What Children Remember

Well, this is awkward. 

I looked around to see if I was the only one who’d felt the cold slap of the speaker’s words. What I saw confirmed I wasn’t alone: nearly every woman in attendance was either shrinking into her seat or laughing nervously. 

I was attending a women’s event at a local church, and the speaker was talking about motherhood. Overall it was an encouraging message—right up until the point where he stated that if we as wives and mothers didn’t keep a clean house, it reflected badly on our relationships with Christ and would be a stumbling block to our children.

Hence the awkwardness.

To the speaker’s credit, I don’t think he meant exactly what he said. I think he meant that women (and men) should be good stewards of their homes and seek to carry out Colossians 3:23—to do everything to the glory of God. By demonstrating good stewardship, we set examples for our children. And that’s a good thing.

But what the message communicated was this: keep things neat, clean, and orderly, or else you’re not doing your job as a mother—and your children will suffer for it.

I walked away from the event feeling confused and frustrated. Moment of transparency here—keeping a clean, together-looking home isn’t one of my strengths. So where did that leave me? 

I don’t have anything against the practice of keeping clean homes. An orderly house has tons of benefits, and it’s definitely a goal worth pursuing. 

But at the risk of sounding argumentative, can I just say something?

Cooking, cleaning, and taking care of a home are parts of being an adult. Man or woman, married or unmarried, children or not. These things aren’t (or shouldn’t be) exclusive to womanhood. 

Could it be that being a wife and mother are about far more than just how well we maintain our stuff?

Here’s the thing. When I look back on my childhood, this is what I remember:

I remember playing musical chairs as a family in the evenings. I remember my dad playing guitar while we danced and sang, and my mom leading games of charades.

I remember making huge messes at the kitchen table while doing crafts with my mom and sisters. I remember visits to the local nursing home to spend time with residents, making baked goods to give to friends, and building forts in the living room.

I remember watching my mom teach drama at our church. I remember watching her write and perform scripts at women’s events, and love on my friends when they came over. I remember my friends asking my mom for advice and seeing her take the time to talk with them. 

I remember praying together as a family every day before we went to school or work. I remember sitting down at the dinner table together and laughing long after our plates were empty. 

While we gathered at the dinner table, there may have been dirty dishes in the sink. I don’t remember.

While we played games in the living room, there may have been a pile of unfolded laundry nearby. I don’t really remember.

While I watched my mom present the gospel in front of a crowd through her written work, there may have been a minivan parked nearby littered with school books, smelly gym bags, and empty Biscuitville cups. I honestly don’t remember.

And while my sisters and I made cards for men and women at nursing homes, it’s possible there were paint handprints on the table and glitter on the floor. I just don’t remember. 

Moms, I know you know what I’m about to say is true, but just in case you need the reminder:

You have a lot more to offer than just a well-maintained home. Your children probably won’t remember your freshly scrubbed countertops and floors. But they will remember how you played together, learned together, and served together.

Sure, take care of your home, make delicious meals, and empty the dishwasher—those things can and do glorify God. But more importantly, let’s disciple our children’s hearts to love the Lord and love people more than the appearance of our stuff.

And let’s give ourselves a break on everything else. 

7 thoughts on “What Children Remember

  1. Agree wholeheartedly. Maintaining your home is an “adult thing”, not a “woman thing.” I would add that we each have to decide on our priorities each day, which are most often reshuffled constantly. I agree that cleaning up the glitter from the floor, getting the dishes loaded/washed, and folding laundry are things that should be well lower on the list than prayer, family time, and laughter. Still, as adults, and as good stewards of all the blessings God gives (home and children most assuredly included), we must care for all in their time. 🙂 Great post! Honor God in all things. At my adopted home, that meant the housework was Saturday mornings, before Mom’s hair appointment at Tippy’s.

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  2. Thank you! I have a friend who is a paragon of cleanliness, always busy with cleaning, baking, organizing, etc. Even though we grew up together and have been good friends over the years, for years I wouldn’t invite her to my home, because there was probably some dust on the furniture, books and newspapers scattered around, or, yes, unfolded laundry on one end of the sofa. Plus, I have two cats! After having God nudge me for years to host a Bible study in my home. So, I began one two years ago. I was a nervous wreck at first, afraid I had not gotten all the dust off the furniture, maybe missed a spot or two when I vacuumed, or anything else I didn’t measure up to. My friend is part of my Bible study and often is invited to just come over and visit. I love my friends’ visits and have learned that they don’t expect a perfectly manicured house. I often have to use my lint roller on their clothes before they leave. And we enjoy chuckles that they are leaving wearing part of Bella and Molly. And, they love to be here, because they love me. And I love them! They, nor I, won’t remember anything other than our friendship and fun times and studying together. We’ll remember our laughter and tears and our love of the Lord Jesus which we share with each other. Thank you for writing this well-written article. I’m going to share your message, because I know there are those who will be blessed by it.

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  3. Mary, what a wise perspective you offer in this post. I could picture the fun and ministry your childhood family shared and see high value in the activities you enjoyed. Your mom taught a wise perspective and balance by example. Thank you for sharing that with readers.

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  4. Well said (as always), Mary. And you spoke truth in love and grace. As I read through your memories, I have to say that my memories are similar. I remember playing games, packing for vacations, and popcorn prepped on the stove (yeah, pre-microwave days) before settling in to watch Mary Poppins or Lassie. Thoughts of dirty clothes or messy countertops aren’t on the radar of my memories. I needed this sweet perspective and will apply it to my grandma days!

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