Sometimes It Takes Me Awhile

For the last eight or nine years, my mama has made a habit of walking into my house, putting away her things, and then relaying the latest news for approximately seven and a half minutes before she starts looking around for something she can wash.

I will be honest. She has never had to look very far. Because if there is any consistent trend in this house, it is that the laundry is always – always – on the verge of total mutiny. I’m convinced that it creeps out of the laundry baskets and to the edges of our closet doors while we sleep, and it’s only the sound of our alarms that makes it retreat.

But make no mistake: one day it will overtake us. Something about the laws of mass and whatnot.

Anyway, Mama LOVES to “make laundry” (seriously. two lightly used dishtowels = full load of laundry.), but over the last couple of years, I’ve started to feel guilty about that. So lately, whenever she’s at our house for a visit, I try to intercept the laundry basket from her. I say no, sit down, rest, hang out with Alex, let’s go get a pedicureleave the laundry alone.

When Mama and Daddy pulled up to our house yesterday, they found me way, way behind on my Thanksgiving schedule. I’ve been sick for two days, and I haven’t done any of my normal prep work. It’s fine, really; I enjoy a culinary challenge, so I’ve been kind of tickled that today’s cooking pace has been fast and furious. But in the midst of running some cheese through the food processor around 7:45 this morning, I realized that there is a child in this house who doesn’t have so much as a clean pair of blue jeans.

So I looked over at Mama and said, “Hey – if you want to tackle the laundry in Alex’s closet while I’m cooking – well, it’s all yours.”

Now listen. If someone said that to me, I would probably think of some not-nice words – and I might even feel a little insulted.

But my mama? Apparently I dialed right in to her love language. She lit up like a Christmas tree. Popped straight up out of her chair.

And I realized in that moment – after years of trying to modify Mama’s tendency to wash, dry, and fold her way through her visits – that it’s not about the laundry.

It’s about being needed and loving her family.

I can be a tough person to love sometimes. I’m independent, stubborn, and I am always quick to say that I like to tackle things on my own. I like to call it self-sufficiency, but really it’s some hard-core control.

That’s why seeing Mama’s face this morning got my attention. It reminded me that maybe I should be a little bit less mindful of what I think Mama should want to do – and a little more mindful of giving the grace of being needed. Because what feels like a chore to me may feel like service to someone else. And service is almost always a way that people show their love.

I don’t want to take that away from somebody, you know?

So if you were at my house right now, you’d find me elbow-deep in sweet potatoes – and you’d hear the washing machine running like a playlist on repeat. Mama has laundered, bleached, and mended just about every item of clothing in a certain nine year-old’s closet.

It’s still hard for me to understand why in the world tending to the laundry has put such a spring in my mama’s step, why it’s put such a smile in her eyes.

But it has. There’s no doubt about it. And I’m grateful.

So I reckon I learned something today. Only took eight years for it to sink in.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • email


  1. I love this!! Our mothers must be twins separated at birth!! Every time my mom comes over, she wants to do my ironing. While she likes to iron daily, I prefer to make it more of an annual thing ….thus the huge pile of those darned shirts my hubby so loves to wear. I always feel a little guilty, too, but serving her family is totally my mom’s love language and she truly takes joy in it. And, boy, am I thankful!!

    • My mother is their triplet! The same love of laundry, complete with beaming face.

      And yes, it is something to be very grateful for. The ministry of laundry is a beautiful thing :-)

      Happy Thanksgiving from a reader in Zurich.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes… there’s something sweet and precious about needing our mamas. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  3. When my late mother-in-law would come to visit, she would always ask if her son or I had anything that needed to be ironed. Determined to be the gracious hostess and loving daughter-in-law I wanted to be, I wouldn’t have dreamed of “making” her iron or assist with making dinner. It was many years before I realized that not only had I missed out on having top-notch help with ironing and cooking, but also that I had prevented her from showing her love for us in the ways she enjoyed most. Wish I would have learned it sooner!

  4. I LOVE doing laundry, but no one believes me. I have been able on a few occasions to convince friends to bring theirs to me when they are in a bind. So much fun!

  5. Can your mama come to my house?! She can make some laundry all the live long day and I would love her ’till the end of time. Seriously though, I am overly critical of what I think people should like, love, act, etc and your post went straight to the heart. Thank you for that. For reals though, can mama come to Ohio?! =)

  6. I’m just like you, and my mother-in-law is just like your mama. And I learned way before you did just to let her do her thing. :) Love you, Sophie!! Happy Thanksgiving!!

  7. Aw, Sophie, that needed a kleenex warning! I love this!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Diana Post says:

      I needed a tissue, too, because I’m that mama who feels so blessed to be a blessing to my children. It’s hard to explain the joy I get from helping them!

  8. Awww Sophie, love this one so much. Taking the time to leave a comment even though I’m on my husband’s computer and his “a” key doesn’t work properly and he doesn’t have any of my stuff saved in the leave a comment saved memory thinggie. But I has to leave it – because this is just like my mother in law and how love is spelled for some folk and it has so grown on me too. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  9. So sweet and so true! My mom always liked to stay busy and worked in her own home all the time. After we moved away from our hometown and she would come to visit, she swept. She swept my front porch and back deck 2-3 times a day. She also cleaned out my silverware drawer and refrigerator, among other things. It might have offended a daughter-in-law, but it never offended me – I knew she was happy doing it. I miss her.

  10. My mother-in-law is just like your mama — she even “stole” laundry from me once! She snuck it right out to her car, oh yes she did. She loves to help, and I am learning to let her. :)

  11. My sweet MIL would be the same way. I love Nancy’s note. I’m learning to let her help, because it’s not a reflection on me not keeping up, it’s her being a wonderful mom, MIL, and grandma, and she wants to do things to help us.

  12. I know exactly what you mean! My mama always cleans up something while she’s here. It’s always cleaner than I would ever get it…I always tell her not to worry about it, but I do enjoy finding a “mama cleaned” surface or folded laundry.

  13. My mama is the same way only with the kitchen. I have trained her now to just ignore the kitchen and sit down, but I’m sure if I would just let her go the first thing she would do is fill my sink with hot sudsy water and start sanitizing everything in sight. I used to view it as sort of an insult. Like I wasn’t doing it properly. But it’s not that. She loves to do that for me. It’s how she serves and I’m stealing her blessing. Ouch. Thanks for the perspective. I’m going to have to invite Mama over to clean a little.

    The funny thing is I love doing laundry and end up running a load every time I’m at my daughter’s house. I’m such a hypocrite.

  14. Wow….you really should have put a “Get a Kleenex if You Are Slightly Hormonal” warning on that post!! My husbands mom did the same thing to me before we married and unfortunately she’s gone and I never got the chance to let her feel needed by all of us. A lesson I would give anything to have had the time to learn to let her fuss over the laundry and the kitchen. Mama’s are quite the blessings!!!

  15. Upside Brown says:

    beautiful perspective. thank you for the gentle reminder of giving the grace of mamas’ need to be needed. completely relate. happy thanksgiving, sweet soph.

  16. Reminds me of visits from my mother–she would clean my bathrooms every morning during her visits. Now, that was really nice when she and my daddy came to stay with us. She is now 87 and resides in assisted-living. Your are correct–we do rob people from performing an act of service that is out of their love for us, even if it is just buying lunch for us.

  17. Sophie,

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I totally relate. My mom has been doing my laundry (especially the ironing) for as long as I can remember. I’ve felt so guilty about it but I’ve also been like you and battled the terrible disease of control. Thanks for helping me recognize her love language :)

  18. LOVE THIS! Can’t tell you how much I can relate to everything you’ve written about her, from the pillows in the closet to the obsession with laundry. I think me and her could be best friends! Happy Thanksgiving.

  19. Mama’s are the best. What a beautiful post.

  20. Well, this post managed to bring tears to my eyes. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Sophie.

  21. So wonderful. We do need to allow others to serve us and receive that joy. Thanks for the reminder!

  22. Thank you for this. I need to remember that my mama wants to be needed. She wasn’t able to cook this year due to declining health and I was so busy trying to take care of her that I didn’t think about what she was feeling.

  23. Love this. We can be a little harder on family sometimes with our expectations can’t we? I love how you give us a great reminder to see past what we THINK should be done or expressed…into the heart.

  24. My mama has a laundry ministry too! The first paragraph of this post sooo describes my mama when she comes to visit. I, too, used to wish she would just stop and relax but I know there will come a day when I will so miss her not being here “making laundry”.

  25. LovE, love, love this post. I too struggle with a streak of independence bordering on control with my mom in particular. Yet, she so wants to be needed in my life. God bless you and your mom!

  26. This was so good that it made me teary-eyed thinking about how much how mama’s will always be our mama no matter how old we get. We need to appreciate them and let do as much laundry as their hearts desire because they will not always be here. I am gonna go call mine now though mine would rather do lunch & a pedicure than ever do my laundry. :-)

  27. LOL hilarious! Just got redirected to your blog from Deidre’s blog and I love the humor in this post. I can’t exactly say that I can relate because my mother has gone to be with Jesus but it made me all teary eyed. Have an awesome sunday :)

  28. Oh, Sophie! I needed this today. Thank you!

  29. Any woman who has a decorative light fixture in her laundry that is more beautiful than anything in my house has a little spot in her heart that can only be filled with a nice clean stack of folded shirts. What a way to bless your mom!

  30. I’m in my 60’s and have four grandchildren……2 babies and 2 teens……I am so thankful to be asked to help…….it is easy to feel unneeded …… want your kids and grandkids to be independent……but I still want to feel I have a purpose……to be able to do specific tasks…… drive chidren places…..but also to share my faith and the Love of the Lord in those teachable moments…..

  31. You have NO IDEA how happy this makes me! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to do laundry (and the two lightly used dishtowels TOTALLY count as a load…trust me) and my peeps and my family all think this is about the strangest thing they’ve ever heard. Getting my new washer and dryer for my birthday (and because I promised that I would sell my old ones when I graduated from law school and left Indiana and didn’t make the U-haul have to go up a whole size just to accommodate them) was a truly bittersweet joy. I mean-NEW LAUNDRY TOYS, but the other hand, I loved my old washer and dryer because they were the first ones that were “mine” and “mine alone”. (I don’t like to use the washer after someone I don’t know has had it. File that one under neurotic.) It’s a first world problem, indeed.

  32. SO sweet!!!!