Welcome to Self Care Saturday. Today I am happy to introduce Sarah from Sometimesphotojenik as a regular contributor to this series. Sarah and I have bonded as we regularly discuss the need and struggle of practicing self care.Sarah recently began her career as a pediatric nurse and is aware of the need to find balance in life regarding what is important.Today she discusses how we can improve our own self care by listening to the regrets of others.
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 let.it.go.
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.
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?
Self Care Saturday is a weekly series that discuss tips and offer suggestions for practicing self care and compassion on a daily basis.