My desire for perfection has often lead me to miss wonderful opportunities to bond with family and friends. In my not-so-distant past, I believed that perfection meant a perfectly ordered home, perfectly cooked and beautiful dinner, perfectly groomed family, all children behaving perfectly. Perfection meant straight lines with everything in its place, and the appearance of order and control- even if it meant my family was miserable and I had been screaming all day. I always loved kids in general, but I loved order and perfection more- and those became the foundation for how I ran my home. Children are messy, but the messes that my children would create were almost maddening! Dealing with picking up after little people was always a hard thing for me, and it annoyed me greatly. "Don't they understand I want the house to be perfect!?" "If the house isn't perfect, I cannot possibly be happy or have a good day!!!" "UGH! ANOTHER MESS!?!?!" "I have to clean this up, what will _____ think of me if the house isn't perfect!?" My inner dialogue was filled with criticisms and task lists. There were days where I would have sworn that my children were following me and destroying any housework I had just accomplished. The to-do lists seemed endless, and my need for perfection dominated my day and dictated my mood. If I wasn't cleaning, I was researching how to clean something (it is not enough to just clean something, it has to be cleaned perfectly), or looking at pictures of perfect homes- stewing in frustration over not being able to have the perfect life I wanted. What a waste of time!
I have gotten better over the years. Living in a small house with five other people (all male) really helped me learn to get a grip and be able to deal with imperfection. I can remember, after quickly sweeping the floor for the third time in two hours, chanting to myself the FlyLady saying, "Even housework done imperfectly still blesses my family." FlyLady's philosophy was the only thing that could calm my anxiety for not scrubbing the entire floor rather than sweeping another small mess. Yes, I did get better, but I still had much to learn.
Homeschooling has been amazing. I did not know I could love my children exponentially more than I did before! Spending my days with them is such a joy, and getting to learn with them has been life changing. I have seen the amazing creativity that can come from a room filled with scattered toys, tossed bedding, and pajama-clad children. I have spent more time with friends who couldn't possibly care any less about the condition of my home or whether or not my children had perfectly styled hair. I have found the freedom that comes with realizing that good is good enough, and that perfect is not necessary.
No longer do I strive for perfect order, instead I strive for perfect spirit. I want to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, comfortable, and safe. Sure, I still cringe when my children make a huge mess. Yes, I still feel a bit of anxiety when I notice things out of place or dirty. However, scripture study, mandatory rest time (I "clock out" at 9pm, and I do NOT work on Sundays), and spending more time with my family have all helped me calm down a great deal. Anxiety soon passes and is replaced by happy memories of times together, rather than an unnecessary need for "perfection" all around me. Cleaning still happens, and happens often. My children spend ~2 hours per day cleaning, I spend all day homemaking, and Kurt does the dishes and helps as needed (like during Finals week, on my birthday, or if I am sick- ALL of which happened last week!!! AHHH!!). We work together, and our home is generally in decent order. And I am okay with that =)
In The Book of Mormon, we read, "And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation."
By remembering that I do not need a perfect home, but I should strive for perfect love- I can know I am focused on the right things.
A few weeks ago, Sean came over to spend the night with us. The boys came home, tossed their coats and shoes, and ran upstairs to play together. I walked behind and when I saw the mess I smiled and snapped a photo. The kids would all eventually put the coats away, but in that moment they were too excited to manage to remember. I could have shouted and interrupted their joyful playing- but I didn't need to. The mess could wait- they were busy making memories. This moment- seeing Sean's coat on the floor, scattered among my own boys' shoes and jackets- was perfection because it meant we were together.