“Why are there dishes in your sink?”
He’s eleven, a bit blunt, and has no filter. And of course he’s exaggerating–I don’t always have dishes in my sink. Well, maybe sometimes!
So why do I let this silly question from a preadolescent kid get under my skin?
Because it reminds me of what I used to have, which was wonderful.
And he represents the many who don’t really get what it’s like to be a single mom. He lives in a terrific two parent home. His father provides well and keeps him and his siblings active with home improvement projects; his mother unselfishly devotes her entire being to their upbringing and their household—including a clean kitchen.
There was a time …
There was a time I had a husband. He provided. He handled the bills and the paperwork—all those things like medical premiums and roof repairs and deciding on a replacement for our van and what to do with the old one. He knew how to fix the WiFi when it didn’t work and how to block the bad channels on the satellite TV. He would take the kids to the park or the pool while I caught up on the house, networked with friends, or just took a break.
I could focus on our precious kids. School them. Do papier–mâché with them. Design masquerade costumes with them. Read the Bible, sing, play Apples to Apples, and cuddle up with them. I even had time to teach them how to use coupons at the grocery store.
And then came the time …
Then came a time after I lost Tom when I tried to keep everything at home the same. On top of homeschooling, raising kids, and maintaining my friendships and fitness, I took on the bills, paperwork, and repairs. Not as well as Tom did, but I managed. Some things just didn’t get repaired. At first I didn’t like that. I wouldn’t accept that I couldn’t keep up, so I hired help. I figured maybe that’s what life insurance was for—right? Trying to keep things status quo?
A landscaper took the lawn off my plate. A housekeeper made the house look good. A contractor/handyman kept everything in repair. I got precooked dinners from those boutique cookeries to help my kids feel like we still had home cooking.
And then there was a time …
There was a time when it all looked good on the surface. But it wasn’t real. I had replaced a husband materially with paid help. Friends marveled, “How does she do it?”
But I knew I wasn’t doing it. The money was. I wasn’t content with how our home ran without a husband and father to partner with me. I was trying to keep up with the old me—the married Kit who had a more balanced circumstance and a reasonably clean house to go with my godly family. God convicted me. Stop spending money on appearances and be content. There’s great gain in godliness with contentment; Paul talks about this in his letter to Timothy:
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” -1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)
I can’t pretend I have what I had before. But I have accepted my limitations with a contented heart. After all, Paul notes only two things in regards to being content: food and clothing. And while our family stopped eating as many home cooked dinners, the simple ready-to-heat meals we prepare are more than enough. A reasonably clean home is important, but all that really mattered was the hearts of my kids.
I let go of many of the paid services and tried to do it myself. It almost worked. I was scrubbing, schooling, repairing, and still managing to be mom. And I was exhausted. A better balance was needed, especially with the new season on me.
Now there is a time…
The time has come when I have to think about provision. I took on a ministry to which God called me. It doesn’t provide yet, but it’s building skills that will eventually support my future.
Meanwhile, the house needs repairs and isn’t very tidy. For the most part, the dishes stay in the sink. Dust bunnies collect in the corners. The car has French fries in the seats. All of which some this visiting preteen boy just doesn’t get.
And I’m okay with that.
I have to remember our world is different from his, and he’s curious. I love his mother and father and how they manage their lives together. But I can’t pretend—or try—to keep up with them or anyone else. I’m where God has placed me, putting Him first in everything: the kids, the ministry, my life. I take a deep breath. Clean when I can. Encourage the boys to pick up without provoking them with constant hounding to clean clean clean. And trust if God has told me relax, your house is fine, I can relax.
This helps our family be happy. Argument-free. Peaceful. Real.
And most of all, content.
Dear God, women are plagued by this incessant need to keep up with each other. And ladies can be so harsh with one another. Would You let Your daughter know that she no longer has to worry about what other ladies think of her home, as long as she is obediently cleaning to the level You ask of her? Especially if she is a single mom, would You still her heart and lift from her the burden of feeling like she must keep up with her married friend’s lifestyles? She can rest in knowing she has done what You have called her to do. Amen.