Strength in the Small Things

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“Everything has it’s beauty, but not everyone can see it” – Confucius.

Ideas for blog posts usually arrive in my head during the middle of the night. I sometimes have to actively ignore them as they’re prone to buzzing around like mosquitoes, robbing me of sleep. During the day they sap my concentration and I often glaze over, mid-conversation as words and phrases write themselves in my subconscious, waiting for that elusive quiet moment when they can spew forth on to my computer screen. I sit and I write and I cut and paste and edit. I reach the end of a post and I read it back, and usually I feel proud of it. Excited to share it. Surprised that the words on screen came from my addled brain.

Not this time, though. This time I’ve been staring at the screen with no big idea. I’m feeling decidedly ordinary.

I bumped in to an old friend recently in the supermarket. After our short conversation I came away lamenting the fact that I had very little to talk about that didn’t involve children and family life. I felt ordinary. Boring. Once we’d finished assessing who was still in touch with whom from our college days, our conversation quickly dried up. He had no children to discuss and I was all out of material. We carried on our shopping and I silently hoped we didn’t bump in to each other again at the checkout. Awkward.

Yes, there’s stuff I can write about today. Birthday parties and baking and mounds of washing and ironing. Cooking and cleaning and running perpetually late. A new gym membership and feeling like the fattest girl in the step-class and trying to remember my own advice on embracing who you are, in order to teach children positive body image. A car that look like a rolling rubbish bin, a child with an aversion to eating anything but crisps and playdoh. Did I mention the laundry? Endless, incessant laundry.

Do you ever feel like your main role in life is simply to move mounds of clothing from one place to the other? Or is that just me? From the floor, to the basket, to the machine. Where it remains for too long. Wash it again. Put it in the dryer. Forget about it. Still damp and smelly. Wash it again. Repeat. Dry it. Iron it (sometimes), put it in drawers and on hangers. Chase moving targets to wrap them in it. Find items on floor. Move them to basket. Repeat, repeat, repeat ad infinitum.

Believe it or not, there is a point behind today’s mundane ramblings about domestic chores;

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies”
Mother Theresa

Now, I am not suggesting that my (or your) only strength lies in laundry management. Neither am I implying that laundry is a small thing, for that matter. But what I am saying, is this;

It matters. It all matters.

The small things. The chores. The wiping and the chasing and the cajoling and the finding of things. The comforting and the playing and the rushing and the constant busy. It is all part of a very important picture. It may seem ordinary. Mundane even. Sometimes banal. But it is part of the tapestry of family life. The chaos and the odd socks and the furry apple cores in the footwell (just my car, then?!). We manage all of that, us mums. We are the captains of our (sometimes leaky) ships. We somehow keep the family afloat.

Sometimes it won’t feel like you’re doing a good job. Sometimes you might feel under-appreciated or overlooked. Often you might get the the end of a hectic day and berate yourself for everything you haven’t done.

But try, lovely friend, and I will too, to remember all that you have done today.

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The stay-at-home mums and the working mums alike. We are all doing our best, we really are. We show-up every day, we keep trying and trying when the odds seem stacked against us. When it feels like we’ll never be enough, we need to remember; Who else knows that the Hulk costume is in the green toy box under the table in the spare room? Who else knows that your son doesn’t like Calpol but will take the supermarket’s own brand equivalent? Who else knows that sometimes, breaking into a spontaneous moo is the only way to head-off a public meltdown from your two year old?

Yes, you might forget anniversaries and relatives’ birthdays. You may feel like you’ll never wear matching socks again (just me, again?!) Yes, you may threaten your offspring with staying home from the park, knowing full-well that if you don’t get out of the house within five minutes you’re going to combust. Often it will feel like one, enormous uphill struggle that no other mother is enduring, surely?

But it matters. You matter. No-one knows your child as well as you do. Strength in the small things.

When you look at Facebook and see only immaculate children and perfect homes, think on, and whatever you do, don’t compare. Behind the camera is a mama bribing her child with chocolate buttons to JUST SMILE FOR THE CAMERA.

One of my favourite writers, Timber Hawkeye says in Buddhist Boot Camp:
“A flower doesn’t stop being beautiful just because somebody walks by without noticing it, nor does it cease to be fragrant if its scent is taken for granted. The flower just continues to be its glorious self: elegant, graceful and magnificent”.

Now, there’s not much elegant or graceful about me, I can tell you. But I love this idea. Doing our best to keep going, no matter what. Whether our children (or anyone else) show gratitude or otherwise.

This post isn’t ground-breaking, revolutionary or even particularly note-worthy. It hasn’t sat in my head for days or probably even told you anything that you don’t already know. But let it be a reminder. Sometimes there is beauty to be found in the ordinary. Keep shining, beautiful mama. The world needs your light.

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I’d be so grateful if you’d please “Like” my Facebook page. You can find it here.

Picture credit: Brave Girl’s Club

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28 thoughts on “Strength in the Small Things

  1. My favourite one so far! Love it! Made me chuckle, thinking about the fact that only I currently know that R’s fave ikea football is hidden behind the laundry basket in his room. And that every time I have left the house this week, having got both myself and R ready, packed my bag and his, dropped him off at nursery and finally arrived at work, I have looked forward to the little pat on the back that I have given myself for my (very normal and unadventurous) early morning achievements! Like you say, it’s the small things…xxx

    • Thanks so much! I often feel like an actual prize should be awarded for ever reaching anywhere on time. Especially clothed, fed, washed and dressed and occasionally even made-up! Thank you for your support xx

  2. Thank you. Thank you for this and all your other posts. Just having someone else acknowledge and recognise that the simple little things do make a difference has made a difference, to me even if to no one else. Thank you for your bravery, for your simple elegant way of pitting things and for your wonderful way of making me laugh through the tears. I will remember that the many little things I do are making a difference. And I will remove the fluffy apple cores from my car foot wells too.

    Thank you and keep being strong and wonderful.

    • What a beautiful message. I can’t thank you enough and it means so much to know that my words resonate with you. Much much love x

      PS…. Yes, I recommend removing the apple cores at some point. Especially in warm weather, they start to smell!!

  3. I really needed this today. Hubbie had a bad day at work yesterday and, instead of being sympathetic, I stomped round the house grumping that it’s always me that loads and unstacks the dishwasher, buys food and cooks it, cleans floor, kids, clothes, smelly dog, paint-covered-paddling pools and mouldy car carpets (it’s not just you!)
    It’s hard to not need that pat on the back, but I do try and give it to myself. Every time I manage to get to nursery on time with brushed hair (me or the kids, I don’t mind) and at least one set of teeth brushed, I give myself a mental gold star!

    • Absolutely!! Maybe we need to think of it as a mental piggy bank for us to fill with our own virtual gold coins. Or to take it a step further, perhaps our very own reward chart complete with stickers, to remind of us of all we do and how important we are!

      It means a lot to know that others can identify with what I’m saying. Thanks for your comment and support x

      • I was always motivated by gold stars as a child. Maybe I can earn a spa day for each complete chart? 🙂 We borrow Dory’s phrase from Finding Nemo – “just keep swimming”…

      • Laundry is one of the few things I stay on top of, only because our downstairs toilet is next to the washing machine and tumble dryer and I’m good at multi-tasking! (Sorry, too much info!)
        I would earn my overnight stay for cleaning the kitchen floor more than once a month!

  4. Lovely, lovely post Rach. Exactly what every mama needs to hear sometimes. And whilst I’ve always thought this, I’m struck more than ever by the beauty of your writing. You really have a gift. And if ever there was someone who should be thinking about writing a book, it’s you. The anti-parenting-advice book. The book to counter all those “do it this way or you’re doing it wrong” tomes that taunt every new mother. Please think about it 🙂 xxxx

    • An anti-advice, advice book. Maybe I could just leave the pages blank and let people fill in their own stories, making up their own rules as they go along! And ripping it up every few months as that’s what generally happens anyway!

      I’ll think about it though, promise. Gawd knows where I’d start but I’ll give it some serious thought.

      Your support means so much. Thank you xx

  5. You are absolutely right. Few of us will do something large, grand, or historical with our lives. But we each make an enormous difference to the people and places we come into contact with. And we can be content with this fact, and proud. Alexander McCall Smith explores this theme in his books – one of the things I love about him. Oh, and I’ve found it’s best never to dwell on thoughts of laundry…the endless and futile nature of it will quickly lead to madness! 🙂

    • Perhaps it’s dwelling on laundry that’s been causing my problems all this time! It’s a revelation!

      I’ll definitely be looking up McCall Smith. Thanks for the recommendation and for your encouragement.

    • I have just discovered your blog through #PoCoLo. I love your style of writing. It has meaning, isn’t just a perfunctory description or a day in the life. I will follow you from now on for more inspration. I think you might have inspired me to get a cleaner though! 🙂

      • Ha! Believe it or not I have a cleaner already!! It’s lovely to have one day a week not to worry about the mess, but that’s about as long as it lasts with a two and a four year old in the house!

        Thanks for your lovely comments on my writing. What a lovely confidence boost. Thank you x

    • You heard me! Yay!! That was officially the scariest 20 minutes of my life. I’m hoping to get a link to the radio show so that I can share it on my blog, but so far no-one from LBC is getting back to me.

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Fab post Rachel. You’re so right, we’re all doing our version of our best… and it’s too easy to get lost along the way in the mounds of house work and child rearing. Find strength in the small things – I must remember that xx

  7. Visiting from The Monday Club and so glad to have found your blog. Fabulous post and just what I needed to read today – thank you! I think I could have written the part about the washing, by the way. My sister-in-law once gave me a present of some special laundry clips to keep socks together – I cried when I opened it and then ate half a packet of custard creams in despair!

  8. Like reading about my life….even the furry apple cores in the footwell.
    I am always heartened by the fact it’s not just me. Particularly the washing left in the drum.

    Thanks so much for linking up to The Monday Club; great post.

  9. I really needed your positive thoughts on this today – it’s been a difficult one where I feel like I’ve been pulled from pillar to post. Thank you and thank you so much for linking to PoCoLo and sorry for the delay in commenting xx

  10. Hope you don’t mind a Dad commenting – There’s a wonderful young lady called Jodi Ann Bickley who, in spite of having some pretty major problems of her own, has decided to write to anyone who needs a lift. Anyone. You can find her at http://www.onemillionlovelyletters.com. She recently gave a TedX talk in Birmingham, and she closed it with a very simple, but so telling statement. “You are enough.” I think we all lose sight of that sometimes. Lovely piece again, really enjoy reading your blog. x

  11. Pingback: Gold Star Day: 2013 365 Challenge #195 | writermummy

  12. I’ve done the ‘leave the washing in the machine wash it again dry it forget about it wash it again’ routine so many times it’s actually almost how I now think washing should be done. That, and the ever moving piles of washing in various stages of processing around the house………yup, life with small people!
    My most recent pat on the back moment is managing to get up that bit earlier so we can all have a relaxed morning before work/creche/school as opposed to the usual chaos and rushing.
    You have a wonderful way with words, and it really helps to know that all the little things that drive me crazy are the same things that other mams wrestle with, every day. Just need to keep remembering that.
    Thank you!

    • Thanks for your lovely comment. I two weeks my son starts reception and we’ll need to start our day MUCH earlier. I shall heed your advice and drag us all up earlier for a less stressful morning.

      In other news, I recently discovered that even if your washing smells on removal from the machine, you can hang it on the line and the smell will go! It’s a revelation! Of course this comes with its’ own set of logistical problems in terms of remembering to bring it in and judging the weather, but it’s another option!

      Thanks again for your message, much love x

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