I know many, many good women. I know women who serve others in their homes and in their communities: the mother who homeschools her six sons; the mother who works with teenage girls at church in addition to her seven children at home; and the mother who supports her adult children and runs the regional women’s organization at her church. I’m sure we all know women and mothers like these. What do they do that makes them so good?
To me, it’s not so much what these good women do, it’s how much. As Proverbs says, a virtuous woman “looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” I’m always impressed by the women around me who take the time (because they don’t just find it!) to care for their families, and for others around them; women who seem to always be thinking of others and providing for them; women with full, busy lives, helping to lift up hands that hang down.
Somehow, these are the same women who worry they’re not doing enough. They always seem to worry they’ve neglected something or forgotten someone, or that they need to cram more into their lives of service. And to be sure, there are many good things that we can be doing to serve, to take care of ourselves, to mother, but we simply cannot do them all.
As Julie B. Beck,mother and leader of an international women’s organization, stated, “A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important.”
I definitely have the “million important things” part down. Every day, we have to sift through the things we want to do to accomplish the things that are best, most important or just plain urgent. But sometimes, that list is so overwhelming that all I want to do is get out from underneath it. I feel as though I’ve done a few good things, and that I deserve some time off from my other responsibilities before I can face that daunting list. But, as Julie Beck continues,
“A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence.”
Sometimes, the more I fret over whether I’m doing enough, inside my home and out, the more I shut down and try to escape from even the most basic of my responsibilities. I often find myself doing this by “escaping” without leaving the house—on the Internet or into a book. And instead of refueling me to tackle more of my list and engage with my children, I’m left wanting to spend more and more time escaping.
With only twenty-four hours in a day I’ll probably never be able to do everything I want to do, but carefully prioritizing (and employing self-discipline) can help me not only to focus on my responsibilities but also give my children the time and attention they need. When I focus on myself too much, I feel as though I haven’t looked my children in the eyes all day, as if we haven’t really interacted. I’ve lost sight of not only their individual spark and personality, but also the real focus of my life right now.
Especially when my children are so young, I have to be careful about what I devote my time to. I know the most important thing I can do at this stage is to be there for them, teaching, learning and playing. This is the whole reason why I’ve made the not-always-easy choice to stay at home with them—because I feel that the most important work I could ever do is to rear my children, even if that means sacrificing some of the other things I’d like to get done.
Similarly, the best way we can be good women isn’t to try to accomplish everything, and not to focus only on ourselves. While we definitely need to remember to make time for ourselves (or there won’t be anything for us to give!), we have to focus on our responsibilities and prioritize well.
There will always be more that we can do, more that we can give, more that we could be. But as we ponder and seek guidance to find the most important, best things for us to do, one of the top things on our list will be our children.
QUESTION: Are you trying to “do it all”? What do you think you need to let go of? Can you tell the difference when you focus more on yourself—or too much on yourself?
CHALLENGE: Make a list of your top priorities and a list of your typical day. Do any of your actions not line up with your priorities? Minimize or eliminate one action that is not in harmony with your priorities.
Image by Christ Lutheran Church-Charlotte / www.flickr.com