I recently read this book by Ann Pleshette Murphy.
I loved her brutal honesty. I really loved her take on the first two stages of Motherhood. I think every woman should read that section of the book in the first year of their baby's life. It will validate your heart out. I almost wish I had read it before Roo was born. But I can't decide, I think it might have scared me...a lot.
But then she hit school age stuff. I don't think I couldn't relate, and not just because I don't have a school age child (yet). I think I couldn't relate because I feel like I have such different priorities for that coming season of my life.
I was strongly impressed with a lot of regret seeping out of the pages of the book. She mentioned guilt a lot, constant guilt. She had a highly demanding job and she only got a couple of hours a week with her children most of their growing up years. She pointed out herself that those were the choices she made, and at the time she felt they were right...And looking back there wasn't much she would have changed. In the end, when our children are grown, we will all have some regrets. That's fine. But what really bothered me was Murphy's emphasis on how important it is to nurture yourself. To cultivate your own interests. Not to lose yourself to Motherhood. She said her way of doing that was to go back to work. And that really seemed like the be-all-end-all for her. She also mentioned hobbies, and volunteer work as being some thing that other Mom's pick up to "retain a part of themselves" [not a quote just the gist of the attitude].
And I think that's ...bad advice.
Why? I think because of what followed in the School Age Years... There was a strong undercurent of guilt, and stress woven through the reflections she (and other Mom's) shared about that stage. It left me feeling tired just reading about it. And all I kept thinking was, why?? Why are you choosing this for your families? Why are you volunteering and working and schlepping? Is your family really happy? What motive is pushing this? Is it really truly leaving you fulfilled?
We can't do it all...
After reading this section I took away from it a new determination. My children and family will not have that as the main tone of that (or any) stage. I realized that I need to decide what we can do well, and what we can't. I realized even more clearly that I want some thing different for my family. Our whole life the past year has been about really looking at what we do and why. Is it some thing we're really called to do? Or is it just busyness trying to cover our own insecurities? Trying to fill an emptiness? I want my children to enjoy new experiences. But at a young age they won't die with out all the extra activities. If they want to do ONE special thing a year (and by year I mean try some thing one semester per year) we'll strongly consider taking that on. But not if it is hurting or harrying the tone of our entire family. They'll be time for longer more intense commitments when they reach highschool ages. But still, not if it's a stress to the family as a whole.
I disagree with Murhpy's advice.. Motherhood does change every thing about our lives. And it's okay, actually it's crucial, that we re-evaluate (on a regular basis) where we're headed and what is needed. It doesn't mean some core aspects can change because Motherhood has arrived. Some times a return to work is what is needed (or most desirable) for a family's peace and happiness. But just because we loved and poured our hearts and energies into some thing before our children arrived, doesn't mean we must continue to do it afterwards so that we don't "lose ourselves". The fact of the matter is that our children make us different people. They have more power to motivate the shape we take, than any other person ever has had before...Even our own parents.
I think what bothered me most was that she didn't address "seasons" at all. That parenting a baby is going to require more of us. Than it will when they are say, 5. And when they are 10? It'll be a different level of investment...Maybe more intense some months than others. But it's always an investment. It's always worth it.
I want to scrap this whole post because I'm really struggling to articulate every thing on my heart. But I'm going to keep going in the hopes some thing in here will strike a cord with some one.
Bottom line, some times in life you have to invest more of yourself than others. We can't live our lives for our kids. But we can live our lives in the present and change with them. We won't have as much time to invest in ourselves at certain points, but that's part of Motherhood. It's giving with out (any or) immediate return. Does that mean we have no personal interests? Absolutely not. I still love to sew, I learned to sew because of Roo...I just don't have as much time for it trying to parent 2 (and soon to be 3) young children. I also love to read. I am averaging a couple books a year since I had kids. Have I lost a part of myself? No. I have just decided to defer at this season of my life.
What I took away from the book (and what I doubt was Murphy's point) was that I don't want to look back with regret. I don't want to blink and realize my kids are leaving home. I personally don't want my children spending 85% of their childhood away from me (be it because I am working or because they are in a traditional school setting). I know I'll make my mistakes. But I want to be vigilant. I want to consistently re-evaluate where I'm at as a person and a parent. I want to make decisions that my conscience ruled on, not my perceptions of what's best...But my gut instinct.
And most importantly, I want to enjoy each stage my children are at. I'm glad I read this book. I have been struggling with my decision to stay home. There have been some weeks I've been seriously running the numbers of what it would take to swing childcare and get a full-time job. It is hard to be the sun and moon to two small children 60 hours a week. It's hard raising children in our isolated society. To feel alone and have very little physical and practical support.
So I've been evaluating and trying to decide where I can nurture myself while nurturing my children. Some days it's impossible, I have to suck it up and pray tomorrow is better. But part of my nurturing myself goes a long with a lot of the other things I've been learning about (and this).
And with that I'll post and hope that some of this jarble will make sense.