For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed taking standardized tests. I know that this makes me somewhat of an anomaly, but it’s true. When we were without internet for a few weeks after Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, I went to the library and got some GRE prep books. I had already taken the GRE – I just wanted to take the practice tests, for fun. Part of the fun of it, for me, is in the strategy involved in taking these tests – I’m definitely NOT one of these people who scored 1600 on my SAT, so my strategy isn’t perfect by any means. But I love the challenge involved in figuring out the patterns of the test, how to solve a problem without really knowing the answer, and deciding which information is important and which information is superfluous.
One of the strategies that I used when I was taking important tests – the SAT, GRE, etc. – was to answer all of the easy questions first, circling the difficult ones to come back to later. I found that this strategy worked well for a couple of reasons. First, it was encouraging to finish a large chunk of the questions in a relatively short amount of time. Second, I made sure that I would get credit for the answers that I knew! Third, I was able to spend the remaining time on the harder questions. Lastly, sometimes just stepping away from a problem that was not immediately answerable allowed me just the right amount of time to figure out how to solve it later.
This Monday morning, as I stare at a long to-do list of chores and a messy house, I am thinking of my strategy. Start with the easy stuff, I am telling myself, and maybe the task won’t seem as intimidating after all. I include everything on my to-do lists, from the simple to the more complicated, for two reasons: 1) If I don’t write something down, then I will forget to do it!, and 2) I am very encouraged by crossing tasks off of my list. So this morning, I will start by making a couple of phone calls, and then I will put the kids in the car to run some errands. Encouraged by crossing off these simple items from my list, I will come home and try to involve the kids in some cleaning – all of the tasks, from dusting to bathrooms, are listed separately so that I get to check them off Also, if I don’t finish everything, at least I know that I have accomplished a lot and that I can come back later when time and energy permit.
I’m not trying to say that being a mom is the same as taking a test. There is more than one correct answer to every problem that we encounter, no one is grading us on our performance, and at the end of the day, what really matters cannot be measured in the form of numbers and statistics. However, it is also true that we can use many of the same strategies in our daily life as wives and mothers that we have found helpful in other environments – the classroom, the workplace, doing volunteer work, etc. What we do inside our homes, and how we do it, doesn’t need to be separate from what we do outside of our homes. In fact, the more we can connect the two, the better off we will be.
This week might be a good time to reflect on the work that I do every day – what is going well, and what needs some tweaking? Am I able to find joy in my daily tasks, even when I face many difficulties throughout the day, or does it seem like there is a dark cloud looming constantly over my head? How can I draw from past experiences to improve my attitude – what has brought me joy in the past, when I have found success, and what has been most discouraging to me? What are the connections to my life today? The answers to these questions will look very different for each of us, and they may be complicated. I have found it helpful to write in a journal when reflecting on these types of questions – it helps me to order my thoughts and to be honest with myself.
Blessings to all of you as we begin this week! Special blessings on Texas Mommy and her family as they prepare to welcome their newest little boy any day now – we are praying for you, Tex!