Many years ago, B.C. (before children), my husband, my sister, and I were at Disneyland. My sister wanted to get there when the park opened, so we did. It was now dark, and we had been waiting 45 minutes for a famous splash ride. We were in pain and crying (no joke). It had been a long day and we hurt everywhere. Our feet hurt so bad we couldn’t stand up anymore. My sister and I were fried, and we wanted to leave.
My husband ordered us to stay, “We’ve been standing in this line, in pain, for 45 minutes. We will get on this ride!” Afterward, we felt better and did two more rides on our way out of the park. We had done so much that day that we hated the “happiest place on earth”. My mother later told us we were idiots and reminded us of “Quit while you are having fun.” Ah! Oh! So that is what that means! We’ve since gone back with children in tow, but always with more moderation.
I used to volunteer to make homemade cookies for school events. Thinking, “This will be fun to do with the kids. This is something easy I can do from home.” After a few years, I realized this wasn’t the idyllic cooking in the kitchen with my children scenario I envisioned. In reality, it was usually Mom starting the process about 30 minutes before the kids’ bedtime, breaking to send the kids to bed, and then Mom staying up way past Mom’s bedtime to finish. This usually resulted in Mom being stressed out the evening before the baking, and cranky and snapping at everyone the day after.
I finally made a rule for myself, if I wasn’t going to enjoy it and my family wasn’t going to enjoy me doing it, then I wasn’t going to do it. Sure, my family and the kids at school enjoy homemade baked goods. However, cookies are easily forgotten, memories of their mother always snapping at them and being cranky is not.
Whether it is decorating for the holidays, baking, crafting, going to multiple kid parties on a Saturday, overloading our vacation experience, or over-volunteering myself the goal is to NOT do something that is going to feel like a chore – because, well, there are already enough chores in our life. NOT do so much that I expect to be thanked, “Or else” — because that never happens. The goal is to do a little something here or there that will be an opportunity to bond with my children, my husband, or my friends. The goal is to serve AND enjoy serving so that my children want to serve more.
I love homes that are decorated to the hilt for the holidays. I would love to do that every year. However, I have learned that we decorate as long as it is fun. THEN WE STOP. When you are on an aluminum ladder, with bitter cold dry winds, trying to put up Christmas lights with dry, wind-chapped hands – it is no longer fun. When you are ordering your family around like a drill sergeant, they resent every tinkling decoration. I now layout options for the family, and we agree on how much to do.
I love to take road trips for vacations, and driving to the National Parks is a cheap, fun, educational, and beautiful way to spend a vacation. However, 300 miles of driving one day means you rest the next day and have fun. You plan one or two activities a day so that you leave time to be spontaneous.
And no matter how much I love museums and my family tolerates them, sometimes we have to ride a roller coaster in Williams, Arizona or wander around and hunt for lizards at Wupatki National Park. And honestly, all my kids really want to do is swim in the hotel pool, stay up late watching movies, and have Mom say it is okay to eat junk food.
My entire childhood my mother was always trying to get me to “stop and smell the roses”. Basically, even as a kid, I had more ideas, drive, ambition, and motivation to do things than any human should have – so much so that I missed out on a lot of fun. My roommate at Stanford once said that I would die and God would meet with me, He would tell me I had done a good job in this life, but I had still flunked. She said God would make me live my whole life over again and say, “and this time, try to have some fun”.
I am often amazed how strange life is, we figure out how to be a good spouse or a good parent while our spouses and children are growing older by the minute. I have realized that all those amazing things I want to do, aren’t what my children and my husband need from me. Our home needs to be comfortable, safe and inviting. It needs to NOT be a bio-hazard or toxic waste dump. It doesn’t need to look like a magazine cover from Architectural Digest.
They need a woman in their home who loves them and laughs with them, and who is ready to heal their wounds and listen to the stories. They need her to help and laugh when an innocent mistake is made. They need her to be perceptive and take time to notice the small changes so she can prevent the big issues.
This article isn’t ignoring the necessity of healthy meals, chores, homework, or discipline. I believe in those things, too. This article is just a reminder that having peace in your heart and the spirit in your home is more important than how much you did for the school performance. Staying married and working together is more important than the amount of food you prepared for the church social. Don’t ruin “the happiest place on earth”. Everything in moderation.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.