I knew I wanted to change, needed to change. I just didn’t know how. My problem wasn’t really too much stuff (lack of financial abundance, a natural tendency toward thrift, and an aversion to credit card debt took care of that). However, I struggled with feeling that I wasn’t doing enough (yet I was exhausted), that I didn’t have enough (but I couldn’t keep up as it was) – you know, the typical guilt of motherhood. But a conversation with a friend headed to Mongolia to do missionary work changed that.
This woman was one of the best dressed women I knew. But it wasn’t her wardrobe that had me in awe – it was her children’s wardrobe. Her children were ALSO the best dressed children I knew. She had at least 4 children (it’s a missionary thing J), all of whom were younger than my 2, and they always looked like they were getting ready to do a family picture shoot – for the Children’s Place. Their outfits were cute, the tops matched the bottoms, and the girls even had matching bows for their hair (which their mother fixed every day – I wasn’t even fixing MY hair every day, much less my kiddos’!) On top of everything else, these people lived out of their vehicle for several weeks at a time since they were traveling full time to raise funds for their missionary work.
So I swallowed my pride (I don’t like to admit that I might not have EVERYTHING together), and asked my friend how she did it. How do your kids always look so nice? is how I probably so inelegantly phrased the question. I really expected her to say something along the lines of, “Oh, they’re always given so many cute things by (insert generous relative’s name here). Nope, her answer was much more mind blowing: They only have 2 dress outfits and 4 play outfits each. WHAT?!! I was speechless as I tried to process all the thoughts vying for preeminence in my brain:
- What?! I see these kids all the time – I never once noticed their wardrobe was so limited.
- THOSE are play outfits – those matching outfits (down to socks and bows)? I would never let my kids wear something so NICE to play in!
- 4 play outfits – don’t you know there are 7 days in a week? Isn’t there some law that you must have 10 outfits per child or you’re a bad parent?
My children had at least 4 Sunday outfits, because I thought they shouldn’t wear the same thing 2 weeks in a row (oh the horror! What will people think of them me?) And dressy clothes are expensive (and/or time consuming if you do the garage sale/thrift store thing). They also had 3 categories of regular clothes: Nice (new) play clothes, Not new (lightly stained) play clothes, and “I don’t care what happens to this outfit” (stained beyond salvage) play clothes. They also had stuffed closets, and I had a full laundry room and a compulsion to stop frequently at yard sales and consignment shops (with 2 kids in tow – this made no one happy!)
Lesson #1 Learned that Day:
Nobody is probably paying attention to what I’m doing/wearing anyway because they’re too busy worrying what I’m thinking of what they’re doing/wearing. (Clear as mud?) Become mature enough to stop living my life according to others’ (perceived) expectations, and do what’s best for our family.
And that short conversation was the tiny start that led to some of the most profound and beneficial changes in our family’s life.
Thank you, Mary.