How Do We Claim Joy? : Essays on Motherhood Part Three

At times, I find the philosophies of our culture subtly seeping into my work as a mother.  Invariably, these invasions tend to squelch my joy in motherhood.  Here’s an example about rushing:

The work of motherhood often revolves around repetition.  We do the morning routine.  We pick up the house.  We play together.  We pick up the house. We make dinner and while we’re doing that, the children decide that the tidy toys are just too inviting and so, we pick those same toys up yet again.  Sometimes I have caught myself feeling very antsy about the repetition.  I start rushing the children through their routines.  Hurry, let’s pick up the house.  Hurry, let’s brush our teeth.  Hurry, get in the car.  “Move. Move. Move. Move people!” I find myself thinking, as if I were a drill sergeant coordinating military operations.  It’s surprising how long it takes to wake up and see myself in these moments.  When I feel irritated that my two-year-old wants to stop and smell the roses, it’s a good mental check for me. And I take an internal survey:

Why am I rushing?

What is more important than this?

More often than not, I am frustrated because I want to get something done beyond the basic routines of motherhood. Okay, I’ll be honest, I want to get many somethings done.  I want to cram in the extras, the cute little details, the freelance work, the guilty pleasures.  Or, I’m just antsy with a nameless frustration.  This gnawing sense of something else important I want to do.  Frustration that this is all we’re doing today, nothing but the necessary tasks of family life.

The other day, I caught myself stressing over the kindergarten pick-up routine. I didn’t want to be too early, standing around waiting for my kid, because the other moms might think I was a bit pathetic.  I didn’t want to appear as if I had nowhere more important to be… What? “Hold up!  Wait a minute!” I said internally, “I am grateful that I get to watch over my child with care.  I am grateful to be a parent, and there is no better use of my time.” What could I possibly be doing that would be more important that this? Than being there for my child? Than literally being there, showing up. Showing him that he is important to me—-My fist priority. Why should I feel afraid of making my children my first priority?

I found that it was very helpful to have this internal dialogue.  Talking back to that negative voice in my head was validating.   In a world where children are marginalized, we have to work at valuing motherhood. Our efforts might never be applauded by the world, so we must give ourselves permission to value the role of nurturer. 

I noticed that when I changed my thinking, joy blossomed in my chest.  I was owning it. I was claiming my role and my blessings as a mother. Instead of feeling the tiniest bit ashamed, I felt a blanket of peace.  The day seemed rosier. It was as if I could feel the warm rays of Gods approval on my shoulders. I felt like I was basking in the light that had always been there, which I had rarely before chosen to see. My self-consciousness slipped away with the assurance that this was God’s work for me. Even in this tiny act of service, I felt I was on His errand.

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