MEASURING PROGRESS



There are days that I start the dishwasher shortly after breakfast, wipe down the counters, sweep, and get the washing machine started just after that. There are even days that I move the clean laundry over to the dryer soon enough that I don't have to wash it a second time.

There are days that I manage getting one kid to school, run errands with the others, and make it to a dentist appointment for all three. Hell, I might even exercise.

These are days I feel productive, and I've had a few of them recently. The work I put in is noticeable and I feel accomplished. I could hold these days up as a standard, a marker for the rest of my days to inevitably fall short of, but that would be foolish.

Because, really?

Those days are few and so far between.

For every day that I crank out laundry, I've spent at least the past week and a half side-stepping in my closet so as to avoid the massive pile spilling out of my hamper.

For every morning that I get the dishwasher loaded and promptly unloaded, there's an embarrassing amount of mornings that require me to clear last night's dinner dishes and art projects so that we can sit down to breakfast, after we hand wash a few bowls for our oatmeal.

I try to run errands alone or with as few kids as possible, because I'm either carrying them all or trying to catch them as they run away from me in three different directions, usually toward something made of glass.

We're doing okay schoolwise, meaning we haven't missed the bus yet, or forgotten homework. Though, there is that one booklet about the letter 'M' that was supposed to be sent back that mysteriously vanished without a trace between the hours of bedtime and breakfast the next day, and I am probably two for five, at best, in remembering show and tell day. We're managing, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not glad we're off track for the next month.

Perhaps more foolish than comparing the majority of my days with the occasional few that I cook and clean, and knock out my to-do list, though, would be thinking that those are the only expectations I have for myself; that tackling housework and errands are somehow my main responsibility, when they aren't even responsibilities that belong to me alone. We wouldn't be coming up on ten years of marriage if it that were the case.

It's just that I spend a lot of time at home. I like things to be tidy, lest I feel I will lose my mind, and clearing off counter tops, mopping floors, and making beds are all really easy ways to see productivity.

But why do we measure things that way? Why do we seem to value productivity only when it yields completed results? Is progress not enough on its own?

It should be.

Also, and maybe more importantly to remember is that progress isn't always measurable, and it's not always seen.

Revolutionary, I know.

Just because you don't see immediate results, or long-term results, doesn't mean your efforts are in vain, and it doesn't mean you're not getting to where you want to be .

I don't have a career. I don't see myself progressing in that regard, even though I sometimes wish I did. Even though I'm not in school, and those particular measures and standards aren't available to me, I'm still trying to actively learn and better myself intellectually.

Gone are the days that I could gauge how I was doing by whether or not my tiny babies were growing and gaining weight. But I see them practicing kindness in their interactions. I see them caring for each other, and showing concern for friends and others around them. It doesn't look like a basket of folded laundry, or dinner cooked and dishes washed, but it does look like effort- daily effort stretched out over years, pouring love, and kindness, and teachings of good into them.

Even if I didn't see it, I have to trust that what I'm doing is worthwhile and has an impact.

When I'm unsure what tangible results would even look like, knowing that both the work I'm putting in and the goal I'm striving for is good has to be enough to sustain me.

It sometimes seems that the only noticeable by-products of our efforts are negative, if not non-existent; that no good deed goes unpunished. It's difficult to see beyond that which we can literally see.

Have faith that you're getting there. You're making a difference. Whether you're the last one to see it, or the only one; whether you see change today, tomorrow, or are still waiting ten years from now, believe in your efforts.

Measure your success not by what you've completed, nor by how long it's taken you, but by the fact that you haven't given up.

(For the record, I totally killed the whole taking three kids to a dentist appointment by myself. Just thought I'd revisit that for anyone wondering.)

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