My grandfather was a contractor, and a major lesson I learned from him is that you always, ALWAYS leave a few minutes at the end of a project to tidy up and put away. So yesterday, when two workers came to our home to install a new light in the living room, that was my assumption.
They came in, drilled into the ceiling, put up the light, tested it, and then, as is apparently the custom in this area of the world, simply walked out of the apartment. I looked around the room: dust from the drilling covered everything (including, to my chagrin, our piano and couch), and the old light, packaging, and debris were scattered all over the floor. I hadn’t known the workers were coming, and with my husband out for the morning and the rest of us in the middle of homeschool, I had been too flustered to realize they would drill and disperse and make such a mess!
I articulated to my older two children that they would now be in charge of making lunch and watching the younger two, while I proceeded to clean up the disaster zone. I carefully swept, wiped, shook, vacuumed and mopped the whole area. By the time my husband got home, things looked sparkly and pristine. I recounted the experience to him and began to complain of the annoying tradition of workers who don’t clean up after themselves.
It was only in the middle of my criticism that it dawned on me: these guys were specialists. A “specialist” might be defined as “a person who concentrates primarily on a particular subject or activity; a person highly skilled in a specific and restricted field.” These guys were solely there to install my light. Anyone—even my two-year-old—could sweep a floor or wipe down the side table. The workers charged me less (of which I was grateful!) and simply did their specific, skilled, technical, I-couldn’t-have-done-it job. Let someone else clean up the mess.
This got me thinking of my job as a mother. My own momma always counseled me to be a mother first and a housekeeper second. There is a difference! No doubt, we must maintain a balance of cleanliness and order in our homes. But as a mother, I have a specific role. I have a purpose. I am—and should be—a specialist. Am I specializing in the things that only I can do, and doing them to the best of my ability? Or am I trying to do everything, while doing nothing very well?
I don’t know what this looks like for you, but to me it means teaching my children to do many more of the mundane but necessary tasks of the household, or even considering hiring out, if possible. It also means planning carefully to use and improve my talents and skills so I can focus them on what’s truly important. And it means to spend my time and my energy and my love on the work of my Savior and my family, the two things that mean more than anything in the world.
So maybe it’s time to simplify. Maybe it’s time to “organize [myself and] prepare every needful thing” (D&C 88:119). And maybe it’s time to let someone else clean up the mess, so to speak, so I can truly be the mother.