Thursday, February 17, 2011

My To-Don't List

I've listened to several friends talk about how overwhelmed they are as stay at home moms this week.  They feel like they can't stay on top of it all.  The house is messy, the kids are messy, they feel frumpy, dinner isn't done, and date night?  What's date night?  With each friend  I nodded empathetically because I knew exactly what they meant.  But then each one asked, "How do you do it all?"  And my socks were shocked right off of my feet.  If I've ever presented myself as "having it all together" or "doing it all" I am truly sorry.  That is a big. Fat. LIE!  The truth is that...I don't.  I don't do it all.  I can't.  No one can.

I remember reading my friend Carolyn's blog around this time last year and she shared about a woman who carried two lists with her:

On one side of the paper is a list of things she does... on the other side of the paper is a list of the things she doesn't do. In order for her to be able to do the things that she does, she also has to not do the other things. In other words, she only has so much time... and so she has chosen to invest it on the "things I do" side. And if she wants to add something new to that side, then she probably has to move something off of it to the "things I don't do" side. Then whenever she sees someone else who, for example, bakes her own bread, and she thinks to herself, "Wow, I wish I baked my own bread... I don't measure up." She can remind herself, "No, look at all the things that I have chosen to do... I could do that too, if I was willing to give up something else."
You can read Carolyn's whole post here.  Carolyn shared some of the things on her "Things I Don't Do" list and I'm going to share some of my list, too.  Ready?

  1. I don't wash the dishes.  Geary has graciously taken on that chore for me.  Once in a while I'll load or unload the dishwasher but it's very rare.
  2. I don't make lunch for Geary or Noah.  They make their own.  And I love them for it.  I also don't pick my son up from school.  He walks with Geary.
  3. I don't write out the answers for my Women's Bible Study at church.  I always read the chapter and I try to actually show up on Tuesday mornings but in this season of life Women's Bible Study is on my To-Don't list.
  4. I don't bake my own bread.  I used to.  For a couple months.  And then it got to be too much so...I stopped.
  5. Okay, this is a big one.  And here's a little background story.  My sister-friend, Emily, once told her mom, "You know, for all of Jeana's domestic-ness...she doesn't really cook."  It's true.  I don't make dinner.  I used to be great at meal planning but after Miles was born I did not have the brain capacity or the physical stamina to plan menus or get dinner on the table.  So now we use a service called Dinner's Ready.  Every month they deliver about 13 prepped meals to our door.  Then all I have to do is take one out of the freezer the night before and follow the cooking instructions.  And honestly, I don't even usually do that.  Geary does it about 70% of the time.  And the other nights we eat leftovers or something simple like soup or pancakes.  I don't know that I will need Dinner's Ready for the rest of my life, but it sure is helpful now.  .
  6. I don't  make my bed.  Unless company is coming over and might see our room.  Pride...ugh!  Usually I just...shut the door.
  7. I don't  do Women's Ministries.  I love women.  I love being a part of the Women's Ministry at our church, but right  now I choose not to do it because if I did I would have to give up something else from my "To-Do" list.  It is hard to feel out of the loop and I miss the creative outlet and connections with women that I am used to (and the back-pats and praise, I admit).  But it's okay.  Not doing women's ministries is a good thing for right now.
  8. I don't  really get dressed except Tuesdays (Bible Study), Fridays (Friday Playdate) and Sundays (Church), unless I have to be somewhere.  Toby and Miles mostly wear pajamas.  All day.
  9. I don't scrapbook or archive my kids' milestones.  I guess this blog takes care of some that but Toby and Mile's baby books are 100% empty.  And even Noah's is only filled out through his first 10 months.  Along those lines I also don't knit or crochet or needle felt or paint or sell my jewelry in real stores, or sing in a choir, or audition for plays, or take graphic design classes or grow roses or decorate cakes or study Greek or have a fresh herb garden or teach classes or....fill in the blank.
  10. I don't plan or attend very many play dates.  I used to try to get together with other moms with young children multiple times per week.  The grown-up connection was nice but then I was left with no time for taking care of my house and other responsibilities.  I also found that when I was pouring my heart out to other women I was not pouring it out to my husband.  Please hear me: I am in no way suggesting that anyone stop getting together with friends.  Friendships are vital to life!  But for me, in this season of my life, I need to stay home more.  I need to concentrate on keeping my home a peaceful abode and keeping my children and husband within my full range of attention.
There are many, many more things that I don't do because doing them would suffocate the life and beauty out of the things I do do.  Things like playing with my children and listening to my husband share about his work and walking with friends.  Please notice that all the things on my list would be good things to do.  Beneficial, even.  But they can't take the place of the other good things I'm doing.  Greater good type of things.

And I am learning that I don't need to compare my dos and don'ts with anyone else's.   I have amazing friends who knit and garden and coach sports teams and lead Bible studies and cook amazing dinners.  I don't do those things.  And it's okay.  Because I do make jewelry, and sew, and blog, and keep up on the laundry, and treasure hunt and oh so many other things.  God has made each of us different, with different talents and skills and capacities for doing.  There is no need to compare.  And there is no need to pressure ourselves into "doing it all."  The Do lists and the Don't lists will be constantly changing anyway--giving up some things to take on new things or holding off on new things to finish old things.   Just do what you need to do and whatever you do (or don't do) do it all for the glory of God.

If we could do it all we wouldn't know our need for God or for one another.  We are meant to live with limitations and we are wise to set boundaries.  Don't live in an overwhelmed state because you think you must "do it all" and "measure up" and never show signs of weakness.  Live in a state of truth.  Truth that God meets us at our points of need.  Truth that we are created to live in community and it's okay to ask for help.  Truth that God looks at you and sees his beautiful daughter--juice stained yoga pants and all--and he loves you.  He delights in you.  You.  Not all the stuff you can get done.

And that is all.  Now get out there and do!  Or...don't.


  1. Love this post, Jeana! I've been making my list of things I don't do longer really does give me more time to enjoy each thing I say yes to.

  2. I have to say that it is SO ENCOURAGING to hear of other mamas who don't do a lot of the things that I don't do!! My biggest issue with all of this is comparing myself to my mom, who had it all under control. She worked, cooked, cleaned, etc, and there's no way I could measure up to that. She did, however, neglect to care for herself in many ways. I just have to keep reminding myself of that!! If I don't care for myself, how can I care for the other people in my life? It's like on airplanes, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, so you can help children. If I'm not caring for myself, how can I care for others??

  3. WOOHOO!!!!! I love this post like CRAZY!!!! Exactly what I needed to hear. :) I'm going to start my Don't list right now. At the top of it will be FLOORS. I don't clean the floors unless someone is coming over. THERE! I'm free!!! :) :) :p

  4. Wow!! What a lesson on "the balance of life"! On your "what you have accomplished list" is to amaze your Other Mom with your wit and wisdom far beyond your years. I am so great full that you are the mother of my grandchildren.

  5. Great post Jeana. Thanks for your honesty. Strangely I am always encouraged when I hear that others don't do it all either.

  6. love this love this love this :)

  7. This is a great post, Jeana. It is a good balancing truth . . . when we say yes to something we say no to something else. When we say no to something we say yes to something else. (My mom always said that.)

    I hope all your readers, get out a piece of paper and make their own list.


  8. Jeana,
    Thank you for the excellent reminder! I struggle with comparing myself with others and it is easy to get disappointed when I fall short and don't measure up. I don't even have kids yet! Thank you for pointing out how our priorities will shape our accomplishments...and that it is more important to have the priorities in line then to have a shirt full of medals/accomplishments. I appreciate your thoughtful and insightful blog! It is very encouraging!


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