Thursday, April 15, 2010

Knowing when to do (a lot!) less. One of Mom's best lessons.

My mom was a hard core homemaker. (Not to mention her mom, who majored in Home Ec at a prestigious California school back in the day. Imagine!) She cooked dinner every night, clipped coupons and made detailed shopping lists, breastfed, baked from scratch, sewed her kids clothes, used cloth diapers, shopped ONLY on sale, you get the picture. Not only did she do all that, but she taught each of us kids to do the same - brother included! And we all enjoy it all to this day...

Today though, as I sat feeding my own babies, I realized that one the lessons I've thought of most that I learned from my mother flies in the face of ALL that I just listed. I doubt if either of us knew just how profound of a lesson it would be at the time.

Mom was also sick for a long time, fighting cancer. Her last summer, when I was 16, I was gone for most of the summer on a mission trip. While I was gone, my spendthrift homemaking mother went in her wheelchair to a higher end department store and bought me two entire outfits at full price. You have to understand that such a thing had NEVER been done before or since in our family. She knew I desperately needed some new clothes, and she knew that she could do almost nothing about it. So she gave up so many of her "principles" and blew me away. She had all these great skills and yet had the wisdom and courage to not use them. (Or maybe she didn't, she just had no choice?) Whatever the motive, she might just have saved my sanity by her example of doing less.

If Mom had never been sick, never been forced to do less, I'd probably never have known that it's OK to give up all those admirable attributes of thrift, creativity, and self-sufficiency that she had. She hired help to clean the house. She let my brother cook entire family meals in the microwave. She didn't shop around for deals, just used the ones at one store. I wonder if she felt like a failure when she did those things. I probably would have.

But today the memory of her "doing less" sets me free every day of my currently crazy life to serve frozen pizza for dinner, hire cleaners and babysitters, sew only every three years, buy stuff not even just at regular price but OVERPRICED at Walgreens, to breastfeed my babies while supplementing with plenty of formula.

Thanks Mom.

A note to myself and any other wonderful mom that stops by here - let's be less than we can be today. Our kids will thank us. Both today, and a long time from now.


Jenn said...

:) thanks for sharing this story!

i'm sure your mom would be so proud of you!

Michele McMahon said...

Joanna, what a great encouragement. When I started reading this post, I started to get so discouraged as a working outside the home mom, I thought your post was going to make me feel more guilty and worse about doing what I can for my kids. However, you encouraged me! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

Dina said...

beautiful story! I know that at the root of much of our mommy guilt is just plain old fashioned pride. our world is different than our mothers but we can still hold to some of the examples and principles, the ones that are most important. sewing my own kids clothes when I can buy them brand new on sale for less? not happening. cooking all my food from scratch, including growing my own corn, beating it into flour and rolling my own tortillas? never! here's to doing less! and enjoying life with my family and not sweating the small stuff!

Don said...

"If Mom had never been sick, never been forced to do less, I'd probably never have known that it's OK to give up all those admirable attributes of thrift, creativity, and self-sufficiency that she had."

Sometimes, you can even live in a dusty house. Funny the lessons you can learn, even under the strangest of circumstances. It's all about who you are, not what you can do.

Lovely post.


Debs said...

Joess~ Your mom was awesome! But you forgot one thing! She was also environmentally friendly too, (I envied you and Joel getting cheerios every Sunday in those little green and orange containers with lids!) Just a thought... I eventually did that with my kids too. =) A garden yes! Cooking, baking, crafts... yes! Sewing?? Not so much! I'm trying to avoid that subject with Alena...poor thing keeps asking me to teach her how to sew! You know what I said?? "I wish Joanna were here, she could show you how!"
Thank you for opening your heart..mommies need a lot of praise! Miss you tons! Debs

Pat Mathews said...

Your mom was beautiful inside and out and I will always cherish the short time that I knew her. She was always an of the loveliest people I've ever known. You are very much her daughter.

Whitney said...

What a beautifully written, beautiful musing. Stumbled here randomly, am glad I did! May pass this along to my sister, who has her hands full chasing after two toddlers and often tries to do things "perfectly."

I think it shows great perspective to be able to do less sometimes.

sarahstew said...

Jo, I forgot to tell you when we spoke recently - this post came at such a perfect time for me - I actually made your little saying "be less than I can be" a motto -- this is something that a lot of women have been hearing from the Lord recently! Certainly this was "a word in season" "like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (whatever it meant to the writer, it always sounds good to me!) What a relief to be able to rest in this thought and know that God is actually often pleased more by me doing less...keep up the good work loving and enjoying those kiddos (with a side of giving final exams?!) Love ya!