Mother/Self

Bub and Pie wrote an interesting post yesterday about motherhood, blogging, individuality and sense of self. Mella wrote something along similar lines about the juggling act, the constant tension it causes to try to find a moment here or there for something other than mothering.

Lately in the midst of listening to reading, and cooking affordable meals, and checking math, and sending encouraging emails to my college student, and kissing my baby’s neck, and paying bills, and reading to my little ones, and jollying cranky kids back to cheerfulness, I’ve been struggling to carve out chunks of ‘real’ writing time.

I’ve been feeling strung out lately, aggravated that I seem to be accomplishing less than I think I should. Part of it is just February. Part of it is self-discipline. If I want to write, then I need to spend my quiet moments writing, not blog-surfing. Last night I was up till 2, claiming those blissful late-night hours for myself.

But inevitably morning comes and a two year old is prying my eyelids open with the same enthusiasm whether I’ve had four hours of sleep or nine. A tired mom is never at her best. And I want my kids to have my best. So- I need to get to bed earlier.

And yet, I have words wanting out of my head. Things I want to do. Things I need to do. Things I love to do. I’m constantly fiddling with the balance of my seesaw.

It’s crazy.

Last week I felt so pleased that I’d done so well fitting in game time with my little ones. Last week I also paid the house payment three stinkin’ days late and earned us a late fee. Gack.

Last week I got my bedroom cleaned out–apparently almost entirely by hucking things into the laundry room, or so it seems by the height of the heaps on the counters. As soon as I focus on one area, another falls to wrack and ruin.

Growing up, I had an at-home mom who also spent time on her own interests. She read extensively. She sewed. She counseled breast-feeding mothers, taught childbirth classes, and even assisted a doctor with occasional homebirths.

There were moments as a child when I dreamed of more focused attention from her. As a teen I also fretted about the mess in the living room, wondering as I hucked everything under the couch why I was the only one bothered by the clutter.

And yet I look back now and think that my own life is probably that much more vital and interesting because of her example of immersion into intriguing projects. She demonstrated that a mother could have passions of her own, even in the midst of mothering eight children. Her kids have turned out strong and capable and happy. And as adults, without exception, we all admire her deeply and feel so grateful that in the mom-lottery we got her.

Her example makes me less fearful of following my own dreams. Of course my family’s happiness IS my highest dream. Above all I long for them to grow strong and healthy and happy, and to always trust God for their lives. But I think — I hope — I can help them grow strong and happy while still taking regular moments for myself.

The balance is tricky…I struggle each day to get it right. As I tap away at the keyboard, taking frequent breaks to tie a shoe, or spell ‘V-a-l-e-n-t-i-n-e’, or laugh at a knock-knock joke, or tutor a teen making spaghetti, I hope and pray that my children will see the breadth and richness that can exist in the life of a mother. Yes, I am a mother. But I am also still myself.

No, I can’t have it all. But with thoughtful choice and clarity of purpose and lots of prayer, I pray that I can get the balance right enough. Right enough that my children will get what they need from me. Right enough that I can complete a few thoughts of my own every day. Not so much ‘me’ that it swings into self-indulgence and shorts my kids of what is vital to their growth and happiness. But enough.

It’s a tall order.

Here’s praying I get it right.

Here’s praying we all do.

{ 22 Comments }

  1. I have just done a post on this after reading your post this morning, Mary. And congratulations on the award. Well deserved.

  2. I cannot think of another position that is harder to balance than that of parenthood. It’s not something you can explain to someone – you don’t understand until you are actually a parent.

    This post says perfectly what I’ve tried to express so many times – thank you

  3. Yes, Yes and Yes!

    …Right enough that my children will get what they need from me. Right enough that I can complete a few thoughts of my own every day. Not so much β€˜me’ that it swings into self-indulgence and shorts my kids of what is vital to their growth and happiness. But enough. …

    Exactly what I think we’re all striving for.

    And on that note…the babe is crying and my day really begins…

  4. TS Eliot was wrong – FEBRUARY is far and away the cruelest month. I never feel that I have the balance right – either I pay all my attention to my kids and end up feeling like an empty bottle OR I do something non-child-related that I find fulfilling and my kids walk around in dirty shirts looking wistful. But that balance is there, so I’m going to keep working it find it.

  5. Sorry — I posted my comment to this entry on your previous blog!! It’s there — I just hit the wrong button!

  6. Oh yes…I know exactly what you mean and I have only two young children right now. I feel guilty for wanting time to pursue my interests during the daylight hours — rather than the wee hours of the morning. And, like you, I need my sleep to be a good mommy. Still working on finding the balance too…

  7. I have stumbled into your blog… I have spent a good hour just reading and nodding my head, smiling and crying at times… this entry really hit home as I am trying to figure this out as well… how do we as mothers know or feel we have given time to each of these facets of our lives… for me the doubt is always there… and yes the guilt… I have been sitting here for an hour already and I know I so should have been doing something about the laundry!
    Thank you for an immensely pleasurable hour and hopefully many more!

  8. I haven’t commented in forever but I still read your blog all the time. This is a great post. It really is a hard balance, my goodness and I am only 25! Sometimes I find myself worrying, will I lose myself in all of this family stuff? But then I also know that I will always be “me” and I can be “me” in raising my kids, etc. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  9. Amen! Your mother must have set a wonderful example as you certainly seem to have a great balance. And also (IMO, the most important part of balancing) an open heart to the Lord who will very willingly point out when things are out of balance. And being open to His guidance to put things back into order and perspective.

  10. It certainly is a struggle. Trying to balance everything out some days can just make me crazy. I think in the end, they will remember we were there for them and that’s probably what matters most.

  11. Jennifer Velez says:

    I am constantly feeling exactly as you do. It is so discouraging to feel as if by finally finishing a project you’ve inadvertently allowed another area of your life to become a mess. I am always getting something done but finding ever so much more undone. I think one just needs to find peace like you seem to have, that in order for us to sustain our identities we cannot expect to get it all done. Balance, now there’s a word I’d like to make a living reality in my life!

  12. And a hearty “amen!” from me. I can so relate.

  13. I love your insight. Each day when I check my favorite blogs (yours included) I find myself searching at times for someone to put words to what I’m feeling. (in fact, I’ve even attempted myself to blog on a similar topic with my post about the Constant Juggle). Today you did it perfectly. Thank you. And I think you are an amazing woman and mom (BOTH) – and an inspiration to the rest of us out here, trying to make it all “fit” in our lives. πŸ™‚

  14. I think we can all only pray that we get it right. I hope that my absences due to music repetitions can inspire my girls to find a life-long passion rather than inspire some sort of feeling of deprivation.

  15. I second Beautifulheritage’s Amen!

  16. Have you ever read Madeleine L’Engle’s “Crosswick Journals”? They are 3 books…I am trying to remember which one she talks about writing when her children were small. She has a lot of good things to say about writing, and I find her really inspiring.
    My mum always worked, but never full time. I grew up to do the same. We don’t stop being who we are/were just because we enter new stages of life. BUt you are right–it’s a balancing act between family and self. For me, it’s easier now that my kids are a bit older.

  17. Motherhood – parenthood – is the hardest work there is. But the only way to get it *really* wrong, is to not love. Where there’s love at the root, there’s always something to flower.

  18. Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. Yes. yes! Nodding…

  19. it is so hard to go to bed early when you are such a go getter like yourself. you are my hero mary. but a few extra hours of shut eye can be a great thing for any mom. hugs!

  20. I love this post Mary. Thank you.

  21. oh man…you said it! Isn’t this the ongoing struggle of being a mom?! I feel like I’m continually in the sanctification room for dieing to self!!!

  22. I’ve had thoughts about this lately, too. Sometimes dealing with the aftermath of working on a project with kids around is pretty discouraging. But I think we have to have a few outside interests – after all, the kids are leaving…one of these days!