I had a girlfriend over yesterday for a few hours. She came along with her 7-week-old son and some much-needed adult conversation. One thing that came up more than once is the hardship that is motherhood-in-isolation. We agreed that for everything, there is a season, and this season is HARD.
For now, my season includes raising two children with a small, dispersed village. My season means many hours without another adult. My season doesn’t have excess funds for entertainment, extravagance, or even much travel to visit those in my proverbial village. My season is brightened by the joys of motherhood but dulled by the lack of regular adult interactions or even that mythical land of Alone Time.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
My Current Season as a Stay-at-Home-Mom
I have been a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) for almost 3 years now. I left my job a whole month before Angel Baby was born. Now I’m the mother of 2 and hold a Masters in Library Science. I can list many accomplishments for these years:
I started a blog, made some crafts, fine-tuned my cooking skills, and learned how truly obsessive-compulsive I am about things like dishes and dust.
I also learned how hard it is to hold onto sanity when your main interactions with adults are limited to when your husband isn’t at work and those brief moments you’re in the check-out at the grocery.
This season feels like winter.
I am alone. A lot. Yet I am always with my children. I crave adult interactions, yet find myself poorly prepared to interact with other adults.
My ability to converse is sorely stunted by my lack of real-world experiences. Get me talking about potty training, toddler diets, issues with breastfeeding, the cost of diapers and milk storage bags, and how to use natural oils to cleanse your face, we are going to have a great conversation. Want to discuss anything else? I’ll either mutely blink at you or somehow turn the conversation about you and your husband house-hunting to how many stairs I do on laundry day*.
The Loss of Winter
The trees lose their leaves and the grass loses its green. I, in my SAHM Winter, have lost friends and sleep.
I keep telling myself it is the season, though. Those friends that I’ve lost touch with because I only knew them through our mutual efforts at work or through our mutual efforts to consume alcohol and stay out ’til dawn are merely a past season. Spring will come again. Those friends may return or they may just be leaves that have lost their color and tumbled away**.
There is a Season
One day, I will return to the workforce. One day, our household will have an income that can support more frivolities. One day, my children will be involved with sports and activities that will require more from the BHE and me. One day, my children will have their own transportation and social lives to tend to.
I just have to remind myself that this isolation won’t last forever. That the friends I no longer have things in common with will either still be there as support or will fade away entirely. That the clothes I wear won’t always have elastic waists and smell like sour milk. That the conversations I have will include more than the daily routines of me and my children. That this is where I need to be now.
Where We All Are
One of my favorite inspirational writers, Sarah Mae, wrote that my time is coming, my chance to shine. I should take a deep breath and explore the NOW of my life to live it fully. She recommended that I stop thinking there are other things I could be doing and so much that I am missing and remember that this — this parenthood, cooking-cleaning marathon, home-bound life– is where I am meant to be now. She says that God will guide me through my Seasons in life and to not lament the distance and losses that occur during my time as a SAHM.
My chance to be profound is not now, but it will happen.
*So sorry, Vicki. I heard myself turning the conversation to be about myself and still was unable to stop myself. I’m not losing it; I’ve lost it.
**Jesse, you’ll never be a leaf that loses its color. You’ll always be vibrant, and one day, I will return to you as a friend that can consume alcohol until dawn.
Just a second
Right now, my kids are sleeping. My almost-three-year old has been down for about 30 minutes, easily slipping into her nap since I woke her quite early to stuff her in a dress then into the car to sit and be told to be quiet at church. (That is such a difficult thing for a tiny tot. It is amazing what we expect of these new humans that are almost literally bursting with energy.) My 5-month-old is resting peacefully in his swing that he has almost grown out of, the big chunky boy. These moments aren’t really rare, thank God. I get a good 20-40 minutes each day like this.
However, there are the days where I really could use more. More like 20 hours, but maybe that’s asking an awful lot.
My children mean so much to me. They are my little lights. They are unexpected treasures and delights, sweet angels on this rough hell of Earth.
I find solace in their warmth and smells, comfort in the routines of feeding and clothing them, joy in their hugs and sounds and squeezes and messes. I also find a ton of anguish in some of their behaviors and plenty of fear that I might not being doing this whole parenting thing right.
They see me at my ugliest. They’ve seen my best, and they are most accustomed to my average and every-day. But, dear Lord, they have seen the ugliest.
Reign it in
I just have to reign it in.
There is a lot of guilt, sure, when I lose my shit, but there is also a lot of hurt. I hurt myself when I hurt them or let them see the ugliness within me.
My daughter is so forgiving, and I try to use that as my example. She doesn’t harbor ill will or remember all the nastiness. That is me; I’m the one holding onto the ugly side. I want to be more like her.
Barely 3 and able to be a better Christian than me. No wonder Jesus loves all the little children; they embody all that we ought to be: smiling and joyful, energetic and inquisitive, forgiving and happy.
There is always tomorrow.
I keep having to remind myself of that. Not just “tomorrow” in the sense that after I get a handful of heavily interrupted hours of sleep tonight I get to wake up and try all over again at parenting and cooking and cleaning and listening and learning and teaching and driving and talking and so on.
Let’s look at “tomorrow” in the greater sense: who I am today is not who I will always be. The adversities I face today will not always be facing me. The blessings I should be thankful for today will not necessarily be there tomorrow any more than the bullshit I am struggling through will always be bogging me down.
An author/blogger I enjoy is Sarah Mae. She wrote (somewhere, please don’t ask me to quote) that we are given talents by God to use during the seasons He is presenting to us.
For instance, I enjoy writing and I am very good at it. I am not plagued by self-doubt when it comes to writing any more than I am plagued by poor grammar. I dream of writing a best-selling book or having many followers on my blog. I want to write.
There are days where I kick myself for not writing, for not making larger steps towards seeing the completion of my book (or a blog post at the very least). This anxiety builds up within me when I think that I’m getting older, my children are getting older, that if I want to have an income while staying home with my children, that I need to spend my time more wisely and work on my book/blog/et cetera with every single extra second that I have.
Then I remember to reign it in. And take a deep breath. Like Sarah Mae was saying, there is a season for everything. God didn’t give me the gift of writing so I could spend sleepless nights beating myself up over not writing. God gave me two healthy children and a very supportive husband as well as the gift of writing.
This, right now, is not my season for writing a book. This is my season for being a mommy and a wife. One day, my season for writing will begin. Just like it may end. Just like my season for teaching, my season for nursing, my season for being a better friend, happier daughter, wiser mother, or whatever… those seasons are coming.
Deep breath in…and…out
I just need to reign in the negativity, take a deep breath, and remind myself that what I am doing right now is precisely what I need to be doing right now.
That is my pat on my back. That is my reminder that my life is not stagnant and what I’m dealing with right now won’t always be what I am dealing with.
Actually, that brings up another point: what I *get* to deal with. I keep lamenting about the things which I *have* to do: I HAVE to do laundry, I HAVE to make dinner, I HAVE to put off sleep to take a shower, I HAVE to go to the grocery.
My goodness am I an ungrateful ass!
For real, these are things I *get* to do. I GET to do laundry because not only do I have plenty of clothing and linens for myself and my family but also clean, running water and these fabulous machines that do most of the hard work for me. I even GET to have the option of tossing everything into the dryer (and forgetting it for 3 days) or getting some exercise and fresh air by hanging it outside on the line.
These are blessings, not curses; these are choices I should be grateful for rather than chores I bitch about. Sometimes, though, it is just so hard to see that difference between HAVE TO and GET TO.
I’m working on it.