Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Best Foot Forward

"Are you giving the least to those who matter most
Or are you sharing your best with those who really aren't that close? 
Well, it's time to turn around
And find out where your greatest joys are found."
     - Michael McLean

These lyrics from a song from my youth resonate with me to this day.  Growing up hasn't made this decision easier, but infinitely harder.  With so many people and responsibilities tugging at me it's obvious that I can't give of myself to everything; there just isn't enough of me to go around.  Priorities must be made and stuck to.  (It's the sticking to it that's the really challenge!)

I don't have the challenge in my life of getting caught up in work outside the home, since I am blessed to be a stay at home mom.  I also don't face the challenge of getting caught up in housework (although sometimes I think I should put a little more time in here, as my lonely, neglected vacuum would tell you.)  Where I get stuck is my time with the children.  Three boys under the age of 7 really need a lot of attention.  A baby needs nearly all my attention.  It's easy to look at them and think "they really do need me, since there is so much they can't do for themselves."  While that statement is true, it doesn't negate the need for prioritizing.

If I want success in my home, then my first priority has to be with the one who started this family with me in the first place.  (That's my husband, in case it wasn't clear :)

Finding time is nearly impossible right now.  Juliette will not settle for a babysitter, and seems to relish in being awake from 7pm-10pm, the only time James and I have when the boys are all sleeping.  So for a while I've been giving myself a "free pass," echoing James' pronouncement that we "just have to get through the next year" or so.

But it occurred to me today that there might be other ways I can "give the most to the one who matters most."  And it requires going back in time ten years to the pre-wedding days.

You see, when we are dating, we are in the "put your best foot forward" mentality.  Like many animals in the animal kingdom, we are performing an elaborate "mating dance" where we groom ourselves in special ways, puff up our assets, tuck away our weaknesses and do all we can to woo our mate.

Then comes the proverbial "morning after" (or "ever after," since you're married now for more than just the next day.)  The honeymoon period lasts a short while and then out of sheer exhaustion we must let down our guard.  We brave coming downstairs without makeup.  We perform bodily functions in each others' presence.  We growl and get angry and take out unrelated frustrations on each other.  Our safe haven of a home becomes a safe haven to let loose the good, the bad and the downright (ungroomed) ugly.

So what would happen if we choose to put our best foot forward once again?  What little things could I do to give of myself to the one I love?  I'm not saying here that I am wanting to put on a mask of deception to hide those hard parts of me that I'm supposed to share with my soulmate.  It is often the little gestures that can shine a great ray of light on a relationship.

Here are some of the things I was thinking of:

1) Taking care in my dress.  When dating, you can bet that every outfit was thought out.  Now it means waking up, showering, doing my hair and putting on something nice.  I don't mean that I'm vacuuming in a dress (because I already admitted how little I vacuum!)  There are lots of casual outfits that show some style.  Even a nice fitting pair of jeans and a graphic t-shirt and a pony-tail can be attractive.

2) Making his favourite meals.  If I was making a meal for James when we were dating, you can bet it was an entire menu of his favourite things.  A little fore-thought, or a quick inquiry will let me put something he loves on the table again.

3) Leave a note.  How much time lapsed between communications when we were dating?  Emails, text messages, phone messages, phone conversations - there are so many ways to touch base with more than "when are you going to be home to rescue me from this chaos?" which, to be honest, is usually the only reason I manage to carve out 6 seconds to call James these days.  I think it would be nice to not know my email message verbatim before he even opened it.

4) Offer a night out for him.  Back to the dating scene: if your boyfriend had said "I want to get together with the guys this weekend" most of us would have readily agreed, not wanting to seem needy or smothering.  Ten years later it's easy to resent a night out because we've been "trapped" at home all week.  This suggestion isn't just about "letting" him go out, but offering it.  He's taken a little by surprise of the generous offer, and you're prepared and not taken off guard by the request.  Win-win.

Okay, if I sit here long enough I could probably make this list reach 5, or even 10.  But this is about something attainable, so four is good for me.  Time to put my own best foot forward again.

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