to do for the maintenance of our homes. The family needs clean clothing to wear and clean sheets to sleep in and clean bathtubs in which to bathe. A little organization really does make a home more peaceful by making us more contented, which goes a long way toward greater harmony in the entire family! So many of the things we do we actually do for our children.
But I’m not sure they always see it that way. And I’m not sure we recognize sometimes how much our busyness affects our children. Our chaos becomes theirs. Our stress is transferred to them. Sometimes it’s brought on by life circumstances beyond our control and we can’t help that, but other times it comes as the result of our own mistakes of over-commitment. Either way, if we’re not very careful we can leave our children feeling lost in the chaos and convinced that they are very, very low on mom’s list of priorities.
So sometimes, when the obligations have been many and the laundry is piled high and the dust is thick and the clutter is out of control and common sense is begging us to get to work on all the household tasks that have been neglected, it may be the perfect time for a trip to the zoo.
Or to the park. Or to a farm. Or to an ice cream shop. Whatever.
Because a day, even a couple of hours, set aside from all our other responsibilities to do something fun with our children SHOUTS to them their incredible value to us.
Mom has things to do. But she says she’s been too busy lately. And so everything else is stopping today. For ME. Because I MATTER.
So toss common sense to the wind and go to the zoo. Just for today. I don’t care that this is your only free day to catch up on everything else or that you really should be working on Project A, B, or C. Just do it. Just go have fun with your kids. Remind them, (and yourself!) how very much they mean to you.
And don’t worry about the housework. It’ll still be there when you get home.
You can trust me on that one.