Sara Vanden Berge

There are plenty of things Iím not very good at, but one of the things Iíve always believed Iíve excelled at is being a mom to my three children.

But just when I thought I had this mothering thing down, an innocent remark from my daughter made me re-evaluate how Iím really doing.

Last weekend, I took my daughter to Revolve, a Christian concert/conference aimed at encouraging young girls to make good decisions.

The night before we left, we were talking about what clothes we needed to pack. When I said that I was looking forward to the trip, my daughter said, ďYeah, me too. Iím surprised that youíre going.Ē

I was surprised at her surprise.

ďWhat do you mean?Ē I asked.

ďWell, you never do stuff like this,Ē she said.

I donít?

I reluctantly pushed her for more.

ďDo you think I donít spend enough time with you?Ē I asked.

She shrugged, then went on to point out that I work long hours and said the majority of my time at home is spent cleaning.

ďAnd youíre always on the cell phone,Ē she added.

That one stung like a dart to the jugular.

In my mind and on the defensive, I started mentally clicking off all the things I do for my children.

I make them comfortable by keeping an uber-clean house. I do all their laundry. I get up before the sun every morning to cook them a hot breakfast before school. I tell them I love them every day. I rub their backs when they are sick, buy them nice clothes, welcome their friends to our home and cheer them on at games.

The list went on and on.

By the time I went to sleep, I had convinced myself that I was doing everything right, but when the alarm went off the next morning, I knew that wasnít true.

Now would be a good time to throw in the fact that my daughter is quiet and sensitive and would never intentionally say anything hurtful - and thatís what bothered me the most. Her words were heartfelt. The innocent musings of my daughter had me second-guessing myself.

The only comfort I had was knowing Iím not alone.

Mothers the world over, particularly those who work outside the home, are in a never ending struggle to balance the things they have to do with the things they want (or should) do.

In my mind, Iíve always thought that making the beds, doing the laundry and straightening that crooked picture on the wall is what made me a spectacular homemaker/mother. My children, I tell myself, will benefit from living in a spotless house. Itís like a neat circus trick. See mom work. See mom cook. See mom clean. Mom can do everything.

But is the benefit of a perfectly picked-up house equivalent to spending quality time with my kids? The answer is no.

The desire for a clean house stems entirely from the fact that I canít stand a mess. So after a long day at work, Iíll opt to go home and clean rather than play a game or catch up with the kids.

For the record, our weekend at Revolve was great. I silenced my phone, focused on my daughter and enjoyed our time together.

Meanwhile, like other women, Iím back to struggling with time constraints. I have no easy solution on ways to juggle work and family. For most of us, working is not an option. Likewise, the laundry has to get done and someone has to prepare the meals.

But surely, in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, there is more I can do to spend quality time with those I love the most.

My dad always warned me that having too many irons in the fire would make my life seem like it was full of failures.

ďYou canít do it all,Ē he used to say. ďSo pick and choose the things that are most important and do them well.Ē

Indeed, life should be less about circus tricks and more about enjoying the things that will some day grow up and move away.

SARA VANDEN BERGE is managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.