I’m sure your daily to do list is a mile long and a big chunk of it consists of what you need to do for your kids, such as helping with homework, driving them to practices, getting lunches ready, scheduling doctor appointments, and well, you know the drill. We can get so wrapped up into the doing that we miss the opportunity to just be present. It goes back to that super single mom syndrome, of not only doing it all but doing it perfectly, because hey we got this under control, right? Well, it may appear that way, but this is an surefire way to get totally burned out. Always thinking about what you need to do robs you from the gift of being present. Sure, you made it to your kid’s recital, but if your mind is preoccupied with the new leotard, or cleats you need to buy for the kids, or the dentist appointment you forgot to schedule, or a million other things, then you are not there. Little Suzy is on stage dancing her toes off and although your eyes are watching, your mind is a million miles away.
In a blink of an eye it’s over and your onto the next thing. Listen, you show up and that’s half the battle, but if you’re going to be there, why not savor the time? You deserve better, and frankly so do your kids.
Mary and Martha were two sisters who no doubt loved Jesus and desired to honor him, they just went about it in two different ways. Martha was busy with the preparations. Can’t you can almost see her sweating over the meal she was preparing, worrying about whether it would fit for Jesus? Mary gets a bum rap, but I believe her intentions were good. She was getting it done, checking off those boxes, to ensure that things were on point for Jesus!
Mary on the other hand wasn’t so concerned about the happenings in the kitchen. The heart of her reaction to Jesus’ arrival was not in the physical preparations, but in the spiritual and emotional. She was present. She sat at his feet and gave him her undivided attention. I bet when Martha saw her sitting down, basking in the glow of Jesus, she was hot! Here she was working her fingers to the bone to prepare a meal for Jesus and there was Mary slacking off. Was Mary really just given Martha the shaft? Absolutely not! But, we can certainly understand how Martha could feel a bit annoyed. Both women were doing the right thing…they were serving Jesus. But one decided to just be while the other decided to do. Mary’s choice gave her the opportunity to be in communion with Jesus, the one thing that was needful.
I always felt bad for Martha, because I understand her heart. I know how it is getting so caught up in the preparation, trying to make everything look perfect, and then feeling as though it really isn’t appreciated. Of course Jesus appreciated Martha’s efforts, but I think he was gently saying…stop being troubled by the things that are temporary and be present for the things that are of real value.
I’m not comparing our kids with Jesus, but I think moms can easily fall into a Martha kind of parenting when we are too consumed with prioritizing our duties, and not our relationship with our kids. Both approaches have the best intentions, but there needs to be a balance.
When we our kids become another check mark on our to do list, life as a mom starts to morph into series of routine chores. We become preoccupied with performance, not theirs but ours. The judgment and pressure on moms to do everything, be everywhere and do it well is ridiculous! It is what society expects and it has somehow creeped into our own belief system. For example, at my daughter’s school there are room moms, but not room dads. Not only is this the norm, but the school wouldn’t dream of asking dads to do something they consider to be the mom’s role. We are expected to show up and men are not held to the same standard. When we do so no, we are made to feel guilty!
The no means we don’t care, or can’t be bothered, or aren’t involved! It is so stinking unfair! So, don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle with the performance thing, because to some degree it is what we are groomed to do. Has it helped us? No! It’s just made us burned out, stressed, and exhausted. Not to mention we hold ourselves captive to an impossible standard.
Children are not tasks, they are human beings who crave a genuine relationship with their mom and on the flipside we desire the same. When that desire isn’t being satisfied, we slip into a rabbit hole of just going through the motions of being a mom. Look, there are seasons, when we are just happy to get through the day, with everyone fed and still breathing. That’s life, it happens and you may need to focus on the task at hand. However, if this season is a lifestyle it’s probably time to try a different way.
I get frustrated and burned out when I feel like my only purpose is to pay bills and run errands. When I start to feel like just an Uber driver or get caught up into making sure everything is working perfectly, it makes me feel further away from my daughter. It’s like my role as mom has been diminished. If I look at her as a check box on a long list of things to do, then I’m not giving our relationship, the dignity or respect it deserves. That to do list may be filled with items that relate to her, but they are not her. I can take care of daily to do’s, but am I taking care of the person, or the relationship? This is a key question to ask ourselves. In my heart when I know that I’m putting more emphasis on the stuff than her, it makes feel awful, which in turn makes me incredibly hard on myself.
Life is too short and too uncertain to allow moments to slip away. When you are gone from this earth, your children will cherish the relationship and the memories you created. Sure, they’ll remember that mom juggled a million and things and totally rocked, but nothing will replace the memory of you being present and engaged. Give yourself permission to stray from the to do list, and spend quality time with your kids. Creating memories will last way longer than making sure dinner is on the table at precisely 6:00 pm. You may have to run a tight ship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play hard, laugh a lot, and enjoy one another’s company. I know you’re trying to keep all the wheels turning, but don’t get run over by them! Enjoy the ride! You are a gift to each other, so make sure you take the time to unwrap all the delightful surprises that come with your family.
In my upcoming eBook, “15 Tips to Avoid Single Mom Burnout,” I’ll give you practical tips on how you can be a little less Martha and a little more Mary!