No sooner do I confess to reducing the standard in the hygiene department than several unpleasant consequences and a few accusations come my way.
It’s human nature to see the negative more than the positive, which means people are more likely to notice when we reduce than when we raise, and more likely to say something discouraging.
The negative comments forced me to re-evaluate my decision about hygiene, and I realized I had not properly defined for myself exactly what level I was willing to accept, so each unpleasant consequence that could possibly be related to our family hygiene was a weight on my heart.
As I sat pondering how we might change our lifestyle to include more time for cleaning, my almost five-year-old and nearly two-year-old sat at the keyboard together belting out “Deck the Halls” with gusto. “People are more than a pile of germs!” I shouted to the accusers in my head.
I don’t believe that health is number one. It’s important, but human connectedness and meaningful work is more important for a fulfilled life than perfect health. Maybe it’s a false dichotomy, but I refuse to take too much time from investing in my kids’ growth just to keep a few more germs out of the house. I refuse to stop visiting people or playing in the sandbox because we might get sick.
But truth be told, I really wish my kids would wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating, and I really, really wish they’d use tissues instead of their T-shirts.
And what I wish for most of all is friends who see the people behind the germs that cover my children and who appreciate them for the wonderful individuals they are.
Wait – I DO have friends like that! The people who matter most, like my husband and my mother, care deeply about the work my kids are doing, and support me self-sacrificially in my work at home. And it doesn’t stop there. There are more supportive friends and family in my life than discouragers, and those who care about me are more positive than negative, so why do I let myself get tied up in knots about a few less-than-glowing comments?
I can’t pretend to understand it all, but certainly one important aspect to being able to handle criticism is clearly defining the areas in which we choose to lower the standard so we can remain at peace even in the face of criticism and negative consequences. It was obvious from my original confession about hygiene that I had not done my homework.
“I could feel guilty about it, or I could decide to focus my energy on building the things I do very much care about, and be at peace with being below industry standard in the hygiene department, at least for now.”
Well, now didn’t last long and it’s time to define just how low I’m willing to go and be happy, and figure out a way to raise the family standard to a level I can be at peace with.
I have the feeling this kind of work will never end, as our families and the world around us are ever-changing. It’s not about making a Blue Ocean once-and-for-all, but about continually being conscious of our choices so we can stay in our Blue Ocean peacefully and not get sucked back into the Red Ocean of guilt.
What roadblocks have you encountered since trying to raise and reduce? Please share!