We’ve all heard that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Our parents and teachers wanted to make sure we learned the value of putting forth our best effort and following through. Great! But is that really true? G.K. Chesterton didn’t think so. He said, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” I agree with Chesterton. Some things are important to do personally, even if you’re not great at them and even if the product is less than perfect. Many aspects of family life, especially of being a mother, have intrinsic value, not because of a perfect outcome, but because of experience.
So, what are some things worth doing badly? Here’s my list:
1. Going to Church with your kids. You might become a common name in the parish because of your loud or wiggly child, and you might even feel like the Mass barely counts. After all, you rush in late, half put together and spend most of your time whispering to one child, grabbing the other to keep him in the pew, and saying half a prayer that your kids are not distracting others as much as they’re distracting you. When your kids are quiet for a moment, you start thinking about the dress the lady across the way is wearing, whether or not refreshments will be served after Mass, and whether the priest has any idea how hard it is for moms with kids to sit and listen to a long (we might even say boring?) homily. Don’t worry. No matter what you, or others, think and feel about your situation, go to Mass with the kids anyway. It’s worth doing badly. You’re effort, combined with God’s grace, can work wonders in your life. To say the least, you’re being an important example for your kids by showing them that God is important enough to always put him first, no matter what.
2. Taking family pictures and getting in them. After seeing all the photos that fill your Facebook and Pinterest accounts, you might think that everyone but you has a photogenic home and picture perfect kids. First of all, not so: they have Cheerios on the living room floor and smeared jam on the sofa too – they just don’t post pictures of it. But secondly, even if you aren’t a good photographer, and your pictures really aren’t going to turn out well, it’s worth taking them anyway. You have the unique opportunity to preserve family moments and document your kids’ childhood through photos. Don’t let go of that opportunity because you don’t have the best camera. And, above all, GET IN THE PICTURE. Don’t let your weight, color, clothes, no make-up, etc. persuade you to stay on the sidelines. YOU are an essential part of your family, and you are beautiful to them. When your kids look back at the pictures, they want to see YOU, because that’s the mother they know and love. Family memories without mom just aren’t complete.
3. Singing to your kids. You don’t sing like Celine Dion (fill in the blank with your favorite singer)? Too bad. Neither do the rest of us. You sing at the right pitch and can keep a tune? Be thankful. That’s more than many of us can do! You sing off tune and can’t hit half the notes? Don’t worry. Your kids won’t realize it, and by the time they do, your voice will be their favorite anyway. We don’t sing like celebrities; we sing like mothers, with voices sometimes tired and worn, but always full of love for our kids. They don’t want a “wow” voice. They can turn on the radio and get that any time they want. They want YOUR voice. They only get it when YOU take the time to sing to them.
4. Having a hobby. What do you like to do? Play an instrument? Cook? Exercise? Find time for a hobby even if you don’t have enough time or talent to do it well. Do it badly. But do it. Taking a little time to invest in your own needs and develop your own talents (or “wannabe” talents) is important, not only for you, but also for your family. Your kids benefit when you are refreshed, and several of them will probably take your lead and pick up the same hobbies, learning them from you.
5. Baking homemade birthday cakes. Maybe it won’t turn out the way the bakery one looks or the one you saw on that blog the other day. But it will be a birthday cake made especially for your child, with a taste of home, and your child will remember that forever. If you CAN make a picture-perfect cake, be happy that you have the talent, and please share some tips with the rest of us!
6. Involving all your kids in family projects. That’s right, ALL the kids, even the 2 year old. Give everyone a role in cleaning the house, for example, and do it as a family activity with music in the background. The product won’t be perfect – you’ll probably have some dust in the corners and clothes that have been mismatched or incorrectly folded. But the experience of getting a job done as a family is worth it. You can always have a perfectly cleaned home in the future, but you won’t always have the opportunity to work all together, with even the tiniest tots making a contribution and learning from their older siblings.
7. Being with your husband. It’s easy to stop spending as much time with your husband after children arrive because both of you are so busy taking care of the kids. You probably don’t have a lot of time for dates anymore, and you might not have a lot of extra money to spend. Date nights probably get put on the back burner. But they are another thing worth doing enough to do the “badly”. Planning an evening that only lasts an hour because you’re both so tired, and doing something at home to avoid spending money is fine. It still gives you both the opportunity to reconnect with each other and spend some quality time together.
8. Blogging (or writing in general). There are a few bloggers that create wonderful, attractive, and profit making blogs. They pour lots of time and talent into them. Most of us bloggers can’t do that. We blog badly, breaking all the rules – we post too sporadically, don’t optimize our blog for search engines and have poor graphics (when we include graphics at all). But that doesn’t matter. Blogging is worth doing badly, both as a creative outlet, and as a way of documenting your thoughts and your family experiences. You don’t know whether your children will take the time later to read what you wrote, but if you never write it, they won’t have that option. So go ahead and blog about the topics and experiences that are important to you, even if you blog badly.
9. Making and decorating Christmas sugar cookies with your kids. I’m throwing this in as an added bonus just because it’s that time of year. Even if Christmas cookies are a little too dark around the edges and look more like unidentifiable blobs than like the lovely Christmas trees, bells and candy canes you had in mind, go ahead and decorate them. Your kids aren’t going to remember these details – they’re going to remember the fun you all had together decorating and eating the cookies. They’re going to remember that you always took time out of an already busy season to do something with them.
I’m sure there are many other things you can each add to this list. There are so many things we do as moms that we can’t possibly do perfectly. But we don’t have to do them perfectly; we just have to do them. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against putting forth your best effort – and neither was Chesterton. I’m all for putting forth your best effort, and if that effort results in something newsworthy, or Pinterest worthy, or family-of-the-month award worthy, kudos to you. But don’t avoid things simply because they’re not going to end up that way. Focus on the experience, not just the product. You might be left with a less than stellar outcome, but you’ll be developing priceless memories and storing up lots of laughs. Have fun with your family. Have fun being a mom. Do you best and enjoy the ride!