Saturday, October 11, 2008

Long, but Therapeutic

It's no secret that Sister Beck upset me (and a few thousand other people) last year when she urged us all to be better mothers. In the grand tradition of Jami-obsessions, I've read her talk at least a dozen times, I've read every Sister Beck post on every blog I could Google, and I've read all the news coverage. Honestly if something is bothering me that much there is an issue there that needs to be explored.

I am going to scramble her talk a bit for conversational purposes. Sister Beck shall be lilac and I shall be black. First we have the parts with which I have no problem whatsoever. Then I shall move to the concepts that have caused me concern.

Mothers Who Know Are Leaders. Yes.

Mothers Who Know Are Teachers. Yes. Yes. And yes.

Mothers Who Know Bear Children. Yes, I've structured my entire adult life around this principle.

Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are "becoming less valued," in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children. Prophets, seers, and revelators who were sustained at this conference have declared that "God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force." President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that "in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels."
Mothers Who Know Stand Strong and Immovable. I really like the phrase "women who know and love the Lord and bear testimony of Him, women who are strong and immovable and who do not give up during difficult and discouraging times."

Mothers Who Know Do Less. "They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally.. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Yes, but one woman's superfluous, worldly activity is another woman's essential family activity.

Mothers Who Know Honor Sacred Ordinances and Covenants A true principle, (Mothers who know honor sacred ordinances and covenants. . . .They know that if they are not pointing their children to the temple, they are not pointing them toward desired eternal goals. These mothers have influence and power.") , backed by a poor example: third world mothers carefully groom their children. Um...OK.

Now to the biggy for the piggy, the most problematic passage for me: Mothers Who Know Are Nurturers
Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. . . . .Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a "house of order," and women should pattern their homes after the Lord's house (see D&C 109). Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work.
Recently a surprising thought came to me as I was discussing the Covey priority quadrants with E-Teen, illustrating the principle with some activities in my life.

I realized something that has been patently obvious to anyone who knows me: cleaning my house has always fallen into the sad, grey area of "not important." Sometimes it's "urgent and not important." (Can't eat dinner until the dishes are done. Everyone is out of clean clothes. Must find the birth certificate in those piles of papers today.) Sometimes it's "not urgent and not important." (Cobwebs. Grout. The thirty rubbermaid containers stacked in the corner, patiently awaiting sorting.) I have viewed housework as a waste of time, not worthy of my attention.

But here's the deal: sometimes life is downright unpleasant because of the chaos and mess. From time to time, we lose or forget something really important. Precious belongings have been stepped on, besmirched with raisins, or soaked in milk.

If not doing housework results in panic, sorrow, anger, and revenge within our family, then perhaps I need to re-prioritize. Many important, worthwhile things in life can be difficult and unpleasant. Childbirth comes to mind. Going to work every day to earn a living, learning, changing diapers come to mind. Now, dagnabit, keeping the house clean does too.

In short, I think that Sister Beck was trying to stage the intervention in my life that no one else dared to stage. If my mother, mother-in-law, husband, child or best friend attempted such a thing, the results would not have been pretty. Being angry with a loved one for more than a year can be problematic. Sister Beck took my fury with the grace and emotional distance that only a complete stranger could muster.

I don't know how this knowledge is going to play out in real life. Will caring more make the actual mess better? How shall I gain the cooperation of the family? Will I become psychotic in the effort to rein in the chaos? Don't know.

Probably oughta talk to God about it. He managed to organize the chaos of the cosmos into Earth. Certainly, my chaos won't be outside his power.


Annette Lyon said...

I love your last bit there--the idea that God can help me organize my home my life.

Heidi Ashworth said...

"Sister Beck took my fury with the grace . . " This is pure poetry! Love it! Jami, I think you are on to something, here. I know that I feel much better when my house is clean and so does everyone else. How do I know this? It is so darn obvious because it simply doesn't happen very often and when it does, it doesn't stay that way long. I am a slob and so are my kids and husband (well, we're not the worst out there but not the best, either). I live in a diminuative 1000 square feet but I honestly believe that in order to keep my house clean, that is all I would do all day (other than the taxi driving, the grocery shopping and the other stuff that just has to be done). My sister with 9 kids once commented that it had been weeks since she took a minute for herself, whether it was to scrapbook or read a book or whatever. I was appalled! Of course her kids are different than mine--her house filled with 9 kids is much quieter than mine with 3--however, some of it might be because of her commitment to order which brings about harmony. My kids are already pretty darn set in their ways and the Big Guy just can't really help out which makes it harder to insist that the others do--but I think it is really worth a try. A coup will be staged at the outset of course because whenever a mom tries to "re-script" behavior, there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth--but that just means you are on the right track. Ain't life grand? It's all about the journey.

e-teen said...

Does this mean we have to do more chores now? :(

Jami said...

Yes and no, E. No, you won't have more chores. Yes, you'll need to do the ones you already have.

Annette, God is my only hope at this point. Or matches. I think I'll choose God.

Heidi, all of my children are perfectly functional. Just terribly unenthusiastic about work. Gnashing of teeth, weeping, and wailing? Check. Check. Check. Unfortunately, I am right there with them. Time for an attitude adjustment. For mom.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

I like you.

and i'm glad your back and back with punctuation

Great theraputic post!

(do your kids read your blog?)

Marie said...

I think that I have grown accustomed to not attending the General RS meetings nor reading their talks in the Ensign, so thus I am immune to all the insights and corrections that are made therein...maybe you should try that.

Or not. I'm not the devil nor his advocate. Please go about your business.

But seriously, the concept that she is trying to teach is true. Order brings peace. But your order and my order aren't the same. Maybe your house does need cleaning, but then again maybe it doesn't. Isn't that something that you need to determine for yourself. But I do agree that the Lord will help you find your way through this. As He always does.

Heidi Ashworth said...

It's good to know that someones kids are functional, Jami. : )

Thora said...

I really want to be clean. In my head I have this image of a clean house. See, our house does get clean. Every week I say, "I'm going to clean this house." And then I do (over the course of the week.) And then we mess it right back up again! Every week! I have a sister, several in fact, that always have clean homes. How do they do it?

They're my step sisters, so maybe it's genetics. Some people are born with an innate clean gene, and they always know when things are clutter, and to get rid of them, and every time they complete an activity they put things away after them, and someday I'm going to have plastic (genetic?) surgery and implant the same gene, and then I'll be amazing too.

Both Avram and I grew up in homes that we messy - mine like I am now, gets really messy, gets sorta clean, gets really messy, etc. His never actually gets clean but there's a lot of good intentions. In our short marriage I've thought on this a lot, and besides the surgery have hit on no answers. Well, that and actually clean up after myself.

But I forget a lot. As does Avram. And Lydia, she never even knew in the first place.

So that's where I am. So I'm no help. But maybe, if we weren't in different times zones we could get together and have good intentions together.

Jami said...

CTD, I like you too. Glad you liked the post. Yes, indeed my mother, my husband, and my kids read my blog, but only when they aren't irritated at me.

Marie, order does bring peace. And oh yeah, my house needs cleaning and organizing. I missed this year's GWM because my poor husband needed sleep. I hear it was wonderful. Reading the talks is online is on the short list for today.

Heidi, perhaps "perfectly functional" is a bit of an overstatement. They've all been blessed with the same emotional volatility as their mother. Lucky me. Lucky them.

Thora, afraid the messy gene may be real. Since the whole family reads the blog occasionally, I'd best just say that people seem to improve as their children leave the house. If I'm ever in your time zone I'll send you an email and we can get together and ponder the genetics of good intentions and housekeeping.

Oh and E-Teen would like me to point out that she is the most reliable chore-doer in the family. True. She is.

Nat~Nat said...

I know that you are completely serious, but somehow that completely cracks me up. I know that you have a testimony and that sometimes that does not exactly mesh with other choices in the world. I feel that this is one of those "tests", and this just happens to be one of yours. I love your children and their individual personalities. Patience, patience, patience. I say this to myself many, many times a day. Hang in there and we will all work through our "stuff". In the meantime, I'm right here, dealing with my own "stuff". Just remember; I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...eventually you'll be saying I thought I could!

6k9s said...


Jami said...

6K9s/Mom, I OK your OK. I'm OK. You're OK. Let's write a book.

Alison Wonderland said...

Ok, I get it. Kinda.

6k9s said...

I think we would have a best of those "we pick topics on a wide range of subjects, then you write your item on one page and my contrarian view is on the page opposite" We would sell millions of copies! Now what would we call it? She said, she said??


I read this fantastic article once about a lady who had designed her home to be completely self-cleaning. Every once in awhile she'd seal it up, flip the pressure washer switch, and Voila! Clean house.

As for me, I keep thinking about my Amish friends I had when I was younger and how simple and uncluttered their homes were. I blame the mess in my house on having a lot of kids, but honestly we could do a lot more to keep things organized around here. I just don't have the willpower to do it, though.


Oh, and this is what I do. The kids know that I refuse to cook if my kitchen is filthy. They understand that it's in their best interest to keep it clean so they can eat something other than cereal and sandwiches for dinner.

Also, they like to go out. I make it a point to set a time frame and tell them we can't leave unless the house is picked up by that time.

Picked Up= Crap off the floor but not necessarily "clean."

The chaos is a little better since I don't have babies in diapers anymore and my older kids are actually more helpful than hindrance now, but my house is still embarrassing enough I wouldn't want to host any Relief Society activities there.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Yes, I can see why it upset you. She seems to be setting you up to fail (not intentionally, of course). It turns what you were perceiving as merely an inconvenient failing into a moral one.

I have so much to say on this topic, but I think I will keep it to one word: Flylady.