Tuesday, January 31, 2012

thoughts on being a mom

I am going to post links to a few articles here that I have been pondering. *Warning: this will be super long!*

First, there was this: Motherhood is a Calling (and Where Your Children Rank)

I have to say that I did not like this article. Although I think I understand what the author was trying to say, I just couldn't get behind all of it. Yes, motherhood is a calling where we are continually having to sacrifice and lay down things in our lives for our children. Yes, we are to cling to Christ in order to do this job that is oh so very tough. I am not making light of these things. Those are true, and I agree. And I think those are things that many people do not want to do. She also asks some good questions that mothers might want to think about.

But what really frustrated me was her premise that children are looked upon (not by her but by many in this world) as such vile creatures and that being a mother is looked on as the rock-bottom job "for those who can’t do more, or [for] those who are satisfied with drudgery." (Again, this is not what she believes but rather what has apparently been communicated to her by others.) Sure there are people out there that feel this way, no doubt about that. But in a general American culture, I feel that is not the case. In fact, I think it is quite the opposite. Children are made to be idols, where parents allow the children to rule the home, where parents believe kids over adults (do they really think teachers would make up these things because teachers really LIKE calling parents about these things and dealing with them?!), where children are often times not disciplined at all.

This picture was posted by many fellow teacher friends on Facebook in the last couple of weeks. :)

"Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing."

I don't know where this author lives that she is constantly getting this message. Even though a majority of my time is spent with believers, I have said countless times just how much even the Hungarians love on young moms and kids here. I have never received that message by anyone, even non-believers. (Granted, maybe I have and just didn't know it because I don't understand everything I hear!) I feel bad that this has been her experience. That would get tiring, and maybe she was writing this article out of those feelings.

But I did not appreciate her insinuating that you do not value children if you go to college or if you go on vacation before having children, etc. Sure, anyone can take it to an extreme, but just because you are married and have all reproductive parts working does not mean that you are to instantaneously have children. I absolutely love and treasure my children (some days are definitely more difficult than others!), but I did go to college and work for several years before Seth was born. I did not do that because I did not value children. Quite the opposite actually. Maybe that is me being defensive, but I don't feel that in me at all when I say this.

Anyway, I could say more (I have deleted about 16 more paragraphs I had wanted to say!), but I won't. I have had some really good conversations with several people about this post. Again, I think I understand what she was trying to say, but it just wasn't an article I agreed with completely and left me wondering why so many of my friends recommended the article. But like I said, maybe she wrote it out of having had so many horrible experiences dealing with others about being a mother, so I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.

But on to another article that I really liked: Don't Carpe Diem

(How funny that the article I did not like was on "Desiring God" but the one I did like was on the "Huffington Post"! WHAT?!)

I loved this article though. I laughed because it was so true! This has been my experience as a mom with people telling me all the time how much they loved it when their kids were little and that I should treasure every single moment. I think we all have selective memories. ;) One mom a week ago even said to me, "I think I tell you this every time I see you, but just treasure this time with your kids!" I smiled because it was true, as she does in fact say that to me every time. But people don't remember (or choose not to remember) the difficult and awful times with little kids when they think back.

I loved the difference between chronos time (the moment by moment time we live in every day) and the kairos time (God time, outside of the real time). It was beautifully said and described and one that I often find myself in. Some days are wonderful and some days are down right tough and make me question why I ever thought about being a mom. But then I can step outside of that, and the Lord reveals to me some of the most utterly joyful and outside of real time moments where life kind of stops and you just marvel at your kids and how the Lord has blessed you. "And that [kairos moment] makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it." Chronos. Kairos. I think most moms remember those kairos moments when they look back at raising kids...because if we only remembered the really difficult things that happened in chronos time, no one would have kids, or at least not more than one. ;)

Then there were these two articles: French Parents: Vive La Difference? (that I stumbled upon) and Why French Parents are Superior (that was recommended by a former colleague)

Both of these articles are based on the same thing obviously, mainly because of Pamela Druckerman's book Bringing up Bebe, which I have not read and do not intend to read. And while I don't agree with everything that might be typical of the French parents (as solely described in these articles), I think some very valid points are made. These points about giving boundaries and saying no are not earth-shattering by any means and should be common sense to all parents regardless of nationality. (Although apparently not!) But the articles discuss the mentality that Americans are generally observed having as bringing up children as idols and that the world should revolve around them. So if that's what Americans are doing, then this shows what the French are doing differently. Again, this is what the world see as the stereotypical American doing, in contrast to the woman in the first article I mentioned up top seems to report being the exact opposite. (Weird.)

Then this: 5 Ways to Encourage Young Homemakers

While I wasn't particularly interested in this article when I saw the link, I was curious as to what it would say. But #5 really stuck with me:

"Teach principles that show them why we should care for the things that we have. God has created all things and everything that we have is a gift from Him. We take care of those things to show our appreciation of His gift. When people come to visit, what do they see? Do they see order and appreciation or a life that lacks moderation and self control? These are just some of the reasons we keep a good home."

I want my children to take care of their things because we want to be good stewards of what we have been given. We don't get to go out and buy new things because something breaks. We take care of our things. Of course this can be taken to an unhealthy extreme that can lead to "things" becoming idols, and we never want to go down that path. But I think we can also go too far the other way in trying to abstain from that, and then as a result, wind up not caring for the things we do have.

In that same vein, I like keeping my home clean and organized. That doesn't mean you'll always find vacuum lines in my rugs (well, that can't happen here because we don't do carpet in Europe NOR do we have awesome powerful vacuum cleaners...) or no dust bunnies in any corner. That doesn't mean my floors are clean enough to eat off of all the time or that my big mirror in the hallway is fingerprint free. But I do dust and vacuum regularly. I do clean the bathrooms. I do wash the floors and clean the mirrors. And I am slightly OCD about making sure all the beds are made every morning and that dishes are done and that my kitchen is nice and clean before I go to bed every night. Doing that makes me feel like a better wife and mother. That may sound silly, but I function so much better in a clean and tidy house. I don't panic if someone comes over and I haven't dusted the bookshelf, and I don't run to make sure the all of our shoes are in a neat and tidy row. I have learned to stop apologizing about those things because that doesn't make anyone else feel better. I want people to feel welcomed into our home, and I know that I am a much more enjoyable hostess and mother if my house is somewhat clean and in order.

Now on the flip side, I know that lots of moms can feel guilt about this sort of thing (which is funny because the French parenting articles mention the lack of guilt they feel as compared to Americans). "Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids." I'm sure this saying was to encourage moms who might not feel the same way about clean and orderly homes. And while the saying may be true, I don't think it necessarily is. That would mean that my kids are unhappy if my house is "clean." And this insinuates that because your house is unkept, your children are happy because you are always playing with them. That is not necessarily true either. Each wife and mom needs to find that balance that works in her home for her family. And that will be different for everyone! No guilt trip needed. :)

I thought it was hilarious though because yesterday, Seth told me that he likes a clean bedroom. "I like it when I go to bed that all of my toys are put away. I like that we have a clean house. Well, I like it when our living room is a mess with toys because then I can play with everything at once. But then we can clean it up when we're done." Maybe I've brainwashed the kid, but he said those words all by himself, not at all provoked by me. And I laughed and told him that he is his mother's son. :) So contrary to the saying, at least one of my kids has stated that he is happy about having a clean house!

And the Lord has blessed me many times by Sally Clarkson but especially with this: Sacrifice, yes, Mundane-shoot me now

I especially liked the title. :) I think this goes along the same line as what I was saying above...that we need to take some time to do something for ourselves in order to be a better daughter of the King, wife, and mother. Whether that be keeping a clean home, taking care of ourselves (showering, hair, make-up, whatever), listening to music and drinking tea, reading for a few minutes, sewing, scrapbooking, or eating some chocolate, we all need a break to keep going.

"There is so much mundane, so many challenges, so much stress, that I finally learned, a wise woman takes responsibility for her own long term well-being so that she may stay the course and live well in the midst of daily ideals."

I think that sums it up beautifully. And that will look differently for every woman as the Lord has created us in different ways. But I think it is wise, as Sally says, to take care of ourselves as well so that we may take care of everything the Lord has entrusted to us. We can't continually give out of empty hearts and souls. :)

If anyone is still reading at this point, bless you. :) I know that was long, but these are things I have been processing. I certainly don't have it all figured out, and as the Lord continues to mold me into the woman/wife/mom he wants me to be, I'm sure some of my thoughts will change. My demands in life will change, and the ways in which I am needed in my roles in life will change as well. But I thought there was a lot of good stuff to think about. The Lord has blessed me with friends who are similar and different in many of these areas, and it is good to chat about these things and be challenged. But sometimes, the more I learn about myself, the weirder I think I am! Ha! Praise the Lord that he is not done with me yet!

1 comment:

Katie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kristen! I had read the Don't Carpe Diem article a few weeks back and LOVED it! Although I love being a mom, there are many days where it is so hard and I'm frustrated with my kids, myself, my husband, you name it. Someone sent me this blog link as we prepare to welcome #3 and I thought I'd share it with you - I think it's valuable no matter how many kids you have :)