Category Archives: Priorities
Motherhood carries with it a constant tension. The very state of being a mother seems to create the tension, a sort of inner conflict. It is a conflict I would venture to say fatherhood does not lay claim to. Fathers surely have concerns and conflicts: the felt need – by society or culture or their inner voice – to provide for a family. To create a safe place and manage everything within the walls of that safe place.
But for a mother, the tension is different. For a mother, or at least for me, the tension is pervasive.
Elrena Evans, in “My Little Comma,” became a mother while on the road to earning a PhD and a tenure-track position. She comments on the first page of the essay, “I am determined not to let my daughter get in the way of my studies.” Already the tension is there. Her daughter, as a baby, is an almost constant pull. Every time the baby needs feeding or calming or carrying. Every time she needs nursing or changing. Day or night, the baby has no consideration of the woman’s schedule. What if there are other pulls on the mother’s time? So what, the baby’s needs remain. But other pulls, especially if they are work or school, carry deadlines and grades and necessary paychecks. They cannot be easily cast aside. Therein lies the tension.
Elrena Evans first takes a position of determination: studies over baby. “This child is not going to dictate my life.” But over time, she realizes that her mind or heart seems to change. The baby isn’t exactly dictating, but is slowly weaving herself into the mother’s heart and hours and priorities.
“What happens if I simply choose to be a wife and a mother?” This question, this tension, didn’t exist in some eras past. A wife and a mother is simply what women were. There was no thought of career and education; if so, it usually could only be a glance in passing. Times have changed. Expectations have changed. Opportunities have changed. Economies. Cultures. Marriages. Families. They have all changed to where every mother, it seems, must make a decision.
“Simply” a wife and mother? Or wife and mother and …
And a PhD.
Some women, mothers, don’t even have that choice. For them, the idea of staying home as “simply” a wife and mother would be awesome but they do not have that luxury. They are single mothers, or the primary breadwinners, or some other necessity keeps them in the rigors of a job or schooling while balancing the tension, the constant pulls, of motherhood.
For me, with three kids the ages of 12, 10, and seven, the tension plays out differently than it would if my children were younger. They are no longer a constant draw on my time. I don’t have to stop work or studies regularly for nursing or changing. I don’t have to constantly entertain or find something interactive and educational for a toddler-aged child to keep her out of trouble.
But I am still a mom. My kids still need me.
This weekend, I had to make choices. Do I sit with my kids and watch their Friday night movie, or do I get a couple more things done? Do I check my kids’ homework and let them know if they need to fix some of their math problems, or let the teacher take care of it . . . even if it means more homework next week? Do I venture into my boys’ room and work with them to clean it, or brush off the feeling with the reasoning that, “It’ll just be messy again next week”? Do I take a walk with my kids or let them play outside on their own?
During school semesters, especially on the weekends, I face that constant weighing of options. Often with this weighing, I feel a constant burden of “I’m not doing enough with my kids. I’m not spending enough time with them. All they hear from me is ‘do this’ and ‘clean that.'” My first conclusion is, “If only I didn’t have school. If I didn’t have classes to attend and books to read and papers to write and turn in, I could be a good mom. A real mom. I could bake with my kids every weekend. I could teach them to sew and build Legos with them. We could go camping . . . in our backyard or in Yosemite. Our family would be happier.”
But would it, or would there be some other pull on my time and priorities? Would I find myself wasting away hours on Facebook or my blogs so that I wouldn’t really be spending that extra time with my kids anyway? It’s easy to assume life would be one way if a certain factor disappeared, but reality is often far different. If taking classes and working part-time did not exist for me, I would likely fill my hours with the tyranny of the urgent. My house might be cleaner, but I don’t know if I would spend more quality hours with my children.
Maybe it is the busyness and the tightness of time that makes our moments together so special. That makes me strive for meaningful experiences together. When I do take the time in spite of deadlines or celebrate after them.
A constant tension is not necessarily a bad thing. It can create a constant perspective of watching for opportunities to experience life together. A continual mindset of using every moment possible to be a mom. Not perfect. But a mom.
A friend of mine recently claimed, “Sleep is overrated.” He might have been joking, but he’s a morning person, so he might actually think that. I am of the opinion that sleep is underrated. Sleeping in is one of the sheer joys of life. Naps are a little bit of heaven.
And it is summer. A stay-at-home summer with my kids, rare and wondrous after seasons of classes and teaching, mornings trying to pry my eyes open far earlier than they agreed to, preparing breakfasts and packing lunches, out of the door with kids in tow by eight. Okay, 8:05, maybe a few minutes later on some days.
But summer. I rewarded myself with a week of no alarms. That ended today. I know the morning is the best time to get anything of substance done, when the mind is fresh and the temperature outside hasn’t yet scaled 100. So I started with something manageable. 7:20. Not nearly as early as work / school mornings. But enough to get some quiet time: chai and a good devotional book, before I woke the kids.
Two of my children will sleep as long as they are allowed to. The third, however. Well, he was up and sitting at the table before I emerged from the bathroom this morning. Ready for breakfast. Ready for the day.
It’s not a big thing, really. But I am one of those strange creatures that craves solitude. Just a little is often all I need. When my kids were babies and preschool age, I resolved to such times being few and far between. I dreamed of the time they would be in school and I could have just a little while in the morning. But as soon as the youngest was school age, I began either taking early classes or teaching at their school. No quiet mornings. No alone mornings.
It’s a little thing. I know. Selfish too. I reason that during seasons of my life when I had stretches of time to think and read and pray, the things I wrote were so much better. If I had that time now, I sometimes tell myself, I could do that again. Come up with amazing ideas. Write. Just write. And read. And drink chai.
This morning, my quiet time was disturbed every 3.7 minutes or so with questions like, “Mommy, does hydrogen mixed with carbon dioxide create an explosion?” and “Do some Christians believe that God made the world millions instead of thousands of years ago?” And yes, these are questions my child asked this morning. Neither have easy, quick answers.
I couldn’t request that he go back to bed, ask me again in an hour, or at least once my cup of tea is empty. He’s awake, and life is waiting to be experienced. Questions are waiting to be asked and answered.
Maybe I should try to look at life through his eyes. Through the perspective of a child who knows there are things to do and see and discover. Maybe that means getting up a little earlier if I really want that time for peace and prayer before the day begins in earnest. And maybe it also means that on days my kids are up as early as I and firing away with those questions about what makes the world go around, I choose to let go of “me” time because no moment is ever the same. No question is ever the same. No heart or mind. And as a mother, watching these hearts and souls and minds of my children learn and grow is a gift. A greater gift than an hour of quiet or an extra few winks of sleep.
Maybe my friend was right. Sleep is overrated when life is outside the door waiting to be lived.
“Not in here,” a voice called out.
Footsteps receded. I breathed again. I was safe … for the moment. Should I stay here or make a run for it?
I heard a scream. One down. There had only been three of us. Now two. I knew her fate. I decided to stay put.
I kept my mind focused by counting to 60 and back again toward zero. At 38, I heard another shout. I cringed. Couldn’t they have lasted a little longer?
Footfalls approached. More this time. And heavier.
“She’s got to be somewhere.” The voice was strained. Impatient. I saw the glowing red on the wall to my left. It disappeared for a moment. Now it hovered above me. The approaching steps stopped, and I heard steady breathing.
“Do you see her?”
“Shh,” he answered. I held my breath once more. The light drew closer. It hit my eyes and passed on. Was it possible he didn’t see me? It passed again.
I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. I began to laugh.
“Is that you?” my husband asked.
I stood up, still laughing.
Our children jumped up and down around him. “You found her!” my older son called.
“Daddy couldn’t find me for a long time,” Aiden, our younger son, smiled proudly.
“It’s your turn to count, mom,” my daughter commanded.
My husband handed me the laser flashlight.
“One, two, three,” I began to count. My family members scattered.
Who said playing a game of tag with the kids can’t be a blast? Especially when it’s laser tag in the dark.
Congratulations to our winners: Gaby (73 likes), Helen (72 likes), and Charlotte (71 likes)! It was so close! I wish everyone could have won something because every story is so special. Every memory. Every moment.
I so enjoyed reading these memories and reflections on mothers and memories from childhood that I’m thinking about writing some posts with memories of my childhood.
The idea also developed with an assignment from my photography class. For the final assignment, my professor said we can choose one subject and take 20 photos on that theme. My immediate choice (naturally) was my children. Then I began to wonder, “What kind of pictures should I take?”
The concept began to form: take pictures that coincide with my own childhood memories. Images began flooding into my mind. Eating ice cream while sitting on the back of a station wagon with my siblings, running through sprinklers, playing shadow tag, moving the lawn with a push-mower, pillow fights and raking leaves, fishing, jumping on a trampoline. So many iconic flashes. I hope I can capture them all.
More than that, I hope that my children are developing images of their own. I pray that special memories are forming in their minds, things they can carry with them always. To remind them of being loved.
Because no matter what else I might have to offer, or might not have … one thing I can unequivocally give my children, one thing we can all offer our children, is love.
The love of a parent. Imperfect, yes. But somehow unconditional. Somehow transcendent and beautiful and enduring. Even if it’s all we have to offer our children … it is enough.
On my other blog, I posted my New Year’s resolutions.
The first one is:
Disconnect to Reconnect
In Colorado, I saw a neat little flyer. It stood out to me. It said, “There is no wi-fi in nature. But we’re sure you’ll find a better connection.”
As I’ve been praying about the New Year, I feel that I should to take a break from blogging and Facebooking. I’ve heard it takes about six weeks to build a new habit or to break an old one. So I’ll be going offline at the beginning of the year, for roughly 40 days, to disconnect from some things in order to connect (or reconnect) with others … and hopefully regain perspective of the most important things.
Wishing you and your children a wonderful New Year! Enjoy it together with them. They grow up so fast. I heard from a friend whose children are grown, and he spent Christmas alone. I told him that I’m dreading the day when my kids are “all growed up.”
So, in this New Year, I wish you deep and wonderful connections with your children, whether they are grown or still children. A few suggestions for resolutions this year:
Give them the gift of time.
Enjoy life by slowing down and seeing it through their eyes.
Smile, laugh, and hug.
Reason with the faith of a child.
I look forward to writing and connecting with you all again soon. Happy New Year!