A Moment Of Truth

As a young mother with 4 children under 5, I often felt woefully inadequate as a housewife and a mother. It wasn’t because I wasn’t trying to excel at these things, it was just my perception of myself. There never seemed enough hours in the day to accomplish what had to be done and I often felt frustrated with myself. This changed dramatically one day when I was taken to my friend’s sister-in-law’s house.

It was about 1pm, when we arrived and although we had been invited to come for a visit, we were appalled by the lack of cleanliness, the untidiness and the obvious squalor around us. But what horrified us most was my friend’s 12 month old nephew standing in a dirty cot, soiled diaper and raggy vest, crying and flushed whilst his mother sat unperturbed reading in the dust covered living room.

My friend immediately swooped on her nephew and comforted him. She enquired of his mother if he was hungry- she replied that she had given him a bottle in the morning. We looked in the cot and there was an empty feeding bottle complete with flies on the nipple. We felt revolted. The unmistakable odour of the soiled diaper was overwhelming and when my friend took it off to change the little fellow, it revealed red blistered welts where his diaper had been. Immediately the child was given a warm bath and his diaper rash was plastered in Vaseline- there wasn’t anything else in the house for it.

All the time, the child’s mother kept reading, seemingly oblivious to us. It was very disconcerting. We opened the fridge to get something for the little boy and it was growing all types of green mould. The milk was out of date. The pantry was understocked to say the least, and all we could rustle up for the baby was an egg in bread crumbs. He was starving and we were angry and sad.

My friend rinsed out the soiled diaper and vest and opened the lid of the washer. We exchanged shocked glances as the rancid smell of half washed laundry met our nostrils. As the clothes were going mouldy, we presumed they had been there a long time. And there was no excuse for this laziness, because the child’s father had bought his fiancee a new washer during the pregnancy.

That day, I learnt a lot about myself. I learnt that I was too hard on myself, too perfectionistic and unrealistic. My children and home were never even on a really bad day, as bad as that. I learnt that I was not lazy, incompetent, or backward- I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Not so with this girl!

What was wrong with this girl? She only wanted to do what she liked doing- reading. That was what consumed her time and life- books. Not her little boy or her impending marriage, (which didn’t take place fortunately) but just her desires were her life. She could not see anything wrong in that. And she was a very well read and quite intelligent woman. She was to come to see that it did matter indeed.

She told my friend’s brother when it all came crashing around her ears, that she didn’t want to have to keep the house clean, look after her baby and tend to his needs. She wasn’t harming anybody by reading and she couldn’t see what the fuss was about. We were incredulous that someone could be so self-centered and unenlightened about life. And totally indifferent to her child- not even a toy was in his cot the day we visited!

The washing would get done- eventually. The child would be fed- eventually. He would be taken to the doctor when he was suffering earache- eventually- but not before repeated ear infections made him deaf in one ear. I couldn’t help but see the contrast between the Proverbs 31 woman and her. And I certainly wasn't evenly remotely close to this selfish woman. So I lightened up and relaxed a bit. I stopped being over perfectionistic and settled for a balanced approach. I enjoyed my children more. And I made sure that I never put off doing something just because I didn’t feel like doing it.

Now whenever I read Ecclesiastes 10:18 “Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks," I always remember a sad, hungry and dirty little baby boy with a mop of blonde curls and a dirty diaper. And I thank God that He gave him into his father’s caring hands.

Glenys Robyn Hicks


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