Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The *Can-Do* Mom

One of the workshops that I went to at the Hearts at Home conference was called Can-Do Mom.

It was all about: Perfectionism.

Perfectionist? Me? Oh, nononononono.


Quiz: Are you a perfectionist? Answer Yes, Sometimes, or No.

  1. Do I spend time evaluating myself?
  2. Do I think in terms of ALL or nothing?
  3. Do I think I should have my act together by now?
  4. Do I wonder why other people don't have their acts together by now?
  5. Do I have expectations that are unrealistic considering my surroundings?
  6. Is good rarely good enough?
  7. Am I compelled to straighten out misunderstandings?
  8. Will I NOT begin something if I think there is a possibility that I will not do it well?
  9. Do I feel that, most of the time, God is disappointed with me?

If you answered yes to more than three of those questions, you have perfectionist tendencies.


Perfectionist? Me?

Well....maybe so.

{Ummmm--I'm not even going to tell you how many I answered either sometimes or yes to....but that whole 'unrealistic expectations considering my surroundings' one hit me hard. Like, expecting my house to not only be clean but, dare I say, shiny when I have three boys under five roaming around like herds of elephants through it everyday? Hmmmph.}

Truth be told, I know I am a perfectionist.

Duh. That's why I took the class. *snicker*

While it wasn't my favorite workshop, I did glean some good nuggets of information that I wanted to share with any other closet perfectionists who may be reading.

***When we live life obsessed with perfection, we often accomplish less.***

Boy, ain't that the truth?

Let me just use myself as the negative example here: Usually, I am not "happy" in the morning until my kitchen has returned to my definition of a "normal state" after breakfast. However, if I truly examined what I was trying to accomplish in the kitchen, "my definition of a normal state" would more appropriately be called "this kitchen needs to be spotless/perfect again before I can move on and do something else."

Of course, we all know that normally, a clean and shiny kitchen is accomplished about 12 minutes before lunch is about to roll around. And, when lunch rolls around, what happens? Things just get messy all over again.

Argh. It makes me crazy.

But it doesn't have to, and that is the point that I am trying to make.

Imagine what I could have accomplished if I weren't living in the perfectionist world, but rather the realistic one. How much time was devoted to doing something that was just going to get ruined again in no time?

I mean, I can clean up a general mess in the kitchen in about 15 minutes. But making it shiny....well, that takes slightly more effort. *grin*

What I am not trying to do here is excuse myself or anyone else from cleaning or any other chores (sorry ladies); but rather to change my mindset about why I am doing what I am doing and the way I go about accomplishing it.

I don't need to have a shiny kitchen--but a clean one is obviously a necessity. What I need to do is to clean up and get my work done so that I can move on to other, more important things. Like, for example, playing with/reading to/teaching my boys.

After all, we all know the saying that, when we get to heaven, it isn't going to matter how clean our kitchens were or if you could have eaten off of our floors--what will matter is if we made a difference in the heart of a child.

The kitchen is just one example, but I can think of many others in my own life. The important thing in this cleaning area is focusing on the bones of what truly needs to be done, and doing it well, rather than focusing on always achieving perfection, so that, in turn, our focus can be shifted to what really matters.

It's accomplishing the have-to's so we can get to the want-to's.

***We often say yes to too much. Taking on too much will only overwhelm and frustrate us; however, we do it anyway because we don't want anyone to think "She can't handle it...."***

The season of toddlers is an overwhelming season of life--especially if you have more than one roaming your house. This is a time of life when we most likely will need to sit back or sit out of activities. We, as wives and mothers, need to make sure our focus is on making ourselves available for our husband (who generally gets neglected at the end of a day filled with screeching children with numerous demands), our children (quality time, not just time spent fulfilling a need), and most importantly, our relationship with Christ.

Those three things are usually the quickest to end up at the bottom of the proverbial pile when we are taking on too many responsibilities or activities--even good activities, such as church-related or volunteer work.

***Do less, but be more effective. Find a plan that works for you, and follow it.***

Now, our speaker gave the plan she has designed for herself, but the most important thing is to make a plan that works for you and your family. We all have different jobs, needs, kinds and numbers of children, financial situations. Your plan has to work for your family, and that's it. A few of the things she mentioned that I liked and thought would be good to implement in our family:

1. Family doesn't get the "time leftovers". Family time should come first in your scheduling, rather than just being fitted in between the cracks of everything else. This might include anything from family game nights to family devotions.

2. Make one great, home-made meal each week. The rest should still be yummy, but easy and quick! I really liked this one, because I have always tried to make it a point to make special (and not-always-so-easy) meals for my family each weeknight.

Now, granted, we do have our chicken nugget/mac-n-cheese nights every once in a while, but generally, I cook something different every night of the week. I plan a three to four week menu that includes a different dinner for every night, and then I do a big grocery shopping trip and get everything I need all at once.

You heard me right--I grocery shop, on average, once a month.

It is a huge undertaking, but it benefits our family greatly in that I am not at the store (and that translates into less impulse buying!) once or twice or more times each week. It saves money, it saves time, and at any given time during that three/four week period, I know that I can go to my fridge/pantry and have everything I need to make several different meals. We always get a great variety that way.

{Now, before I get questions about this, let me just say that I do have an extra fridge and an extra deep freezer; I also do have to make a couple of quick stops at my local grocery for milk and/or fresh fruits and veggies, since they don't stay good for that long.}

My new plan is to actually keep my same grocery shopping strategy--'cause I love it and it works for us!--but incorporate simpler foods into my menu each week. So, for the week, I hope to plan: one family favorite; one crock-pot meal; one 'home style' meal that takes a bit more effort than normal; and the rest will be easy, quick things that I can have from the fridge to the table in under 30 minutes! I'm loving it already, by the way...

3. Laundry: everyone helps. Even the smallest children can be taught to put clothes in a hamper, and bigger ones can help by taking dirties to the laundry room or sorting whites from darks. Just like with anything else, when everyone pitches in a little bit, the job gets done much more efficiently.

The bottom line is that perfectionists like order and control, and life is just not like that. Life is messy. {Life with a husband and three boys five and under is very messy, by the way.} My wants are not what needs to be at the center of my decision making, but rather what Jesus would want for me and my family!

No one person can always do all the jobs it takes to be a 'great mom'. There will be areas where we are great, but there will be many areas where we are much weaker.

And that is where it all falls back to Jesus: Paul says, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.'" (II Cor. 12:9)

Isn't it wonderful to know that God can use us through our weaknesses?

Yeah....I thought so, too.

{p.s. I'd love to hear any feedback you other perfectionists might have!}


Nancy said...

Great reminders, Devin! I liked the meal plan, too. Sometimes I get stressed trying to make the "perfect" meal in the "perfect" kitchen while keeping my "perfect" boys "perfectly" happy and contented and not making more messes. I think we are going to implement the same strategy here! :) Just the reminder that I needed today!

Julie said...

That is how I grocery shop too, and I've found that I spend almost the same amount shopping like this for 3 weeks that I spent shopping for 1!!

I like the idea about having one great meal, it does take some pressure off! But here is a great tip so your 'easy meal' doesn't always have to be hot dogs!

I've always bought meat in bulk and package it up in smaller portions, but I recently dicovered cooking it before I froze it and it is so much easier that way!! Usually I half dread pulling ground beef out and waiting for it to thaw then having to cook it, by that point I am usually running out of time. So it dawned on me to cook it before I froze it. One night I didn't know what to make for dinner and didn't have anything defrosted and I threw together a casserole and put the meat in it frozen and cooked it! So easy! I usually make the meat the same, browning it with onion and garlic sometimes I will do a mexican flavor. Then I spread it on a cookie sheet (on parchment paper) and let it cool for a minute and pop it in the freezer. I take it out a bit later and dump in into marked baggies. Last time I divided it into serving sizes, but this time I just dumped it into a gallon size bag. If it's frozen first it won't come out in one big clump and you can take out as little or as much as you need. I don't know why I didn't start this years ago!!

I'm cutting up some round steak for stew and stuff so I can just plop it into the crock pot frozen too (I don't cook this, but I trim the fat off and cut them to the right size and freeze it. That way all the prep is done). Usually crock pot days are the day's I'm busy... so it really makes sense to prepare it ahead of time! (Seriously, why didn't I think of this before!!)

It is a little pain to cook up all the meat, but it is so worth it! I know that we are having shepards pie for dinner tonight, and everything is done all I have to do is assemble and cook. Doing it this way has changed my life! No more panic about forgetting to take meat out of the freezer, or wondering what to make for dinner... there is always something ready. I hope you give it a try too!

Sharon said...

This was great. Thanks, girl!

Julie said...

Well, I'm not quite the perfectionist, but I do like the idea of the meal planning. I am totally NOT a meal planner.

Seriously - it's 7:00pm and I still don't know what we're having for dinner.

Mamasita Chimichanga said...

Once we had our fourth child, I figured out that my perfectionism had to GO!!! It wasn't working! It seems like once I got used to NOT having everything perfect, life was so much easier! Don't get me wrong, it's a gradual thing and definitely still something I am working on! (cleaning up the kitchen until "spotless" is one that I am working on now!) But letting the kids, including the 2 year olds, put away and hang ALL of the laundry...has been a HUGE blessing!

Something that works great for my meal planning is this...I have lists that I keep on the side of my fridge. I could NOT live without them! One list is MAIN DISHES, one is SIDES, and one is DESSERTS. I use them to make my grocery list for my monthly shopping trip. After shopping, I "star" (in pencil) what I have ALL of the ingredients for. It makes is so much easier when trying to come up with dinner ideas! I tried making a "calendar" type meal list...I just got lost when things didn't go as planned. This has worked best for us.

Thank you so much for sharing! I wish I could have taken that workshop!!! Maybe they will have it next year??? I hope so! I really enjoyed your post and it gave me quite a few reminders of what's really important! =)

Its A Corny Life... said...

Oh my, am I feeling unorganized! I am sadly one of those people who goes to the market almost daily to get whatever the fix'ins are I need for whatever dinner will be that day. The thought of meal-planning is almost too much for me to wrap my brain around, but wow, does it sound more productive! Maybe if I can get my act together I'll give it a shot. Sadly, my menu is a rotation of only 4 or 5 things that I actually know how to make. Maybe I need to invite people to leave some recipes on my blog...I am sure my husband would LOVE a little variety in our meals!

Jen said...

Awesome post! I think you could teach the class next year! I struggle in the area of grocery shopping. I make a meal plan for the week. I can't seem to plan beyond that. I can't think of that many meals at one time. I feel like I am always needing to go to the store! So, maybe I really need to figure something out. Good ideas that you gave--and there are some good comments on here too! :)