In September I joined a women’s Bible study group that meets on Tuesday mornings. The name of the study is Intentional Living. The passage we are studying is Proverbs 31. I know. Every wife and mother out there just gave an involuntary shudder. Why does this particular passage strike fear into the hearts of women everywhere? Well, if you aren’t familiar with it, this chapter describes a woman I like to refer to as SuperWife. This lady is unbelievable. She’s up at the crack of dawn, and works late into the night. She manages the cooking, cleaning, scheduling, and dressing of her family with the ease and precision of June Cleaver/Martha Stewart/Betty Crocker, so that both her husband and children wake up telling her how wonderful she is. She also has several side-businesses that she keeps going in her free time (Etsy, Craig’s List, Rea Lana, craft fairs…she’s got them all covered). She’s a savvy investor, dresses stylishly and elegantly (and I’m sure cheaply), and is such a support to her husband that all his friends comment on what a lucky guy he is. Does every wife want to be described this way? Absolutely! Is it possible? Heck no! The very thought of trying to follow in this chick’s footsteps makes me want to lay down and nap for the rest of the afternoon.
As a recovering perfectionist who still backslides every once in a while, this is a dangerous passage for me. Still, it’s in the Bible. Since I believe all Scripture is the inspired word of God, then I have to believe that this is the ideal God is calling me to, right? So I’m trying. The first area I’ve tackled is home-care. Now, if you’ve been to my house you know that we’re not messy people. “A place for everything, and everything in its’ place” is a credo that my mom lived by, and since we’re all destined to become our mothers in some way, I live by it too. When we reached the home-care lesson in our study I went into the discussion feeling pretty confident that my housekeeping skills were up to snuff. Then our leader starting talking about things like “zone cleaning,” dusting the baseboards, cleaning out the oven, and washing the windows inside and out, and I began to feel like my “I clean it when I notice it’s dirty” approach to house cleaning is just not cutting it. When I got home I started noticing things like the spiderwebs gathered in the corners of our bedroom and the dust caking both sides of the ceiling fans (how does the underside of the fan get dusty, especially when it’s always on?) and decided that though my house is nicely organized, it desperately needed a thorough, deep cleaning.
So I made a plan. I listed all the things in my house that needed to be cleaned, then decided how often to clean them (daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, or yearly). I wrote my plan out on index cards (one of the methods recommended at our Bible study meeting) and spent the past week tackling each area of my house in turn. Monday: do laundry and clean the washer and dryer. Tuesday: Vacuum and dust the living room, dining room, entry, and laundry room. Wednesday: clean the kitchen counters, table, microwave, stove-top, sink, and the inside of the refrigerator. Thursday: clean the bathrooms, scrub out the showers, clean the drains (I got a little crazy and made my own shower and drain cleaner – thanks Pinterest). Friday: vacuum and dust the master bedroom, nursery, and office. Result? The house is cleaner than is has been since way before Charlotte was born…I’m thinking at least a year. Also, I’m so tired of my Swiffer duster and vacuum cleaner that I don’t want to see them again for at least another month, even though my “plan” requires me to pull them out and do it all over next week. I didn’t even touch the windows, and the baseboards are still a mess.
Is this what it takes to follow God’s calling for my life as a wife and mother? Is Charlotte destined to spend large chunks of time sitting in her bumbo, watching Mommy clean like a mad-woman (that is until she’s old enough to hold a dust rag, at which point I will put her to work as my assistant maid). Somehow, even though my house is sparkling and you could eat off the floor (not exactly…I didn’t mop, because that is next week’s monthly task) I feel like I missed the point. I’m not supposed to eat the bread of idleness…but cleaning like a crazed germaphobe? That doesn’t seem like the answer. And what about all the other verses? When do I have time to make sashes for the merchants, or extend my hand to the needy? Is a wife who feels like a bedraggled maid with dishpan hands really worth more than rubies to my husband?
Obviously the key to my dilemma of how to be a Proverbs 31 wife and still feel like a human being is balance and proper perspective. After all, Jesus himself admonished Martha to stop with her meal prep and just sit down and soak in his teaching like her sister Mary. I always felt a secret sympathy for Martha. After all, what would everyone do when the teaching was done and they were hungry and wanting dinner if Martha hadn’t been slaving away in the kitchen to make sure their physical needs were provided for? Thinking about it now though, I suppose Jesus might have been addressing the attitude of Martha’s heart – telling her that she was concerning herself with the temporary and missing out on the eternal. And how guilty am I of that. I do try to spend time in God’s word and in prayer daily – but I didn’t spend nearly as much time on my devotions as I did on cleaning this past week. And shouldn’t my time playing with Charlotte at least equal the time I spend keeping the house dust free?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that my struggle has a lot to do with redefining my identity. For the last ten years a lot of my identity was wrapped up in being a teacher. Now my “career” is motherhood. But the truth is that I shouldn’t find my identity in either of those places, but in Christ alone. It’s hard. It will probably take a lifetime, and still I won’t have it figured out. But I can try. And I’d rather put my efforts into becoming a better daughter of God than on turning into SuperWife, because I know that the Holy Spirit is with me on that quest. His mission is not to create superheroes, it is to sanctify sinners. Not as glamorous perhaps, but infinitely more worthwhile and actually attainable.
Anyone else out there struggling with trying to be SuperWife or WonderMom? If you’ve figured out how to let go of the drive to be perfect, any advice or tips for this recovering perfectionist?