the beauty and power of “oh well”

By Steamykitchen SteamyKitchen.com (SteamyKitchen.com) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons in case anyone wonders what scrapple is … it’s heaven on a plate

I walked into a dear friend’s house and immediately noticed how she’d rearranged her living room to create a whole new space.  This friend of mine has a beautiful home and is always making it more beautiful & more functional.  How does she do it?  She has just as many kids as I do and she works part-time too.  How does she have the time to paint furniture, rearrange rooms, hang art … I haven’t ever painted a thing in my house, we hardly have any art hanging up … I stopped myself.  My friend is just different from me.  Oh well.

I sat down with my husband to a piping hot Sunday brunch.  Hot coffee, freshly scrambled eggs, and scrapple that we’d brought home from our latest trip to Pennsylvania.  Each item of food was at its fragrant moment of perfection, right now.  I picked up my fork and … the baby woke up and needed to be nursed, right now.  I can’t believe I can’t even have a hot breakfast.  This baby never ever leaves me alone.  I am so hungry from nursing her all the time and I can’t even have my breakfast!  All I want is a hot breakfast!  … Oh well.

I picked up my planner and wanted to cry.  Yesterday’s to-do list was chock-full of unchecked boxes.  I rewrote today’s list to include those items too.  I looked around my house at the dusty surfaces and messy floors, and thought about the laundry and the dinner I needed to make, and wondered exactly which of those tasks I could handle with the baby in the Ergo carrier, and which ones would be better to put off until the baby napped, if she ever did … I am never going to get this all done.  I’m going to spend all day desperately trying to do it, but my husband is still going to come home to a dirty house.  Again.  What am I doing wrong?  Why can’t I handle this?Oh well.

“Oh well” is a skill I’ve picked up sometime over the past three and a half years of parenting, and it is a phrase of freedom.  As a new mom, I truly fretted over the things various friends could do that I couldn’t manage to handle.  I resented, and took personally, the many small deprivations (like cold breakfast) that come with parenthood.  I muddled along in a state of anxiety over my shortcomings as a housekeeper.  It was miserable!

To be fair, it’s not just the “oh well” that makes life so much easier now; I’m also just a lot smarter now about life as a stay-at-home mom.  I now know to check the baby’s diaper before pouring a cup of hot coffee.  I’ve gotten better & faster at cleaning, and I’ve figured out which chores are the most essential to keep our home running peacefully, so I prioritize those when I can’t get everything done.  I have a feel for my family’s schedule and a sense for when I need to be cooking and cleaning, and when I need to take the girls out for a walk, and when I need to play pretend with the toddler.  [Important note here.  If you are a new mom, and are overwhelmed like I was, take heart in the fact that you will get better at this job!]  I still don’t know how my friend manages to make her home so beautiful all the time, but I did find a nice painting in the basement and get my husband to hang it on the wall … so that’s progress!

But the bottom line is, I’ll always be learning, and I’m pretty sure I’ll always be a little (a LOT) behind.  I’m not going to become Supermom or Superhousekeeper anytime in the next thirty years.  So in the meantime, I have to take a deep breath and say “oh well.”

You could see “oh well” as lowering expectations, or accepting mediocrity, or learning to live with disappointment.  But it’s actually a lot more positive than that.  It’s choosing to give myself reasonable expectations so that I can strive towards them cheerfully and peacefully.  It’s becoming clear about what I really want for my family and letting go of the good things that just don’t fit in our lives.  It’s learning what’s worth being disappointed about and what’s not. (Hot coffee?  Not really worth it.)

In conclusion, I’d like to say that it took me over a week to write this post, and it’s still far from perfect.  I’d love to have more concrete examples of “oh well” in action.  I’d love to have some Scriptures to put in here, or a quotation from a great thinker.  But my toddler just woke up from a nap, I have dishes to do and dinner to cook, and there’s some long-awaited sunshine calling us outside too.  So I’m going to leave you with an imperfect blog post here … oh well.

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5 thoughts on “the beauty and power of “oh well”

  1. Sheila, and all of you moms reading this with children under the age of 5, you WILL have time, later, to do those things. The best thing you can do is spend as many moments with your children as you can. This baby/toddler/young child phase is SO short. Soon, you will be teaching your children how to clean and help around the house. Of course, when they do, you may find its not done perfectly, but, oh well! 🙂

    Nicely written, Sheila!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is a very healthy attitude Sheila. You not only find your own peace but you are also modeling for your children a less reactive and more accepting mindset in coping with life’s disappointments. God bless you!

    Like

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