Friday, February 22, 2013

Stay Calm and Mother On!

Our daughter was recently thrust into being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama overnight. It was a dream that she had had ever since she married and instantly become pregnant. Since her unemployment happened rather suddenly, however, she didn’t have time to prepare herself for the changes this new lifestyle would entail. Like me, she tends to be rather pedantic and structured (aka OCD). The feelings she is having now, of being overloaded and overburdened, are new to her in this particular context. Although she is a model employee, wonderful mother (kids ages 5 and 3), and structured working woman the turned tables have her rather flustered.

A recent conversation she had with me, brought to mind other instances when we women and mothers tend to be too hard on ourselves and perhaps set ourselves up for an untenable agenda.

  • Marriage – when we first marry, we have expectations but no real experience. Of course, we have whatever example has been given to us by our parents and other couples with whom we interact. We also have the fairy tale and Hollywood brand of ideas. While it’s easy to expect ourselves to fall perfectly into marital bliss, the reality can be quite – ahem – challenging instead.
  • Cooking – we base much of our enjoyment of life around food: eating out, cookouts, parties, receptions, and such. It’s quite satisfying to share good food, good company and some leisure time. Eating takes no large effort – in fact, it usually takes effort not to eat too much! When the time comes to prepare these meals for ourselves or others, however, it’s not quite that simple. Unless you’re a culinary genius, it takes some experience, burned dishes, and frustrated tears to make a worthy chef.
  • Parenting – when we observe others, we see a limited portion of their day. That mother, with her 6 darlings following her like baby ducks in formation, may have gone through quite the struggle to get them into shipshape – or she might just be gifted with children of even temperament (at least at that moment). Try not to compare and just mother on. You never know who is looking at your brood admiringly as well – and if not, maybe they just don’t know how to have fun like your bunch does!
  • Homeschooling - unlike formal schooling, educating your children at home is not comprised of a curriculum forged together by a school board, teachers, text books, and government induced schedule. Your time, effort, and experience will be as individual as your family is. First time teaching mothers tend to compare themselves and their children to others. Is my child learning at the right pace. Am I being too structured - too lax? Will my children have a good life considering this decision? Slow down, read your children to find their tolerance/learning pace. Enjoy what you're doing and so will they. Remember, you are the teacher and the mother - you set out the rules and agenda.
  • House and Home – my parents built their dream house shortly after I married. I never had the chance to call it home, but instead remembered the rambling Victorian with the wraparound porch of my childhood. My tastes leaned more toward the Swiss Chalet style of their new home, however, and I pined to have a house like that instead of the little farm house my new husband and I called home. I didn't give one thought to the years of overtime my dad worked or the frugality my German mother practiced, I was in the there and now. Looking back, from the balcony of my own Swiss Chalet style home, I can see with perfect 20-20 hindsight that this too, takes time and effort.
  • Faith Life -our most important pursuit, faith life is prone to comparisons as well. What we often fail to realize is that we are all at different points of the journey. Our life experiences, motivation, and effort tend to make our faith life an extremely personal and unique experience. Also to be considered is how well we are tuned in to the call from God. Let Him help you decide where to go and when in your faith journey.
In our fast paced times, Facebook and other social media tends to give us a voyeur’s glimpse into the lives of many others – yet what we see is still only what they choose to share. Conversely, if you only show that perfect snapshot of that perfect moment, when you and your children are frozen in time doing exactly what you had envisioned – well, that’s what they’ll see and expect of themselves. Never mind that it took three days, umpteen tries, tears, shrieks and a dozen retakes. Much like the school years gone by, we all tend to think that we are the only ones experiencing angst. Later, when it’s of little use, is usually when we find the revelation of a secret crush or the admiration of those perfect seeming peers.

So what to take from these thoughts? The bottom line from where I stand - as a fifty something woman, wife, mother, homeschool teacher and Catholic - is that we are often too hard on ourselves because of the notions we have about others. Instead of making comparisons with only a tiny fragment of pure data, why not go for ‘personal best’. Relish the learning curve, the journey, the experiences…that way you’re only worrying about your own reality. Simply challenge yourself to be the best you, you can be! Love your husband into growing old together. Feast on each meal in the company of those you love, however it comes out of the oven. Make your house a home – no matter how humble. And most of all, love those little blessings from God – tears, tantrums, sloppy kisses and all. Stay calm, Mama, and mother on!