“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well, matters very much.” Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
When I started this blog I made the promise to myself I would never just throw out my real life problems without first coming to a solution. I did not want my readers to feel downtrodden or in any way negative. Today I am going to break that promise and I’m sorry.
I’ve always known that homemaking was not going to be a role with which I would excel. This is why I made the declaration of “no children” before I agreed to marry. Despite declarations and preventative measures, there are two sweet souls sleeping in my bed right now who needed to exist and I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.
What I would like to change is how I present Motherhood to my girls.
I want to feel like I know what I’m doing. I want to lead my children with confidence in my decisions, they deserve that kind of role model. I also don’t want my girls to see me sacrificing myself. I don’t want them to think that being a Mom means giving up everything we want for ourselves. That will only lead to them being, well, ME. A reluctant, overwhelmed Mother, burdened with guilt and regret.
The answer I’m searching for is not perfection, it’s balance. I don’t know when to laugh over the spilt milk or cry. They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but as a parent it’s almost always small stuff. Dozens of small things that are the sum total of our days. When do I demand that the house be cleaned and the good food be eaten and when do I say “hang it, wear what you want and let’s eat cake for lunch”. Because let’s face it, some of our best childhood memories are those moments when our parents broke all of their own rules, just for us.
Go ahead, play it that mud puddle, I’ll even jump in and get muddy with you. Let’s stay home from school today, wear our jammies and eat jelly with a spoon.
But this can’t happen all the time, order and rules are the boundaries that make children feel safe.
I’ve met the Mom who’s home life is clean, organized and a machine, each piston firing with perfect rhythm. Their children are always well kempt, well behaved, bright and do well in school. But I didn’t see much joy in the face of the children and the Mother seemed exhausted.
I’ve met the Mom who seldom does laundry, children wear mismatched sometimes not so clean clothes. The floor is dotted with various toys, books, banana peels and day old sippy cups. The kids are unruly, don’t mind, loud, and can’t sit still for too long, but they are imaginative, sweet and full of life.
I believe that both of those Mother’s are doing their best, and quite likely their children will turn out fine, but residing somewhere between these two Moms is the harmony I am looking for.
There should be a company, a national, fortune 500 company comprised of accomplished homemakers. Women who come to your home to consult, listen, kvetch and console. Women who’ve been there done that and know what the next step is. I would empty my savings account for such a service. Why doesn’t this exist? If I had to venture a guess, I would say they are either too busy or they don’t exist.
The horror of parenting is seeing ourselves look back at us when we look into the face of our children. Sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s anguish. For me, it’s often times too much, too much responsibility and I just want to find the nearest hole, crawl in and sleep forever. I would of course never do this, I ignore that hole like the pile of laundry in my closet and I know that how ever much I experience failure, I am not the kind of parent that would ever make use of that hole. That in itself, tells me, somewhere inside of me is the ability to overcome the challenges of Motherhood.
I’m just so exhausted from the search and
that hole is getting harder to ignore.
18 thoughts on “Don’t Even Think About That Hole”
Ok, first: you and me both, sister! I struggle with everything you wrote about. I think we all do. (I hope we all do, or I feel terribly inadequate!)
That said, the desire for a “mothering coach?” Well, being married to a therapist who specializes in children and families has taught me that coaching is often easier than *doing*, even when you KNOW the “right” things to do. One of my beloved husband’s downfalls, as much as he *knows* the kids need rhythms and consistency, is that he is often just a little too far down on the spectrum between rigid rhythm and spontenaity. Which sometimes backfires on him. But. He is so much better than me at being in the moment, breaking the rules for those fun times, sitting down and PLAYING with the kids, while I’m stuck in rhythms and housework and such.
So I guess this is all to say, we’re in that boat with you, wishing to know the “right” answer. And I don’t think there is one. Whatever your parenting style, know that there will be problems and adjustments. And that green grass on the other side of the parenting fence? It comes with its own problems and adjustments.
My theory is that as much as I strive in everything in my life to do things the “right” way, there is no method that is “right” in every situation. And no one, NO ONE, is going to pick the right variation every time. And we ALL beat ourselves up about it.
Hang in there. 😀
I’m sure we ALL do, the truth is there are some women who seem to really have a handle on this homemaking thing. To be frank, I don’t know these women well, it could all be a ruse, but how did the women of the 50’s do it? Or did they? Or was that era fraught with such oppression that complaining was taboo? My Mother was the overwhelmed housewife, always unfulfilled always feeling like she was neglectful. I just really want to find that place where my children see the joy that I truly experience in being their Mom. Most of the time it’s, “pick that up, don’t pour out your milk, where did you get that stick of butter, do you want a time out, I can’t right now, Mommy has to make dinner.” There’s plenty more where that came from.
I have to say being married to a family therapist must be an incredible boon. Having someone to walk you through the mires of parenthood. I can see how he would tend to lean to the “eat cake” mentality since he probably has a keen sense of the big picture. I bet you guys really balance each other.
Thank you for the support, truly. This morning was just one of those mornings, where I wasn’t in a place to face the endless battles, whining, snacks, laundry, cleaning etc.
Beautiful post. Maybe you can take a little break every once in a while just to climb in the hole for a nap, then come out reinvigorated and ready to go! But seriously, I aim for the same balance between those two mothering examples you give. I wonder, though, how much choice we really have. We do our best.
Thank you and I do take naps. My littlest one still likes a snooze and I can convince my oldest to just have some quite time and all three of us pile up in the big bed. It’s actually a new thing, I have never been much of a napper.
I actually changed the wording in my post a bit. The metaphor is more about disappearing, giving up entirely, not facing the struggle each day. That isn’t an option for any parent who loves their kiddos, but sometimes that daily struggle can really take it out of me.
Thank you for the kind thoughts and encouragement. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Of course I knew I wasn’t, it’s still helps to hear.
This is where the sister-in-laws, sisters, uncles, aunts, and grandparents are meant to come in. This was always too big of a job for one person!
I know, which is one of the main reasons we are searching for the means to return to the Northeast. We have no family here. I do have one neighbor I trust, but she has 7 kids of her own. When we set out to come to Utah, I was so accustomed to doing everything by myself. After all, I had been doing it for 35 years when my oldest came into the world. I knew I was not going to be the “world’s best mom” but I didn’t understand the guilt that would come with not being “the world’s best mom”. I didn’t understand that with parenthood comes the overwhelming need to do it all and be the best for my kids. Thanks for taking a moment and responding. Just knowing someone out there gets that it’s “too big a job for one person” truly helps.
For me, it’s kids (character, life lessons, fun moments) first, school second, meals third and house fourth.
I know the actual priority list in Titus 2 is husband first, then kids, then others, but I am not talking about life priorities, just the weekday tasklist priorities. And my husband is at work during the day, so he’s not on the weekday tasklist (until mealtimes).
And I never feel guilty about house. I keep the main floor reasonably clean, but I refuse to stress out about it beyond ensuring that I won’t be embarrassed if someone stops by at the front door. There is too much else to do to expect everything to be done perfectly all the time.
(Although, I should add that right now, with our house for sale, house has moved up to the number one spot and I am about ready to burn OUT!
Ya know what, it seems simple, but I think you might be a genius! Putting a child’s daily life into prioritized categories is so smart. I honestly hadn’t thought of it that way. Thank you!
I know you were contemplating making an offer on a place, does this mean you’ve taken the plunge?
I agree with D. Your weekday priority list is helpful. I’ve been wiped out, body and soul, feeling so inadequate in the mothering. I know the gospel IS that we aRe inadequate, which is what makes GOD so great. Still hard.
Yes, our house is conditionally sold!
Congratulations! This must be such a exciting time for you and your family.
Thanks! It definitely is!
I have been there. Many, many times. For me – I found the secret – my man is happy with my efforts, my children are happy with my efforts, spiritually I know that I give all these things to Him – so that’s ALL I need to worry about. My house won’t look like someone else’s. (I’m always certain theirs is cleaner than mine.) But that saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side” applies to mothering too. When I was feeling like I was dropping the ball cleaning the house, grading school work, spending free time. making time for hubby, finding time to study on my own, etc – I found that I was expecting of myself what the world liked to say they expect of mothers. So, I went back to the book – what does God expect of me? To love my husband, to love my children, to keep my house (it doesn’t say “how” 🙂 ) and to make myself available to others as I can – all in service to Him. Guess what, I could honestly say that I filled that bill. I’m not perfect, so it’s not all done perfectly (which really isn’t defined anywhere) – but it is done well. My husband comes home to a house and family is GLAD to come home to, my children work well together (all five of them) and we rarely tire of one another, surprising considering we are together nearly 24/7! – I’m the one here, so I must be doing something right. It’s not praise or pride – it just is. This is what I was called to do, I do my duty, and I do it to the best of my ability – and that’s all any one person can do.
I think those women in past days had the same struggles, and I do think they complained – but expectations were different, in general. They weren’t burdened with so much want for “things” that they were fighting having “it all”. Those who wanted to reach beyond being at home did so. But those who stayed home also were simply content to be good at what they were doing – keeping their home and family.
I pray that our girls see being a wife and mother as fulfilling as having a “career” – it’s just up to them to choose what they want to focus upon.
The point to it all – did your children eat today? did they have clothing available? did they express their imaginations? did they learn life skills? – that’s LIFE and all mothers manage that pretty well. 🙂
You words mean more than you know, or maybe you do. My Husband always tells me “what makes you a good Mom, is that you worry about being a good Mom”. I do understand that, but sometimes when we have those gorgeous days of nature parks and museums, I realize my children ate junk and the house became a mess. When the house is in order and the children ate good food, the rest was largely ignored. It would be nice to have both. I think most of what you have to say spoke to a bigger issue, and that’s resistance. It’s been almost 5 years of Motherhood and I’m still in the mindset that I can’t be good at this. When in fact I am here everyday to be there in every capacity that I am needed, teaching my children to be kind, thoughtful, thinking souls, feeding them home cooked clean food almost every day and giving my family hugs, kisses and as many “I Love You’s” as is possible.
Thank you for this response. I hadn’t actually considered it had more to do with what I thought of myself than what is actually happening. Truly needed to read this today.
It’s good to listen your hubby. :). He doesn’t have to say it just to make you feel better. Take the gift of acceptance from him, and let it free you to do what needs to be done TODAY. Leave tomorrow to itself. There is an exercise in a women’s study that I’ve been through many times that tells you to sit and make a list of your good qualities. Not as an exercise in pride, but and exercise in reality. List the things you DO, list the things you do well, etc. What do you like about yourself? Are you good at organizing? Are you talented with pen and ink? Are you playful or serious? List these things. Include the things your husband liked about you when you were dating. Then remind yourself that God values you greatly! Read your list, work on areas that are lacking, but always be thankful for the gifts that you bring to your family. I can’t be the same mama for your girls as I am to my own. YOU are doing it, and the proof is in the pudding. 😉
I did this exercise this morning. It helped me to see what I was really feeling negative about. It took a few hours and a couple of magazines, but I finally got some clarity. Thank you!
You know we’re a lot alike, D. It is unbelievable how fast the day goes. I can spend all day in the kitchen alone – as I used to before I started writing, just trying to tend to the nutrition. I failed Balance 101 in college.