Know your limits

On my six -year-old’s desk is a pile of pictures I put there back in July, thinking they would look
nice in her room. She’s asked me approximately 25 times to either put them up or put them away. Yesterday she said pitifully, “All I want for Christmas is a tidy desk.”

A friend of mine put up a raw FaceBook status today, along the lines of “How do I manage my kids and my house and my church and my studies, and why is everyone else coping when I can’t?” She’s been inundated with encouragement and sympathy and advice (mine being, you obviously need more staff- nanny, massage therapist, cook and pool boy at minimum).

The truth is, we are all limited. None of us can do everything- well- at the same time.  And as parents, we are always going to live with the background hum of guilt. I am beginning to develop a theory that it is a biological impulse that causes us to try harder to look after our children than we would if we didn’t feel guilty.

After Alexa’s desk comment, she followed up with a list of ways large and small I had failed in my duties towards her lately- “you didn’t give me my pocket money today, we haven’t opened our advent calendars yet, you said you’d get me an after school snack and you didn’t, you haven’t got me tights the right size and they keep falling down and when are you taking me Christmas shopping like you promised?”

There are days I feel crushed by the weight of things I am not accomplishing. Today I am giving myself a break. The girls are in bed, the fire is lit and the tree lights are on. I am leaving the looming editing deadline, the dishes, the laundry, the emails, and the paperwork for another day, and I am going to sit here being
gloriously unproductive.

I’ve often struggled with the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus and his friends showed up unannounced for lunch and Martha got in trouble for rushing around cooking. I’ve had spikey little one-sided arguments with Jesus about how if Mary had helped they could both have sat down, or whether he would have changed his tune if no food materialised by mid-afternoon. But his words- “only one thing is needed”- are wonderfully focussing. Right there is a governing principle. You can’t do everything at the same time. You have to choose the best thing in the moment, even though it means other stuff won’t get done or will get done badly.

Or perhaps I am trying to find a spiritual reason for slobbing on the sofa this evening. Thoughts?