Recently my attention has been drawn (in some pleasant and not so pleasant ways) to the differences between myself and the women I call my “peers.”
I’ve been drawn to reflect on my lifestyle due in most part to the extreme reactions I’ve received from friends recently. A few have e-mailed with questions of how I do so much in addition to being a mama. Some seeking advice and some sending notes of thanksgiving – filled with hope that they too may soon be busy mamas. I’ve also disappointed a few friends who seem dissatisfied with how much of myself (and my time) I can commit to them.
One of my favorite Catholic blogger mamas, Elizabeth Foss has a beautiful post about the type of women/wife/mother she is appearing on her blog this evening. Although we are indeed quite different (she’s a seasoned mama with 9 children), I see myself in the sentiment she’s expressing.
Our family calendar speaks volumes to who I am as a women and a mama. I refuse to overbook or fill up our days. More than 3 obligations in one week (even social ones) might as well be a prison sentence to me. I’m an introvert, and so is my husband. We parent as introverts. We’re not signed up for Gymboree, playdates and storytimes at the library. Of course social and educational activities are important and we do make room for them, but I am very selective. When we do something social, it usually takes us an entire day to recuperate – so I build that time into our lives.
We are very close with a family of extraverts and this summer we spent the 4th of July with them. The kids played outside, we took them to the park, grilled out, did some sparklers in the driveway and then drove to see the town’s fireworks later that evening. It was a full day of fun followed by a sleepover. The next day I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. My energy was gone and my kids wanted nothing more than to watch a DVD. My friend came out of her room with her 3 children dressed in another patriotic outfit and they started packing up to go to the parade. A parade! It was 9:00am! Thankfully my friend knows how I operate and I didn’t need to think of an excuse not to go. They headed out and my family stayed in their home, napping and relaxing. Sometimes I wish we could go go go and I know we miss out on some wonderful things, but it doesn’t make us happy. My friend needs those types of things (and so do her children) to keep their family running smoothly and to keep everyone happy. For us, we aren’t loving to one another when we are living that way, so for us I know I am doing what is best.
We recharge alone and at home. For myself, and for my family, I protect this recharging time like a mama bear. I don’t feel an obligation to return phone calls and e-mails in a timely manner nor do I commit myself to weekly conversations with friends. This is not, in any way, a reflection of how I feel about those friends; I just simply love my family more. I know if I did answer every e-mail and return every phone message that our family would suffer, and I am not willing to do that. I know myself very well, faults and all.
I also approach motherhood a bit differently. Although I do love to cuddle with my girls, I can’t stand having someone “on” me all day long. Attachment parenting is beautiful, but God did not make me that type of mother. I don’t long for a tiny baby that needs their every need attended too and if there is a child in my bed, I’m not sleeping. That period of motherhood is a large sacrifice for me. I’m loving in other ways. My gifts are intuition and council. These gifts are better used with older children. For example, every single thing I do in the kitchen is narrated and then shown to Tessa. She is then given the opportunity to do it herself. So, every dinner and every batch of cookies takes twice as long as it does in another home. She doesn’t just get to “stir” to playcat her. She cracks the egg herself and dumps it in the bowl. If there are shells, she is then taught how to dig them out. This is how we operate every day in the kitchen. Everything takes twice as long and creates twice the mess, but at 2 and a half she could recite to me, step by step, how to make many of our standard meals and – chocolate chip cookies. This time is precious to me and I give up other things in order to have it.
She also comes to me with things she would like to talk about. She knows she is not going to get a water downed answer. We have very real conversations and I commit a lot of time to these real conversations. We are strong and consistent in our discipline and following a consequence, there is a loving conversation because I want to understand why a wrong choice was made and help them to understand why their choice was wrong. So, a simple fight between 2 little girls can turn into an hour long event in our home, but in the end everyone not only understands each other, but everyone feels loved. I do not answer my phone during these times.
I am also a work at home mama. I actually really love my job. I don’t care for the amount of work I have. But, I have to say, even if we were extremely independently wealthy I still think I would continue this job (with slashed hours, of course). Not only do I put in hours with my job, I am also a freelance writer. This past year has been a good one for me writing wise and we now count on a few hundred dollars of our monthly income from my freelancing. This is a personal choice that was very hard for me to make. It does cut into my family time and it certainly has affected how much time I have for friends and social activities. However, after much personal prayer by me and my husband, we feel I am called to pursue this dream. It is not one I talk about often, but one I must begin acknowledging as it is affecting my life and the amount of time I can give outside of my family.
To those who wonder how I do all that I do, there are sacrifices. Chances are I am not nearly as social as you are and my house is probably not as clean as yours! We are creative spirits over here and sometimes projects and ideas pick us up and carry us away leaving our laundry pile high and our fridge empty. But, that is who we are, and I will not apologize for it because I love it. One week we’ll learn to sew, the next we’ll be painting. Some nights I’ll stay up all night long because inspiration has struck and if that means the girls stay in diapers the whole next day because mama is resting on the couch – then so be it!
The best we can do for our children, in my opinion, is to embrace who God made us to be and show them it’s ok to do the same. I laugh because in my life I have always been very close with people who would call themselves “type A.” I think there is something about the structured and OCD type personality that must be amused or intrigued by a person like myself. I have had wonderful relationships with many “type As” in my life. However, they seem to really love me for a time and then in the end, I wind up driving them crazy!
Truth is, the world needs us all! God has designed and made each one of us beautifully to reflect Him in different ways. We have so much we can learn from one another. God knows that. I have proof. I’m almost sure my first born is a “Type A” herself. She reminds us to put things away in the fridge and turn off lights when we leave a room.
When she was asked to help pick up today she responded, “Ok, mama! Who’s coming over?” No one, for the record!
She keeps us in check and we remind her that mistakes are ok and sometimes it’s fun to get messy.
What kind of women/mother are you? Are your days structured or is yesterday’s oatmeal still on your kitchen table?