Embrace Childlike Wonder Instead of Stressful Striving

About a week ago I was finishing up a crazy semester of school with my four elementary kids, prepping for Christmas, and trying to remember all the details. If you’re a mom, you know that single sentence appears fairly simple but actually encompasses about 837 tasks, all of which are in your head, swirling.

It seemed as though every few seconds another task popped up in my brain. “Oh, right. Don’t forget to do that. Write that down somewhere, Katie, before you forget it again.” Because on top of everything else, I begin to have conversations with myself, out loud, only adding to the appearance of me losing my mind.

It was in the midst of all of this pre-Christmas craziness that I was talking to my mom and pretty much unloaded on her. I don’t remember my exact words but I’m sure it sounded something like, “…so stressed…can’t get everything done…messy house…so tired…need a break…”

And I’m grateful for my godly, wise, gentle mom, who totally commiserated but then also kind of shut it down, as was needed. Maybe I feel like I need a break, but maybe the better thing is leaning into God to give me rest, rather than depend on external circumstances to fix my stress (her words, not mine).

That was the spiritual butt-kick I needed to remind me that sometimes stress is the perfect thing to push us back into the arms of a burden-lifting God.

But she also gave some advice of a more practical variety when she texted me later that day. She had been thinking of all I was worried about accomplishing. She remembered her own mother (my grandma) making wonderful memories for them as kids. Sure, grandma must have carried some stress, like all moms, but the kids didn’t feel it. Christmas was fun and magical.

She encouraged me to remember that my kids don’t know about all that needs to be done to prepare for the company and the festivities. They don’t feel the pressure of a clean house or a beautifully set table or delicious food. They are looking for fun and joy and delight. And they want nothing more than for me to join in.

Are you bogged down with preparation right now? Do you feel like that a thousand things are expected and it’s up to you to deliver? Are you busy making lists, scrubbing tubs, wrapping gifts, and braving busy stores?

I have been, too, but my mom’s reminder broke through the fog, and I realized that there are four little people who just want their mom to have some fun.

Now, of course, someone still has to clean, shop, and wrap the gifts. Those responsibilities don’t go away. But maybe, just maybe, perfection doesn’t have to be the goal. Perhaps the responsibilities become overwhelming because we’re striving for something impossible.

I had a lot that still needed to be done this week, but I ended up crossing a lot of things off of my list, things that I realized were just an exercise in trying to attain perfection.

Should my home be clean for guests? Sure. Probably nice to clean toothpaste globs off the wall before my sister-in-law uses that bathroom. Side Note: Can someone please explain to me how kids achieve the kind of widespread toothpaste destruction that they do? I think it must involve acrobatics.

But maybe I don’t need to take a magic eraser to the baseboards or clean my fridge or repaint the guest room (I seriously actually considered that).

Should I be prepared to feed all these people? Most definitely. But perhaps we can have my easy go-to meals instead of some elaborate, homemade cinnamon roll recipe I found on Pinterest that takes 3 days to execute.

There are a lot of “shoulds,” but maybe we’re taking those shoulds and turning them into impossible standards that leave us exhausted and anxious. Our frantic pursuits of perfection leave us snapping at children and leaving them in front of screens so we can get it all done instead of simply enjoying a season that should have us remembering all there is to wonder at in God’s glorious creation.

After receiving that much needed text from my mom, I’ve made a conscious effort to look up from my task list and find pleasure in the presence of my family, particularly the kids. It’s not easy. The default is stressful striving. But it’s worth the effort to tear my gaze away from all of my self-imposed impossible expectations.

A Hallmark movie night with some girlfriends, a scavenger hunt that ended in a new trampoline, jumping on said trampoline with my children, baking my favorite biscotti, making snow globes that left mountains of glitter in the dining room. None of these were on my “list.” Yet they’re the best things we did this week.

Whatever situation you find yourself embracing this Christmas week, may you remember that a Savior came into the world, and His salvation releases you from the bondage and burdens of perfection. Have fun. Have joy. Have childlike wonder.


Katie Hughes

I’m married to Josh. He’s a pastor. We live in Tallahassee with our 4 children. They are wild and crazy and we don’t really know what we’re doing there. I spend most of my time managing them but some of my time doing some research at Florida State University. I’m grateful for good books, laughter, the Florida sun, and Netflix (and oxford commas!). But mostly for Jesus. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.