On being a mother

These links are all fairly long, all extremely worthwhile.  Get comfy and enjoy!  Then, if you have time, tell me which one spoke most to your heart.  Why?

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  1. I read all 3, Mary. I had read Jenni’s post yesterday, and it certainly made me think a great deal. Then I read the one re losing yourself, and I thought a little more, and grinned as I recognised so much of myself in it. And then the last one about the Queen. I really thought it would be just a story, but oh, what an incredibly powerful message there is there. I was blown away. And the more I muse about it, the more I see just how subtle yet so important it is to readjust one’s thinking at times.
    I see so many people in that story. People I know. I want them to read this, to understand.
    It is so easy to get bogged down with the grind of daily living, trying to survive, work hard, and sometimes it seems futile, an endless uphill battle. Maybe it is really worth stepping off that treadmill, and re-assessing. Trying a different approach.
    Someone a long time ago, used the analogy of a wheel when referring to the family. I have written about this before, I know. If the family is a wheel, the father is the outer rim, the children the spokes, and the mother, the hub. A wheel will turn with dented rim, and broken spokes, but it cannot work at all if the hub is off centre.
    I am rambling. I think I will go and write something myself. Thanks so much for sending us off to read these amazing posts.

    • Hi Linds,
      I’m so glad you read them all!! I really related to the first two. And to tell the truth, I was mentally dismissive at the start of the third story. But I kept reading in spite of myself, and got sucked in, and by the end I was thinking new thoughts, so much so that last night when my husband got home from work, I remembered that story and treated him a little differently. I agree– there’s a powerful message in this story.

  2. I loved it! When Queens ride by was my favorite. I sometimes get caught up in my day, with 4 kids and homeschooling, etc, etc, but when I make the time to clean and be ready when my husband comes home, it really does make such a difference for him and the spirit in our home.

  3. I will be honest. I’ve only read the third one, When Queens Ride By. Wow! What a story! It certainly made me stop and think about my “priorities” in life and how they must be looked at again. What a captivating story! I found myself smiling while reading it and cheering her on while thinking about my own self in the background. Certainly an inspirational story that touches anyone who reads it in one way or another… Now, off to read the other two!

  4. I’m not a mom yet (expecting one in August) so maybe that’s why the Queens one really struck me. Or maybe it’s because I’m the one working, and my husband will be the one staying home with the baby when I go back to work. So we’ll be exactly the reverse of that lovely inspiring story. Where does that put me, as a mom and wife? Something to figure out.

  5. David BG says:

    Hi Mary,
    My wife often sends me links to your blog, and I enjoy it. But I have to be honest, this post – in particular the Queen story – deeply offends me. I’m assuming you’re offering it as more than just something to think about and rather offering it as a sort of model for wives, so if I have that wrong, forgive me. And I realize you didn’t write the story too. But as a model for wives, there are three significant problems I see in the Queen story:

    1. Universal vs. Particular. Stories that offer a model for what it means to be a wife or husband or father (or whatever) consistently rely on universal and generic representations. These universal models do a disservice to every unique, particular person because they cannot allow room for the complexity of real lives. I am not “a husband” or “a father.” I am David, husband to Ali, father to Josh and Ben. And my wife is not “a wife” – she is my wife. And I really, really do not want my wife to take any lessons from the wife in this story.

    2. Deception. Inherent in the wife’s turnaround, and in the Queen’s daily charade, is the conscious attempt to deceive others. I can’t see how deception is a virtuous model at all and particularly in the marriage relationship. If I had a daughter in the wife’s position, I would not counsel her to use deception as a means of restoring health and wholeness to her home. Speaking the truth in love is the way of redemption and healing, not deception.

    3. Responsibility. Perhaps the greatest pitfall of the story lies here. As I understand it, this story offers the model of a wife/mother as the fundamental responsible agent in the household. Yes, the husband certainly has his role, but when push comes to shove, it’s the woman’s job to ensure human and household flourishing. What makes the woman’s role necessary is the unreflective husband who doesn’t know what’s good for him.

    So for example, the wife might ask, “Honey, do you want me to buy a nice dress for our date next weekend?” And he may say in response, “No, no, we can’t afford a new dress,” and meanwhile he’s unselfconsciously resenting the fact that his wife never looks nice. As a result, the wife can not take her husband at his word because he’s too immature to know what he wants and to speak it in a way that is helpful and honoring to the relationship.

    In this dynamic, the wife’s deception becomes a necessary tool for maintaining responsibility for the immature husband who just doesn’t know what he wants for his own happiness. Therefore, his wife makes it all better and secures his happiness for him. I’m reminded of the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula’s mother plots to deceive Toula’s father into paying for college classes and believing it was his own idea. He just doesn’t know what’s good for him or the family, but the wife and mother does. And to preserve the husband’s pride and honorary status as “head-of household,” the wife must resort to trickery and deception to ensure everyone’s happiness.

    My marriage does not work like this. Perhaps I’m deceived, but I don’t think so. I expect maturity and truth and love from my wife, and she expects the same from me. We take each other at our word, so there’s no need for deception. My happiness is not her responsibility (although she contributes to in countless ways). And if she suspects that I’m not paying attention to all that’s really going on inside me, I expect her to invite me to reflect on it, so that I can grow up. I don’t assume every marriage works like ours, but I do take issue with stories that purportedly offer a universal model so contrary to what I experience as life to the full.

    • Hi David,
      You’ve raised some good points, and I agree that this story in no way represents married life in its entirety. However I was deeply touched by one message: “Let it begin with me.” I wonder how much better life would be if each of us did our best to smooth the path for our loved ones! THAT is the message that I responded to, and that is the one that I hope people will remember after reading that story.

      Thanks for writing!
      Mary

      • David BG says:

        thanks, Mary. I can certainly appreciate that line and the posture it represents.

    • David, I didn’t see this story as deception. Maybe I’m missing something. I saw a wife who wanted to help her husband so much, their lives became imbalanced. Farm chores had two workers, but home life had none. So laundry never got done, meals were neglected and burnt, and cleaning didn’t happen. I thought the plot was to think about all the household work, not just income-producing work and the importance of times of rest and reflection, i.e. his bookwork after dinner.

      I’m not comfortable with the total separation of gender spheres in the story. I’m planting an orchard this spring, for example, and my husband’s helping me. But however a family decides to divide the work, I saw pride of place and staying on top of basic needs as the message.

      I thought the “Queen” part was a measurement, rather than a deception. A meal fit for a king, as in – not burnt, a man’s home is his castle, as in buckets washed and floor swept. I’m out of metaphors (or is it analogies). Sending the son to school in clean clothes. I suppose a message could be her feeling too important to dirty her hands anymore, but that wasn’t how I read it, especially since she was deciding to put her hands to housework. I come back to the difference between slovenly, overworked people vs. a tidy, organized hub for the farm activity.

      But…the reader, also brings much to any story and this story reminded me to evaluate how I’m contributing to my family. Not that I’m special, but that we all are and I need to take my chores seriously because they matter. Healthy food, clean clothes, vacuumed carpets, order helps everything else run more smoothly. For my family, it was also a reminder that while I am teaching my kids to cook healthy meals, there’s lots more to an orderly home. Like teaching them to do the laundry. The Queen part did remind me to take care of me. I live in baggy sweatshirts, even though I own some nicer clothes. And I should floss and sunscreen daily, too. But I don’t. I’ll last longer and stay healthier if I take time to keep me in order, too.

  6. Thanks for the linky love, Mary! I’m off to read the other two links!

    Jenni

  7. I LOVED the Queens Ride By story – what an amazing reminder of what a difference our home-making can make! A big encouragement to all of us that stay at home and sometimes can feel like we’re not doing anything very productive. 🙂

  8. The Queens story was simply amazing!!!!!!!!!! I’ll be linking to it, too!

  9. Mary, I read them all. And they were all wonderful. But…with older children I’ve already had to examine my choices, regrets, self, as my kids make their way into the world, so those two pieces were reminders or validation of what I had come to on my own reflection (and that all important reinforcement that I am not crazy to realize that motherhood was hard work with rewards, not happiness).

    The Queen, however, hit me hard and has stayed with me for days. My homeschool days are wrapping up in a year or so. My husband has started a home business that he would like me to help with. We too farmed 10 years ago and I have the chronic shoulder pain to prove it. I read the story and looked around my messy house, school books, laundry and dishes and realized that I need to be very conscious of the choices I make as I go forward. I can finally keep a better house and garden with the old homeschool time, or work for my husband or a bit of both. What I choose has consequences, beyond the obvious of my being free labor for him. What is the price of neat, pressed shirts for a client meeting vs. a spreadsheet of cost to profit ratios? He meets folks here at the house, and I rarely have time to fix muffins or coffee. Thank you for the story. It was a wonderful gift.

  10. I liked the Queen Rides By story the best too. I’ve learned how true it is that no matter what else I am doing, no matter how important or helpful, my whole family functions better when I make it a priority to keep our home life orderly.

    It doesn’t even really take that much time from the rest of my work, in many ways it helps that work to be done better because of the order around me working at home.

    My husband doesn’t complain and is on record saying many times that he doesn’t care if the house is a mess or not. I wonder if he even notices how lack of order affects him. I certainly do. When the house is ordered he’s happier to be home and he has more energy to do something with his post work evening time than when it’s cluttered and visually/aurally overwhelming.

    My kids respond to order in the day and in their work in a similar fashion. On a day when I’m sick or unable to stick to the routine they are accustomed to I watch them behave more fractiously and anxiously than on other days.

    I love Linds quote about being the hub. In my experience it really is true.

    Once when our children were still quite small we were at the home of some people who had 4 small children and their home was overwhelmed with clutter and dirt and perpetually wet carpets. (I am not the greatest housekeeper btw. Just check my fridge.) But we got home to our apartment, where the bed was made, the dishes washed, toys put away, the floor swept at least once that day and the laundry pile a tolerable manageable size and my husband turned to me and gave me a hug, as tension drained out of him, and simply said, “Thank-you for the work you do to keep our home tidy. It’s so good to be back.”

    I’m bookmarking that story for the days when I forget such things.

    Thanks.