The doorbell rang, and I froze. I had two kids under two, post-partum depression and crusty pajamas. Piles of laundry and unopened mail abounded. My house looked like I wasn’t trying. But I was working my tail off: nursing babies, wiping noses, changing diapers. There was never enough of me for all the work that needed to be done, and it showed.
Motherhood isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Every mom has a season that sticks out as a black hole of stress and anxiety. For me, that year was 2011. If I could retrospectively choose a word or phrase to describe my mental state for this year, it would have been “overwhelm,” “brain-cell-killing” or “dumpster fire.”
When that doorbell rang, I wasn’t sure who had dropped by to witness my embarrassing scene, but I wasn’t about to let them in. Instead, I quietly tip-toed towards the door with a baby on my hip, peeking through the peephole. It was a city worker. Something told me I had better answer.
“Hi!” I hollered through the door. “Can I help you?”
“Yes ma’am. I’m here to shut off your water. Your bill is late.”
Paperwork has never been my strong suit. But my husband had been working at a stressful job with long hours, and I handled the bills. Although “handled,” would have been a generous word to describe my approach to bills. I only “handled” them insofar as I carried them from the mailbox to the kitchen desk. We had the resources to pay all of our bills on time, but on an organizational-skill scale from “Marie Kondo” to Hoarders show contestant, I tended slightly towards the latter. Apparently, there were logical consequences to my interesting approach to mail, and now those consequences were standing on my front porch.
“Oops!” My heart dropped. “Can I just pay you now?”
“Sure,” he replied. I grabbed my checkbook. It was next to a stack of unopened mail. Probably with several notices from the city. I paid him, and all was well.
I told my husband about the snafu that night. I apologized for dropping the ball. We both laughed, and then regrouped. We clearly needed a new system for bills. I had to admit the thing I hated most: I needed help. I had to admit that I was in over my head and couldn’t keep all of the balls in the air during this crazy season. My husband happily took over the mail: opening, sorting and bill-paying. I breathed a sigh of relief, and I’m glad to report that city workers have not come to our door threatening shut off since.
I kept this story locked in my “shame folder” for years, until one day I was serving at an inner city mommy and me with some other women from our church. I asked one of the moms whose car was much cleaner than mine if she would be our ministry’s bookkeeper.
“Why on earth do you think I am organized enough to bookkeep?” She asked me with a laugh.
“You just seem like the kind of person who would pay their bills on time, track their expenses and not have the city come to shut off your water. You strike me as the type of person who actually opens your mail,” I replied.
Her eyes widened. “Molly,” she said. “The city has come to shut off my water—twice—because I forgot to pay our bill.”
The two of us about died laughing. Here we were, two moms who have previously worked in high-stress jobs, homeschooled, and served in ministry positions. But for the life of us, we could not keep track of our dang bills!
We all have different giftings and abilities that bless our households, of course. Some women might be great at administrative talents but stressed when it comes to homeschooling or cooking. How lovely that God created us uniquely and that we can learn from each other’s gifts. This is one of my favorite aspects of living in community.
The shared experience of terrible bookkeeping made me realize that I wasn’t alone in my household management overwhelm, and that the way out of it was so simple, it was almost embarrassing: I just had to ask for help!
The obvious solution is almost never our go-to fix for household overwhelm. Instead, we typically cycle through the following: grumpiness, complaining under our breath, complaining loudly, resenting our precious children, feeling sorry for ourselves, checking out and scrolling on our phones. Unsurprisingly, exactly none of these solutions has successfully addressed any home management struggles. Perhaps you can relate?
Next time you feel buried under the stress of managing your home: the dishes, the laundry, the homework help, the mopping, the bookkeeping, remember: you are not called to be super woman. You are called to love God, and love your neighbor, your husband, your kids.
If your capacity is outmatched by the tasks before you, take a deep breath and humbly ask for help! Ours husbands appreciate when we calmly share our burdens instead of passive-aggressively turning into mom-sters.
When is the last time you humbly shared your burdens instead of resentfully complaining about your to-do list? How did that go?
Molly DeFrank is a mom and foster mom to five kids under ten. She writes about faith and motherhood—the hilarious and the hard; the fun and the maddening; the beauty and the blunders. She loves to share encouragement and laughter with women just like her. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, or her website, www.mollydefrank.com.