“Never doubt a mother! She can carry a screaming toddler, two gallons of milk, talk on her cell phone and still slap the snot out of you for looking at her crazy.” I cannot remember where I read this, but this really happens.
More than 20 years ago, there was a perfume commercial, which was obviously targeted toward women. A woman sang, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never ever let you forget you’re a man.” It is amazing how we’ve morphed into that super I–can–do–it–all woman, always feeling the pressure of not doing enough, all the while continuing our complaint that men, particularly husbands, do one thing at a time and one thing only. But should we complain or follow suit?
I don’t know when it began, but society has placed unrealistic expectations on women that they willingly accept as the gospel. For instance, women believed that their baby was owed whiter than white cloth diapers. My mother told me that in order to keep up with her neighbors, and not feel the shame of judgment, she needed to make sure that our cloth diapers were whiter than white before she hung them out to dry. Anything less would mark her as an inept housewife. Can you imagine that a soiled, stinky cloth diaper could cause such anxiety and shame to fall upon you? I can only imagine what happened to the diapers that could not be proudly displayed. Were they discarded? How costly that must have been.
In the 1960’s women—especially married women—were expected to stay home, take care of the children, clean the house, cook dinner and be pleasing and available to their husbands. I look back at my own married life and shake my head at all the societal norms I imposed upon myself. I too believed that pushing myself to the limit of my existence was my “unwritten” duty in life. Somewhere in between that unsinkable, unshakeable, undefeatable woman and the I–could–care–less that the kids are dirty and hungry; I’m a mess and the house stinks, is where I should have been.
My life could not have been pleasing to the Lord. I was consumed with appearances, ego and illusive thoughts of grandeur. Every day, from the early morning hours until I went to bed at night, I was “spinning plates.”
Here is the Wikipedia™ explanation:
“Plate spinning is a circus manipulation art where a person spins plates, bowls and other flat objects on poles, without them falling off. Plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, in the same way a top stays upright while spinning. Spinning plates are sometimes gimmicked, to help keep the plates on the poles.”
Spinning plates is a circus act. Sometimes our life can feel just like a 3–ring circus, clowns and all, spinning plates. Yet, I don’t consider what I do in life to be a circus act. However, unless you and I’ve been contracted by a traveling show, our life should look more like a sacred series of events that require the upmost attention to Godly detail.
Life can be enjoyed without sacrificing sanity. That’s what it was for me, what it felt like for years—a life spinning out of control, with insanity dominating my thoughts. I was spinning five to six plates at a time, breathlessly keeping them spinning, lest any should fall and my shortcomings be revealed; reckless abandon to anything peaceful or quiet. I made choices based on expectations that lived only in my head. If the dishes were not done at night, or if the beds were not made and the toys picked up, I couldn’t sleep. I was bound to the thought that if it “seemed” like I had everything under control, then I would feel better about myself. But that never worked. It was never enough.
As I look back and think about the conversations I had with myself about making time for other things, I could have done things differently. For instance, if my husband wanted time alone with me, in my mind I would go down the list of things that needed to be done and when I could complete them before I felt free to answer yes. Or when my son was young and wanted me to play with him. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed precious moments with both of them, but I was stressed about making sure all my duties were completed first. My brain kept tabs on all that were outstanding.
Now that my son is grown, and my husband is gone to be with the Lord, I see that a truly full and fulfilling life is obtained when you wisely balance life with Godly choices, choices that bring everlasting joy. I realize that our lives should not be made up solely of fun and games. Rather, life is challenging. I am not minimizing the responsibility of parenthood or of being human. But a well–rounded healthy life is not just physically healthy, but emotionally and spiritually healthy as well. As women, sometimes we just need to allow some of the plates to fall, or better yet never spin them to begin with.
Take courage and solace in knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ would rather you look like Mary and not so much Martha.
“As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42 NIV).