Friday, July 06, 2007

Setting my course: the beginning

I’ve been thinking more (a dangerous thing) about my early days as a mom. There were so many crazy mixed emotions during those days. I suppose most of that came from the fact that I felt completely unprepared for the job. Sure, I had babysat before, but nothing like THIS. I had NO idea that baby care could be so all-consuming. I used to see moms who would show up to church – late – looking disheveled, spit-up on their wrinkled shirt (had they slept in it?) and babies with snot encrusted on their cheeks. They put their kids on schedules, discussed their bodily functions, and planned their meals from now until Christmas. They exchanged recommendations about cleaning products. They went grocery shopping on weekdays. This might have been okay for our grandmothers, but ours was a new generation. Seriously, how could they let this happen?

For the first few years of motherhood, I had this little war going on inside. Part of me loved being a mother. The other part didn’t want to admit it. What if I became one of them?

So, even though deep down, I had wanted more than anything to be a mom (and to have this big family), I grew up with traditional values, and I loved God and knew His word, I started off motherhood downplaying not only my identity with it, but the significance of managing a home. After all, I still worked part-time. When I met people, I made sure I mentioned “I’m a nurse,” somewhere in the conversation. I felt competent and confident in that world. I mean really, who would I be, if I were “just a mom?”

This is yet another way our culture influenced my thinking. I let its subtle message affect me. It sounded so innocuous, so good:

"You can have it all."

Yes, motherhood was a good thing, kind of like a side business, an accessory, it said. But throw myself into it wholeheartedly? Identify with it? Gain significance from changing diapers and cooking and cleaning? Let go of some other identities that gave me a sense of worth? You’re kidding, right?

No, I had to reserve just a little part of me out, for “just in case.” A protective measure against disappointment, perhaps. Surely, I thought, this isn't "all" there is, anyway.

Funny how God rigs things, though. Babies don’t sit very well on the sidelines and wait for you to get around to them. They command your attention. They demand it.

So while I started out thinking I could do this mothering thing without it interrupting too much of my lifestyle (whatever that was!), I was jerked quickly (violently?) to reality. I realized I could not have it all, at least not all at once. I was going to have to make some decisions.

I didn’t realize it, but I was beginning to set my course.

I've got a busy day (grocery shopping - ha!), so let's talk about that next week.

I'm wondering: How has our culture influenced your thinking about your identity and your significance as a woman? As a wife? As a mother?


Unknown said...

Culture--Hmmm--I think it depends on which culture you are immersed in. I think that having the support and affirmation of other moms in my early years was helpful. Some had already been at it for eight or ten years, and I could see that they were having fun. So making sure that the voices I heard were those of wives and moms who were happy about those roles and wanting to fulfill them in a godly way was something that helped negate the other voices that said, "You should be doing more!"

Qtpies7 said...

I always wanted the "traditional" mother role, staying home with the kids, etc. I wasn't swayed by culture, in my mind.
But as the years wore on, I always felt that I wasn't making it, I wasn't a whole person yet. I think that I felt I needed to be someone besides mom. I did eventually go to work and it did fulfill something in me, but it wasn't worth it. It did me good to see that I could make it out in the "real world" and be of value, and that I could support myself. (I was married before I graduated high school, I've never been on my own) But I can still be me and be a mom, and thats a good thing.

Jen said...

After I had Madison I was done having babies....ask anyone who knew me....I was as done as a steak well. I focused on my insurance agent. And was great at it...I was top salesman in my area for years....then I hit 30.....and Madison was 7 and I thought I want just one more to complete this family. Complete? What was that yo ask. I started going to church with my family....putting God first and family second....prayer was the answer....God bless us with a baby or let me do something great for the world.....just guide me. A year later God answered.....Miller was conceived.......I dont look back on the things I gave up......I look forward on what we can do......God always takes care of us.

Anonymous said...

I had always wanted to be a mom. I was great at everything I tried. Oldest daughter, oldest grandchild, travelled around the world as a singer and a dancer. I was good. Just that---good. I wanted 6 kiddos and my hubby only wanted 2. We just need to replace ourselves. There is a world population problem you know he would say.

God did intervene--we just didn't know it at the time. I became pregnant right after I gave birth to our first child--a BOY! My husband said that we were done having children. Yeah right, I said to myself. In case you got lost... I was PREGNANT FOR 2 years with the exception of 5 weeks. I was told that I should abort the second child because I was having Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. If I went through with the second pregnancy I would come out of remission and the incurable disease would exasburate. I would be worse.


EVERYONE looks up to ME!

How arrogant was I. I don't believe in abortion. My husband is right if we has not become pregnant right away there would have been no second child.

I am calmer now. It must be this turnng 40 thing. I love my life, my husband and my family. Teenagers are FUN! I think?!

I am anything but the traditional mom. I don't listen really well...My husband says I am around still because I am ornery. The docter said that I would Never make it past 40. There was a place and a time for the docters and MS but not anymore. I am approaching my mid-40's with a vengence. I am having the time of my life and although I wanted 6 children, we are the house where everybody hangs. We had 6 sleepover on a whim last night--God sure does have a sense of humor.

Thank you God--I never dreamed of this life but it is SO GOOD!

Anonymous said...

I definitely feel like there is a sense in the general culture that having children is something that you just do and sort of 'get through' the early parts in order to get on to the 'better time' -- i.e. when you can leave them more, go back to work part-time, etc. I just have two and my youngest is about to go to preschool three mornings a week, and I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "What are you going to do with ALL THAT TIME" -- um, hello! I'll be doing all the stuff I *thought* I would do as a stay-at-home mom only more efficiently 3x a week (i.e. grocery shopping, alone -- ahh, bliss!).

Anyway, I have found the most support from blogs like these -- telling me that yes, making a family and enjoying to do those home-creating things *is* a valid path. But I still do find myself adding on "what I used to do before the kids were born" as this sort of identifier -- particularly at work parties, etc. of my husband's.

My playgroup friends have been sanity-savers in terms of 'yes, we all feel overwhelmed at times.' But in terms of actually reveling in the 'good times' with an almost 4-year-old and an 18-month old, I find the most validation from the blogosphere. I'm so happy to have found like-minded mamas!

The other thing I wanted to mention is the insane looks you get from people when you say you're getting ready for a third. I mean, is having 3 kids that crazy and unusual? I don't think so. But women and men almost all give me the 'why would you do that?' speech -- as in, 'oh, you've made it through the roughest part, why go back to the beginning again?' Which is not how I think about it at all!

Anonymous said...

Oh, one of the big ways our culture gets me is when I start thinking I'm not a good mother if I don't spend X amount on each kid at Christmas. Or when I think we really can't have another baby because the house is too small. Then I catch myself and realize what I'm doing. It's just crazy!

Beck said...

As another commentor wrote, it really rubs me the wrong way when women talk about wanting to "get through" their children's younger years - a lot of women I know space their children really close together so they can get it all over with as quickly as possible.
I did go through a prolonged and difficult time when I first was a mother - I only would call myself a stay-at-home mom for ages because I didn't want anyone thinking that I was "only" a homemaker. Things change.

Jenny said...

I still struggle with my identity a little. I work PT outside the home in the evenings while hubby watches the kids. I like to call myself a "stay at home mom" but usually mention that I work PT too. I'm a registrar at the hospital so whenever I talk with a mom who states that she's a housewife, I feel a little twinge of guilt or envy or something. I enjoy my job but at times I wish I was able to just be at home. On the other hand, working part time allows us to send our kids to private school which has been a HUGE blessing in our lives. Can you tell that I'm confused?? :) I guess I just want to get to the point when I feel confident that I'm doing the right thing. I often wonder if I'd be doing a better job of homemaking if I didn't work part time. I could go on and on, but my comment is getting quite long! By the way, I really enjoy reading your blog!

Mom to 5...Daughter of the King said...

Your blog is awesome! I am also a mom to 5, although mine are closer in age: I'll be back for more thoughts!!

Barbie @ Mamaology said...

I love your thought provoking posts!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I come away feeling inspired and encouraged. I, too am a stay at home mom of 5. We live in the suburbs of a major metropolitan city and most families have 2 children. I've even had some ask what we were thinking when we had more children. It's hard but so worth it. I wish you lived next door and we could visit over coffee. Keep blogging!

Julie said...

Hmm, great thoughts. I will have to think on it before I can give an opionion or a thought.

Paula said...

Culture is very hard to Stay At Home Moms. I love being at home and wouldn't change it for the world!! But when I see old co`workers out, I get the SAME question. "When are you coming back to work?" Somehow I feel bad. Like I am doing something wrong for staying home to raise children. Women in general need to encourage one another more than judge one another.
Thank you for sharing your struggles.

Anonymous said...

I also am a mom of 5 and as another poster said, wish you were a neighbor I could have coffee with. We live in VT and I don't know or even see large families around. We're the only ones and people just can't believe it when they see us. Thanks for all the great thoughts and encouragement in the 'way of a big family'. I've learned so much!