I frantically picked up the clothes, the books, the toys, the markers, and the pages and pages of drawings–throwing them where they belonged…or hiding them.
Then I realized that I wasn’t going to have time to vacuum the floor (yes, this does seem more ridiculous in hindsight), and so the inner monologue began: I’ll just apologize that my house looks the way it does. “Sorry the floor’s such a mess,” I imagined saying.
At that point, a sane neuron in my brain piped up and said, “Wait a minute! Why are you going to apologize? It’s not like you went over and trashed her house. What are you really sorry about?”
I had to think. Was I sorry that instead of cleaning my house that day, I had been taking care of a sick baby?
Was I sorry that the reason my house was perpetually messy lately was because I had a new baby and two rambunctious, imaginative, playful children?
No, and no again. So why was I sorry?
And then it hit me. ”I’m sorry because I can’t look perfect.”
Yikes. I vowed then and there that I would not apologize for my house during my friend’s visit. If her house was a mess too, then she maybe she wouldn’t feel so bad. If her house was cleaner, then she could pat herself on the back and have a little boost of self-confidence.
It was really hard. I had to stop myself from apologizing three different times for various things, especially when she laid her baby down on my less-than-pristine floor.
I realized that, by apologizing, we often just shine a light on our insecurities and draw attention to the very things we’re trying to “hide.” I don’t walk into other people’s houses and scan their floors or run a finger across their counter tops. I don’t notice a lot of things until people apologize for them.
Fast forward a few weeks. I was at a meeting with the same friend and a few other women. We were talking about how hard it is to keep house when you have little children. One woman talked about how when she sees others’ messes, she either remembers when she had little children or feels relieved that she’s not the only one with a messy house.
Then my friend said, “You know what? We should all just stop apologizing for the way our houses look. I mean, we live there!”
I chuckled on the inside. And I was so glad that she had learned this vital truth at a much younger stage of motherhood than I had.
I still struggle with the need to look like I have it all together. I think we all do. But what I realized is that I really need to apologize when I get frustrated with my children and yell, or forget to stop and listen to them. So, I’m not sorry about certain things anymore. I’m saving my apologies for the things that matter most.
QUESTION: Do you ever apologize for things that don’t really matter? What are you really sorry about?
CHALLENGE: Identify one area of your life where you might feel insecure and have a tendency to apologize. Resolve to change what you can and to not apologize about the rest.
Edited by Tanisha DuBransky and Sarah Monson.
Image from Microsoft Office Clip Art/Graphics by Julie Finlayson.