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On Rare Moments Alone

Alone

Like so many parents, I seldom have time alone.  I love my kiddos, even like them, but I’m an introvert and the relentless noise of childhood and the availability my children require of me can take their toll. My fantastic husband knows me well and encourages me to get out of the house by myself when I can. Still, quality time – even if it’s just with oneself  – takes a certain energy. Often, I wind up at some store or another despite the fact that I hate shopping. I know that a walk around the lake, time to read or pray or write, even exercise would be much more refreshing but I just can’t quite bring myself to do those things when I’m already burned out. But, I digress.

Even when they aren’t spa-like and zen, I need those moments when I’m not physically responsible for another person. Surprisingly, I often find these times most directly impact me physically. The feeling I have when I can walk at normal speed, when my hands aren’t ushering and guiding little backs and my head is not inclined toward a baby on my hip… it’s wonderful. I know that those experiences are gifts, too; that they are precious and short-lived. But I have such an unexpected sense of self when I can square my shoulders and enjoy unrestricted movement; although, I suspect it will be a long time before I can be alone without the occasional, sudden rush of fear and adrenaline as I wonder for a split-second where my child is.

Even if I don’t exactly feel like a new woman when I come home from these field trips, it is good to remember who I am apart from my kids. I feel vaguely guilty saying that, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I feel a little like I shouldn’t have an identity apart from them. I do, though. Of course, they are a huge part of who I am and I believe that mothering has deepened and stretched me but it isn’t all of me. I want to teach my girls to embrace who they are and use their unique personalities for good, so remembering my own doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

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My Grandma’s Fake Pearls

PearlsI am blessed to have quite a few items in my home from loved ones. The items themselves, of course, are not so important, but the memories and feelings that they invoke are very dear to me. Most of these things are in view every day and to be honest, I forget to cherish them, to remember what they represent.

There is one item, however, that never fails to reach me. I love the long strand of fake pearls from my grandma, who has been gone a few years, now. I love their soft sheen and smooth weight. I love the sound they make. I don’t know how long she owned them or how often she wore them, but it doesn’t matter. They aren’t something that I would usually wear, so putting them on is always intentional. The unfamiliar feeling of the pearls wrapped around my wrist or hanging from my neck brings me back to them again and again, reminding me of Grandma.

My daughter wore her “pearls” today to “get married” (she is six 🙂 ) and wanted me to match. So I am wearing Grandma’s pearls and feel the need to thank her for reminding me to be intentional – to notice the special in everything. My spirit has been dulled to the beauty in my every day for some time and I know that there is choice in that. I even forget to relish the big things – inexplicably choosing to allow my mood to snuff out my positivity. So today I choose to take my time and focus on the luxury of coffee in a beautiful mug instead of on my irritability as I take cold sips between kid fussing and feeding. I’ll stop to feel the simple joy in the act of scrawling something on a piece of paper – even if it’s just a grocery list (if you love writing, you’ll understand) and all those other conveniences which make me truly spoiled. Mostly, though, I will take joy in my kids and husband, for them and for me.

All my love, Grandma.

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No-Niche Moms

I manage to stumble across multiple mom blogs each week, without even looking for them (thanks, Facebook). Some of them are better than others, but to me it seems that almost all cater to a stereotypical mom – whether she stays at home or works. There are ideas for that mom who has it all together and is rocking the mom thing for her perfectly-photographed brood. There are posts urging the mom who is struggling to hang in there – reassuring her that things will be different soon – and a handful of other themes. I can appreciate some of these posts, but I never feel like I’m the intended audience, exactly, and I think many moms can relate.

Part of the reason for this is the blog medium. Writers tend to romanticize things because they want to make them appealing, sweet, witty, whatever. This is paradoxically engaging and alienating. And readers happily take those cues. More than that, we take reading between the lines way too far. Maybe you read the simple words “play room” and conjured a sun-soaked, white space with a few tasteful toys and hip art on the walls (I know you’re filling in the blanks right now!). And perhaps that’s accurate. But, more likely, “play room” means the messiest room in the house in desperate need of new carpet. Even if it is a serendipitous place, in my experience real life never feels like a  glossy magazine spread. We might be able to set the stage and there can be value in that but the sought-after bliss is either fleeting or entirely absent because that just isn’t the stuff of true and deep satisfaction.

Here’s some of my real: I don’t have a niche. I stay at home. I keep up with the chores. I love my husband and children more than I can say. I read to my kids and take them outside to play and make pretty decent dinners (but not often enough). I love being in my yard. I also look at my phone too often, sometimes wish those same kids would bugger off and waste lots of time thinking about how I should probably meal plan (so much time that I miss my window of opportunity to actually go to the grocery store). My little house looks messy a lot despite my efforts to keep it neat. I long for a little romance. I pray and thank God often for this gorgeous life but my spirituality is a bit hard to find these days. Some days it’s tough to get out of bed. I know my problems are first-world. Forgive my self-indulgence, but I’m trying to be as honest as possible.

I am blessed to have lovely and wonderful friends, but none of them who live close stay at home right now. I’m the kind of home body who needs motivation or accountability to get out the door and some meaningful conversation to keep things interesting. I know that life won’t mold to a fantasy so I am not desperately seeking an ideal; I’m just trying to find satisfaction in the everyday. And I do find it in bits and pieces. There is nowhere else I’d rather be, but this season happens to be hard for me, too. Being at home makes many things easier but it takes a different kind of discipline than working. I’ve done it both ways and respect the challenges for each path.

So whether you work or stay at home, if you are feeling a lot blessed but also a little overwhelmed, a little isolated, a lot tired, a little like you should be enjoying things more but you can’t quite get there – this post is simply my fist raised in solidarity. I don’t have much advice, except that if you have that just-finished-watching-a-rom-com taste in your mouth every time you read a parenting blog, remember that a few words on a screen do not and cannot fully represent a person’s life or their feelings about that life. Even when we already know that, I think the overall impression can add to our feelings of discontent. And if any of you are in a particularly sweet and wonderful season – that is awesome! I’ve been there, too and have faith that I will be again. But even if not – this struggle is a GOOD struggle and there is satisfaction here, too.

Mom on.