Yesterday afternoon, we got to hang out with our good friends, Bec and Rod. As they and their family have moved away from Sydney now, this is a rare treat. We see them a couple of times a year (including our new tradition of doing a winter holiday together).
Bec is a mummy to 3 boys, the youngest being only 8 weeks old (and gorgeous and tiny!). She is also, in many ways, my opposite. This is probably what makes her such a good friend. She is warm, and open and generous and funny. She is much more about people than she is about timetables and organisation. She is a little bit messy, and a bit disorganised, and pretty much goes with the flow. The last thing she would do is timetable her days, or menu plan long-term, or spend Friday night re-organising a cupboard. On the other hand, she would be happy to cuddle a sick baby all day, or spend a whole day socialising out and about (with her flexible boys who will sleep anywhere). She is absolutely amazing at prioritising date time with her husband, and spending daily time with God. (All things I struggle with).
But, isn't it amazing how down-on-ourselves we mums can get? When I watch Bec as a mum, I think to myself "why can't I be more laid-back?" or "why don't I have that much energy for being around people socially?". When I see some of my other mum friends, I think "why can't I lose baby weight more easily, or be more committed to exercise?" And, when I see others, I think "why can't I knit or sew (well) or create gorgeous things for my babies?"
When Bec saw our toy shelf, she did the down-on-herself thing. "Oh, I really need to get more organised with the kids' toys. I need to categorise, so they only get a couple of things out at once. That must be good for helping them learn. Isn't that good to have the books out of reach, so they don't get wrecked? etc etc".
Don't get me wrong. I love our toy system. It works perfectly for us. It is so much better than our old system. And, in my mind, IKEA = good! I'm flattered when people want to copy our system. I'm happy if it is inspirational and helpful to others (that is why I blogged it!). But, as Bec surveyed the system, she seemed burdened, rather than excited at the prospect of re-jigging her own toy system. Where I see possibilities, she sees boring work. Where I see enjoyment, she sees duty.
And, really... I don't think a toy organisation system should be a burden! If you are like me, and you prefer to store and play systematically... do it. Be the mum (and housewife) that you are. If you are happy to have lots of toys out and can play by moving from toy to toy... do it. Enjoy being the mum you are. If (like me) you can only socialise for half a day, before needing some down-time... make it happen. And if you love being out and about all day... enjoy it. If you are a mum who needs to operate in a timetable, make one. If you are a mum who is more laid-back, don't make a timetable. If you relax by getting crafty... do it. If teaching yourself to knit is just hard and frustrating, you don't need to do it!
Will your kids care if your toys aren't organised or if you never play with them? Will they even notice if you can knit them beautiful clothes or would they prefer a mummy who was relaxed enough to enjoy being around them? Will they adapt if you enjoy being out and about all day? Will they equally get used to having a scheduled rest time in the day, if that is what mummy needs to be refreshed for the afternoon?
My advice to Bec was; "Don't feel like you need to organise your toys like this. If it will help you, do it ($399 from IKEA!). If creating and keeping the system going will just be tiresome, forget about it." And, I could equally give myself the same advice about trying to be (or do) something that isn't me, trying to emulate the amazing and energetic mother of 5 at church, or the glamorous mother of 2 from the workplace... Of course, there is nothing wrong with trying to improve, or being the best you can be. And, sometimes, the effort is worth it. But, sometimes, it really isn't!