I used to dislike Proverbs 31. I read a commentary once that joked that King Lemuel’s mother gave him Proverbs 31 to keep him at home with her because no woman could be that perfect. At the time, I strongly agreed and believed that King Lemuel probably died a very lonely old man, still looking for the perfect Proverbs 31 woman.
Six months ago, I remember scrolling through posts on Pinterest and beating myself up over the woman that I wasn’t. Couponing, a month’s worth of freezer meals, cloth diapers. These women could not be for real. Add on top of that all the inspirational 12 step guides to Proverbs 31 and happy housework and I was done for. Dirty dishes are of the devil and God surely didn’t expect me to enjoy washing them. I was working as a child welfare worker and my husband was pulling 24 hour shifts as a flight paramedic. We saw each other in passing, and when we talked, it was usually to make sure that one of us had remembered to pick up or drop off the kids.
I wanted to be a Pinterest worthy parent, but that couldn’t be possible with a full time job, could it? I reasoned not. Laundry lived on the couch, most dinners were fast food, and we could never find anything. We joked that our children were flexible to make us feel better that they spent so much time with our relatives and never had a consistent bed time. We looked happy and successful from the outside. We made it work, until one day, it began to quit working. Our path to success slowly became the path to bitterness, tiredness, and loneliness. It was like one day we woke up and realized we weren’t very happy at all.
After much prayer and debate, we agreed that one of the changes to make should be for me to quit my job. After I turned in my notice, I was terrified. I am not the domestic type. My nickname growing up was “Jess the mess.” I’m not good at being 2 year old silly. What was I going to do all day with our toddler? What was I going to do on my husband’s days off? What would we talk about? I couldn’t remember the last time we had spent this much time together. What if I didn’t live up to the expectations? Very shakily, I jumped off the ledge.
It’s been two months since I quit my job. I’ve scrubbed the kitchen floor, cleaned the bathroom walls, and organized both our children’s closets. I bake, a lot. I planned all 25 nights of elf on the shelf for the kids and finished most of our Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. I surprise myself every time my husband asks where something is and I know the answer.
My family and I, we are happy. None of it has been Pinterest perfect, and I still can’t check everything off the list in Proverbs 31. Being a joyful, early riser? Not even with a 12 pack of Pepsi and a dozen donuts. Their happiness, my happiness, I’ve learned, isn’t based on my performance but my priorities. The first time I had coffee waiting on my husband when he came home from work, I thought he might cry. Why in the world had I never taken the time to make him coffee before? Somewhere in trying to be super social worker, I lost perspective. Opportunities to serve my family, to love my family through my actions, became chores that I didn’t think I had time for. Oh the joy I missed out on because I didn’t make his coffee.
What’s next for me and my family is still a little fuzzy for us. While I’m not itching to get back to social work just yet, when I do, I hope I remember that King Lemuel’s mother had it right. She wasn’t giving her son a checklist of impossibilities. She was instilling the importance of priorities. Love God, serve Him. Love your family, serve them. Don’t be too busy to brew the coffee.