I have trouble with wanting to do too much. I have so many interests – photography, music, cooking, gardening, sewing, quilting, blogging, homeschooling – that I can’t seem to find the time to do them all. Then add in all the things I should be doing – reading scriptures, exercising, writing in my journal, spending time with each of my children, taking time for my husband, making personal time for myself, making sure school is done adequately each day. And then, add to that my knack for doing most things in an elaborate way – well you see my dilemma. I tend to forget that bigger or more is not necessarily better. The simple and small things can be just as satisfying, if not more so. They are definitely less stressful!
I have a tendency to want to get in and get things done in a big way. For example, cleaning my house. When I clean it is full throttle, every room, takes all day. By the end of the day I am exhausted, grumpy, and there are messes already in the rooms that were cleaned first. If I were to break that down and do smaller tasks throughout the day and week, I’d end up with the same result with much less work and stress involved. The same principle can be applied to every other aspect of my life – how I approach homeschooling, sewing projects, scripture reading, etc.
The area I need to focus on right now is time spent with my children. I am reminded of a story that was shared in the last General Conference by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. “A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 104–8)
“…but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” Alma 37:6
Several years ago I was asked to speak in church about the influence of mothers. I decided to make it personal for the congregation. I put the names of every mother in our ward in a bag and pulled out seven names. I then called their children and asked, “Share something about your mother with me.” Here are some of the responses I received.
* My mother was never afraid to take off her shoes, get on the floor, and play with us. She still does that! Can you imagine the thrill her grandchildren get when Grandma comes over, takes her shoes off and then roll cars around, or lays on her belly to color a picture?
* With a lot of children in the house it was hard for my mother to spend one-on-one time with us. She never failed to tuck us into bed at night, talk to us individually about our day, and then help us pray. We’d lay in bed waiting for our turn with mother.
* By the time I was four I could say that I had read every book of scripture. My mother would read the scriptures to us when it was our naptime. She’d read until we fell asleep. My dad would tease her saying it was preparing us to fall asleep during early-morning seminary!
* I remember the fun we had working with our mother. Cleaning the house, weeding the garden, raking leaves, mending clothes it didn’t matter what it was, mom was there helping us making it more enjoyable.
You should have seen the look of delight on the mothers’ faces when they realized I was describing them. You should have see the proud joy their children had for their mothers. I’m sure these families had big vacations or activities they involved themselves in. But that’s not what the children remembered.
I then shared this memory of my own mother. Waking up in the morning we knew where we’d find my mom – sitting at the kitchen table with her scriptures laid out in front of her along with several church manuals and a notebook. That image day after day impressed in me the importance of personal scripture study. With her not having to say so I knew my mother loved the gospel. (Her habits still haven’t changed! When we visit I can still find my mother in the early morning hours reading her scriptures.)
“Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.” (Julie B. Beck, “Mothers Who Know,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 76–78)
And do not try to choose it all. This is where my self-discipline needs to kick in. I need to realize that I’m not expected to choose it all. My children don’t expect me to do it all. They don’t want to be overstimulated and overworked. They just want my time, my attention with no added frills overloading our experience. I want to find happiness in the simplest of gestures – a hug, a kiss, laughter as we work, a snuggle as we read a book. These are what I need to focus on so that when they are grown my children will remember that I read to them, played with them, sang with them, cooked with them, cleaned with them, loved them.
“Wherefore, be not weary in welldoing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” Doctrine and Covenants 64:33