As one thoughtful commenter mentioned in the last post, “I wonder if the women back then would have appreciated some time off now and then or not?” As I thought about the advice from women in another season, I made a few tentative conclusions.
- They have forgotten. Do you think there is a possibility that a woman who declares after her children are all grown, “I loved every minute of mothering!” might have a memory lapse? Maybe she is remembering the confiding cuddles, while forgetting how one child pulled the other’s hair when they couldn’t see the storybook and the dismayed clench of her heart when her sweet child told a deliberate lie. Maybe the goo and poo recede with the years and she sees better the things that really matter.
Mom tells the story of one friend of hers who had a really fussy baby, crying and crying at the school picnic. When they had an auction to benefit the school, the lady jokingly held up her cranky infant and called, “Baby for sale!” Obviously they were human as are we.
- They had a strong a support culture, especially among the Amish, that was a tremendous blessing to newbie moms. It was normal to have a “maid” to come do the weekly cleaning or pick up the load when there was a new baby. Anyone in trying circumstances could depend on meals being brought in to feed the family. Many lived in very tight community where they babysat each other’s children when they needed to go to an appointment or grocery shopping. This sort of network can be the difference between sinking or keeping on swimming.
- They were focused. Our mothers were raised with one dream, to get married and become mothers and homemakers. They didn’t really have the array of opportunities for developing their gifts that our generation does. While I have passionate views about people using their talents, I also know that honing in on one thing is what makes one a master at it, and this is why so many excellent homemakers result from the plain people’s tradition of training their daughters to pour themselves into this art. Imagine Grandma dashing around with a pricey camera, capturing her world while the children sniffled about being hungry. Nope. She fed her people first.
- They had grit. Somehow they didn’t expect life to be easy, which was how a pregnant woman could get up at dawn to milk cows, then come back into the house to cook breakfast and care for toddlers, sewing all their clothes, and keeping house all day. After all, her life was a lot easier than it was for her pioneer ancestors.
Acceptance. Realistic expectations. Support. Centuries of women who picked up their load and carried it with grace and grit would likely look at us with our labor-saving devices and thoughtful husbands who occasionally take us out to eat and say, “Girl, get over yourself.” And that’s probably why Grandma never heard of me-time.
I remember a day when I confessed to my husband, “I just want to give them all away,” then I quickly added, “for a few hours anyway.” It is not helpful at such a time to feel that one is uniquely wicked among mothers, that good mothers never ever need a break. Hear me… WE DO! Even animal mothers pass off the babies to an aunt occasionally so they can stretch their limbs without a pup instantly attaching to the milk bar.
When nobody is having any fun anymore and I am not finding pleasure in my children, I need to take a step back and ask, “How can I break out of this destructive pattern?”
This is where it gets really sticky sometimes, because odds are 10 to 1 that God will start dealing with my own heart and attitudes. He will show me whether my exhaustion comes from being depleted in my soul or from rebelling against the life I have been given. Either way, something has to give.
Often the thing that wears me out is my fuss about how hard the job is rather than the job itself. There is a decay in me, a soft spot that protests every time things get hard. “Wah! somebody save me from this mess of jello on the floor. Wah! somebody take my children so I can go shop the clearance racks! Wah! somebody clean my house while I drink tea and contemplate the meaning of life!”
It is like the little girl who wailed and wept when her cheat sheet of math facts was removed from her desk, because “learning the multiplication tables is impossible!” Then, when confronted with the reality that there was no other way, she started reciting times tables and learned them at an astonishing rate. (It’s just jello, after all.)
Whether I am being entitled or whether I am depleted of resources from having given without refueling, the first step for me to become restored in my soul nearly always involves accepting the circumstances that I am struggling against.
Ideally, I stay hydrated and strong through daily nourishment, but face it, some days I don’t drink my water or feed myself adequately and the consequence is some shaky living that isn’t going to stand the tests of life very well. I prefer to call this need soul-care instead of me-time.
This post started as a list of ways to find white space, ways I can restore my soul in the middle of a busy life, but Grandma hijacked it, so I am compiling that for the next post. Give me some feedback, please; my research tends to be Dorcas-slanted. (I hope you don’t expect it to be all spiritual and meditative. My list is extremely everydayish. ) I know how to refresh myself, but I don’t know how you refresh yourself.