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What my mother regrets

what my mother regrets

Over the holidays I was able to take some time off from work and spend a week at my parents' house and in the town where I grew up. This was the longest I had been at home since I graduated college and much of the time was spent in conversation with my Mom, Dad, and brother. One night as we were having dinner, my mom mentioned that there were some things that she regrets doing as a parent. I was of course curious and asked her what were some of the things she regretted doing as a parent. While she wouldn't share some things, the things she shared are something we can all learn from. 
"Sarah, I regret worrying about always have things clean and in their place." 
My mom explained that she wishes she spent more time with us rather than cleaning the house.
"Sarah, I regret not letting the little things (like wiping down the refrigerator door) go."
My Mom shared that she wishes she wouldn't have gotten so upset with us over little things (like toy clutter). She wishes that she would have just let them go and not worried about it so much.

My Mom is not one to live with regret but now that her and my Dad are empty nesters, I think she is realizing just how fast the time flies. Furthermore my mom has no need to regret these things- my brothers and I have no recollection of spending an excessive amount of time cleaning or her worrying about the little things. In fact, just the opposite- I remember going on bike ride after bike ride in the summer, joining in her garage sale-ing endeavors, and I rarely remember her being upset.

But what she said that night at dinner hit home. 

You see, I have always been pretty clean a neat freak, and in the past 16 months of marriage, that neat freak monster in me has reared its ugly head. As a nurse, I work three long days but have four days off. In the beginning of my marriage I found myself cleaning and doing chores at least two of those four days. Mind you, I have no kids, there's only laundry for two people, and I live in a 600 square foot apartment. The chores and cleaning that I was doing for two days was so far into the realm of perfection that my husband would come home, splash a little water on the bathroom sink and hear an earful from yours truly.

I have lightened up over the past year but not as much as I'd like as was proven by an incident this past December.

About a week before Christmas my brother and brother-in-law were over for the Broncos game and dinner. I should mention that this particular night would be the last time that I would see my 21-year old brother before he left for Thailand for a year (or possibly longer). After dinner, my brothers and husband all sat down in the living room as I started cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes. I began to get angry- why was I not getting any help? Why was I having to clean up by myself?

Half an hour into cleaning up (I had moved past the dishes by this point and was onto straightening the house and doing other little chores that needed doing), I realized that I had it all wrong.

My brother was leaving for a year and I was worried about some dirty dishes in the sink and a cluttered coffee table. 

Instead of sitting and talking and enjoying the company, my neat freak monster came out making me worry about the things that had yet to be cleaned. It seems incredulous as I write it now, but in the moment the dirty dishes were incredibly bothersome to me.

How often are my priorities skewed like this? More often than I would like.

I too often choose a clean kitchen over time with my husband.

I often choose a dusted and mopped house over time to relax and recharge my own battery.

I often choose finished laundry over time spent outside or time with friends.  

I think the point of this all is there will forever be a list of tasks and things that must be done. Can we completely ignore this list? Of course not. Can we choose to be selective in the things that are priority on this list? Definitely. Can we choose quality time with loved ones and rest for ourselves over tasks that must be done? Absolutely.

If you feel as though nothing on your list can wait, then maybe you need to take a step back and reevaluate what is on your list. Things like caring for yourself, spending time with your loved ones, and having peace in your relationships should always take priority over your task list.

For someone like my mom, she wishes she had let those dirty dishes sit in the sink. She wishes she hadn't made such a big deal about perfectly folded laundry. 

I wish I had sat down and enjoyed my brother's company while he was present in my living room because now the only communication we have is the occasional text or Facebook message letting us know he's okay. I wish I had spent more time relaxing on my days off and less time cleaning. I wish I had chosen peace in my marriage over a perfectly clean bathroom sink or toilet paper that's put on the roll "the right way".

Though I wish these things, it's never too late to make a change. 

Since the experience with my brother, I've been more conscientious about when I choose to clean my house. I'm learning that boxers left on the bathroom floor is not worth the fight. I'm learning that two extra hours of sleep on my day off is worth more than a vacuumed house. I'm learning that I can relax in a house that has clutter on the coffee table and dishes in its sink. I'm learning to make like Elsa and just 

This whole thing is hard for me. Really hard. If you're a type A person like I am, you will know this struggle all too well.

Let's make it our goal and encourage each other in this journey. A journey of choosing self-care, relationship, and peace over a clean house and perfectly manicured life. A journey of letting go of the little things for the greater sense of contentment in life.

My Mom's memories of her kids at home enjoying time together as a family are plentiful and abundant. I can only imagine how far I have yet to go to become as even keeled and laid back as my mom is and was when we were kids.  If you are a momma- be encouraged; you are doing the best you can and your kids are remembering the time you're spending with them at the park, giggling in the playroom, or snuggled on the couch.

(one of our many camping trips together as a family- these are the things I remember)

Let us choose daily the important thing- the rest we need, the time with each other we need, and the peace in our relationships that we so desperately need.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go do the dishes.

Do you choose quality time and rest over things on your to-do list? If you do, what are your tips for those of us who struggle with this? If you don't, what are a couple ways that you think you can start?

{In case you were wondering, my Mom read and fully approved this post before I posted it.}

{Linking up with Sweet Little Ones for Tuesday Talk}
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  1. Sarah, I totally connect with this. I am the same way. I have 2 little girls and sometimes find myself worrying about the clutter around the house instead of just letting go and making memories. After losing my brother, I KNOW how important it is to let go but I still find it is hard sometimes. Love this post.

  2. Ahhh Shannon you're one of the ones who has learned this lesson the awful hard and terrible way :( it's amazing how hard it can still be even after such harsh reminders. Your girls are and will remember all the memories you're making with them :)

  3. What a beautiful post, Sarah! It seems like the conversation with your mom has really internalized -- it is so neat to be able to grow and adapt even when we are outside the "authority" influences of our parents. Now we can simply appreciate their wisdom :) I find myself frequently concerning myself with messes, but being to tired to tidy! lol -- I love the snuggles and the trips to the park. I think for me, it is setting a minimum, --the house has to look at least "this" good for me to not have guilt or frustration with myself. We're tidying the house as a family today :) So many things are not in their "proper" place yet since our move last month! I hope that you are able to hit a rhythm and stride in your new priorities! Blessings, friend!

  4. I'm doing my best to internalize it but it is definitely challenging. I think setting a minimum for how clean you want your house to be is a GREAT idea! That way you can prioritize what's important to you and then let go of the rest! It's so hard after you move too isn't it? You just feel a little unsettled until everything finds their place. Keep resting mama, you're going to need it! :) Hope you're having a good start to your week :)

  5. I love this reminder to slow down. It is true, we chose things over other things (because no one can do it all) I try to be aware of what I am really choosing!

  6. Yes definitely, I totally agree. There's always a choice and being aware of that choice is half the battle :)

  7. I have a similar struggle with cleaning up, and too often I choose to hustle around than just sit. In kind of a reverse situation, my grandma is usually the one hurrying to clean up, and something I have actually learned FROM my mom is to just sit and enjoy company without worrying about all the dishes right away. That said, my mother has always had a clean house, and one thing I've taken away is to make sure the house is clean before you leave to go somewhere (like a trip), so that when you get home, you come home to a clean house! I think there's a balance. I know there are things my parents regret about raising us kids, but personally I would love to be parents just like them. They didn't do everything right, but they did their best and I am thankful for it!

  8. This post speaks right to my heart! I struggle a bit with having a never-ending to do list, but I also struggle with having a mom who is very driven to make sure there is never a mess in her house, ever! This sounds like a good thing, but as you pointed out, I think it caused (and still causes) her a lot of unnecessary stress, and my siblings and I all kind of suffered because of it. Even now she gets annoyed when no one helps her clean up around the holidays, but it's because we're all enjoying each others' company and urge her to do the same! Thanks for writing this post, it's a great reminder that I want to ensure my own family feels like each of them are more important than the mess they might make.

    Lisa | Two Martinis

  9. My mom taught us the same thing! To have a clean house before a trip that is. And I totally agree there is definitely a balance, and I have yet to find it but I feel like I'm on my way. And I completely agree- I think my parents did a great job raising us too and I was actually even shocked that my mom voiced some regrets. We all just do the best we can, our parents included! :)

  10. Ahhh Lisa that's hard to have a mom that's like that- I'm sure it's because she loves you and is maybe a little bit too hard on herself. At least she serves as a reminder to you to not worry about every little thing. We're all just doing the best we can :) glad the post spoke to you :)

  11. Sarah, this a wonderfully written post! I know a lot of women really do struggle with letting the dishes sit the sink over night or letting laundry pile up. I do not have that problem. :) I think the root of all of this is being intentional with our time and choosing relationships over futile things, and I do think we all struggle with that to a certain degree. I'm so glad you shared this post with us at Tuesday Talk! I enjoyed coming across your blog and reading your post!

  12. What a great post! My mom and I were just discussing this same thing last night on the phone! It's crazy how time flies by, and you definitely don't want to look back and realize you missed out on important things because you were too 'busy'. I know you mentioned wanting to read Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World on our should!! I just started it, and it is SO good and talks about exactly what you were saying. :)
    Hope you have a great day!
    Katie @ Sweet Little Ones

  13. Katie, that's crazy you were just talking about it with your mom! The funny thing is is I almost referenced the Mary/Martha passage in the post (the only reason I didn't was because I felt like it would have made it too long). I'm excited to hear the book is good- I'm going to see if our library has it this afternoon! Hope you have a good day too! :)

  14. Chelsea, I admire people like you that don't have that problem :) I think slowly I'm getting to that point. But you're totally right- it's all about being intentional and choosing what's important. Thank you for reading! :)

  15. Yes indeedy, Sarah! What's weird about moving is that you still have dishes and laundry to keep up with. That's enough for me! It is hard for me to get motivated, but little by little, we'll get settled in! I am getting more sleepy these days, Sarah! Gotta remember to rest and not feel guilty about it -- that's the hard part!

  16. Ahhh moving is tough- I can't imagine doing it while pregnant so million props to you! Don't feel guilty, you'll get the new place organized soon enough. You and the little girlie need your rest :)


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