I married a general contractor, which means I’m on my own a lot during the summer and fall. Praise God, business is booming, but the blessing comes with a curse: I miss my husband, our children miss their Daddy, and he misses us.
Last week one of Tim’s subcontractors told him, “In some situations you have to make a choice. Are you going to fail at business, or are you going to fail at being a husband?” The man’s words struck me as hard as they struck Tim. Sometimes you have to let yourself fail. The questions are, where and when?
Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids.
~a mom who got it
Failing on Purpose
My husband is willing to fail at business if it means succeeding at home, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to choose which moments require failure, or what form that failure will take. And it might be awhile before the benefits of failure outshine its consequences.
Take me, for instance. Last week I went on strike. Why wash dishes and clothes if they’re not going to stay washed? Why buy groceries if people are just going to eat them? Why start a project I’ll never have time or energy to finish?
I spent most of the week wandering around the house trying to summon energy to do something – anything – productive. Most days I wound up on the couch, computer, or bed. The enormity of my responsibilities, which had grown exponentially every week since August, paralyzed me.
By the third day, depression set in. I didn’t have to look far to see my failures. They towered in the sink, overflowed the hamper, cluttered my desk. I had chosen them, but that didn’t make them any easier to stomach.
Success in Disguise
After Tim shared his subcontractor’s words of wisdom, I tried looking at my domestic failures in a new light. By failing in housework, have I chosen to succeed somewhere else?
The answer is yes. Whether intentional or not, I placed cleaning on the back burner so I could prioritize other things. At first it was hard to see my successes (Life truth: very often the important things are intangible, the superficial highly visible). After I photographed my failures, I tried looking for tangible symbols of success:
Today I can point to successes amidst my failures. but that’s not always the case. When you’re being pulled four directions, you can take a step north, south, east, and west, but you just end up back where you started. That’s how I usually feel – like I’m trying to do everything and failing to do anything. Ever been there?
That’s the time to define our acceptable losses. You can’t win ’em all, as they say. Once in a while (or every day) we have to make a choice – to succeed at something important, or to succeed at the most important thing.
How do you battle the “tyranny of the urgent”? Where have you chosen to fail in order to succeed at your priorities?