Archive for November, 2008

Nothing to Look Forward to….Really?

Caryn: So not long ago, I spoke to a MOPS group in south suburban Chicago. Incidentally, they had THE BEST brunch of any MOPS I’d ever seen. Like good Lutheran cookbook fare–egg casseroles, stuffed French toast, muffins. Not a healthy thing in sight. Even the fruit either had caramel dip or was dipped in chocolate. I loved this group. Totally my kind of women. I’d say who they were, but I’m about to write about one of the women there, so I thought I need to keep it vague. But seriously, if anyone from MOPS International is reading this, email me. You need to award these women for food.

But anyway, this was a great group for more reasons than just food. So after my talk, I stuck around to join in the discussion (okay, and to get another serving of egg casserole) at one of the tables. Since this was one of my Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. talks, a couple of the discussion questions were identity-tapping ones: What gets you jazzed or all fired up? And what gets you out of bed in the morning?

After we all joked that it was those darned kids who got us out of bed, we went around and spoke seriously of what sorts of things we look forward to in our days. Until we got to one woman. She said honestly, she couldn’t think of one thing that she looked forward to about her day. It wasn’t that she disliked her days—and she said she wasn’t depressed or anything—but that they just sort of streamed together. Nothing great, nothing terrible.

This made me very, very sad. I can’t stop thinking about her. Because I gotta say, as crazy as my life feels most days and as much as I’m NEVER ready to get out of bed in the morning (those darned kids!), on any given day, I have plenty to look forward to (and I lot that I don’t). Honestly, I think my days are filled with a lot of great, a lot of terrible, and some “bleh.” But I like my life like that. I mean, I whine a lot about it, but really I think the wild ride is half the fun. And I guess I figured most other moms lives were like that too.

Now I wonder how many women there are out there who wake up with nothing to look forward to. And how can the Mommy Revolution help?

 

Carla: I can absolutely relate to this woman. I have that same conversation with my hubby all the time. He’ll ask me about my day and I’m like, “It was exactly the same as yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.” There are many, many days when I run to Target or bake cookies or get stuck on Facebook because at least then I have something to do. I kind of like the days when something dramatic happens–the kids have a big kerfuffle, the washing machine freaks out, the dog eats someone’s favorite Hot Wheel–because it breaks up the monotony.

At the same time, that’s just how life is. I felt the same way when I went to work every day. Some days were stimulating and fantastic and productive and other days were all about the “bleh.” But why shouldn’t it be that way? If every day was thrilling, that might get a little boring–or at least exhausting–too.

The boredom and sameness of motherhood is definitely one of those “secrets” that the Revolution needs to uncover. There’s nothing wrong with saying that the wonder of motherhood is often tempered by the dullness of motherhood. Not every woman finds joy in the little things–at least not every day. There is a lot of boring routine involved in parenting and it’s okay to admit that. I think we set ourselves–and other women–up for grave disappointment when we perpetuate that myth that mothering is always amazing. It’s not. (I know that’s not what you’re saying, Caryn). Sometimes the days really do run together and it’s hard to get ourselves through each one of them. But we do it. And before long (at least before the kids are 18) we get one of those days where we are reminded that the boredom isn’t all there is, that there are some astonishing moments along the way, too.

Caryn: Oh, yeah. I didn’t mean to say that motherhood isn’t boring plenty of the time. Honestly, when I talk about things I look forward to in a day….ummmm….I wasn’t thinking about kid-centered stuff. Sometimes, that’s what it is, but usually it’s some worky thing. So I guess I just hope that moms out there have something—a good run, talking to a friend, a work or hobby project, something at church, whatever—to look forward to in their days.

But lest I made it seem like my life is all thrills and frills, tomorrow I’m looking forward to going to Trader Joe’s after I drop my son off at a friend’s house. Whooopeee!


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Is Balance Possible?

Carla: It seems like every article I read about motherhood focuses on this elusive idea of “balance.” I’m all for it, if only someone could step into my life and show me what exactly it might look like.

I don’t think my life is any more complicated than anyone else’s. In some ways, it’s less complicated than the lives of many women I know. I work from home, so that eliminates a whole batch of stressors like daily childcare and commuting and what to do when someone gets sick and having to look presentable by 8 in the morning. I have a husband, so that obviously helps A LOT. I have all kinds of good and wonderful things in my life that make my days far easier than those of 98% of the world’s population. 

And yet.

I feel so out of whack. I feel like I spend most of my time doing the things I like the least–housework, actual work, running errands–and end up so wiped out I have very little energy for the things I like best–my hubs and kids and friends and TV. The balance is clearly off here, but I truly have no idea how to get things flipped around. I don’t know how to spend less time working without adding tremendous financial stress to our family. I don’t know how to spend more time nurturing my marriage without sacrificing time with our kids. I don’t know how to invest in my friends without taking away from my family. And I certainly don’t know how to put any kind of effort into caring for myself without cutting into the time I need and want to spend on everyone and everything else.

I’m starting to wonder if the whole idea of “balance” is a big myth. I can’t think of anyone–married, single, childless, parenting, working, not working–who would say she lives a balanced life. So let’s talk about this. Is there such a thing as balance or is life simply meant to be lived as it comes, always a little out of whack and crazy?

Caryn: Or even totally dull and boring… I mean, is that a balanced life either? I actually think “balance” is one of those concepts that have done moms (and everyone) a huge disservice and left many of us banging our heads against pretend fort walls or crib railings or whatever hard-ish surface is around. It is definitely a huge MYTH–nay, I would even say LIE.

I mean, where does this idea even come from? We hear—as you say—all the time that this is the desired effect and get bombarded with ways to make it happen. And yet, like you, I really don’t know what it looks like? And frankly, I don’t even know if I want it.

When I think of how I want my life to be, the word “balance” never comes into my head. I won’t be on the old death bed smiling at my grandkids, stroking my little lap dog, thinking, Wow, so glad my life was so balanced!

What I do want is a life that was lived well, even well executed. Certainly one that honors God–and my family. And I think that times of pure chaos, total boredom, and a lot in the middle are just part of it.

Back to “balance”: Since I do a lot of writing for women and moms (as do you, Carla!), I’ve been trying to avoid using the word “balance” all together. I’m liking “integrated” lately–the idea of going for the integrated life, not one that’s so segmented and partitioned off. Within that certainly there are priorities, certainly moments or parts that are more interesting or chaotic or fulfilling or pathetic than others, but it’s all one big life. And we need to try to live it well.

 

Carla: It’s frightening how our brains synch up sometimes. I was talking about living integrated lives just a few days ago. That’s totally what I’m trying to do, too. I’m especially good at integrating TV into my kids’ lives so I can work.

Seriously, integration is a far better goal–lives in which all we do and all we are flow together. Balance implies compartments and categories. And maybe that’s why it’s so hard to achieve; it forces life to be something it isn’t. It forces us to think of ourselves as people who live out a bunch of roles, rather than people who are just living our lives. So, to quote Tracy Turnblad and use the term completely out of context, “I’m all for integration. It’s the new frontier!”

Speaking my Peace

Carla: I am pretty sure this election has given me an ulcer. I had hoped it would go away now that it’s over, but that’s not to be I guess. I was talking with my husband tonight, trying to figure out why I am so worked up over the comments and conversations I’ve been wading through over the past few weeks and here’s what I’ve come up with:

I am a woman who, until very recently, didn’t really have a sense of my own voice. I have worked in Christian publishing for 13 years and for most of those, I have felt it necessary to keep many of my opinions to myself. I have not talked about my political views or my theology or my thoughts on homosexuality or abortion or any of the other hot buttons of Christian conversation because the views I hold are typically minority views in the Christian circles in which I operate. And because I am a good Scandinavian who does not like conflict one little bit, I’ve found it much easier to sit in silence while those around me make assumptions about what all Christians think and feel and believe. I have let my feisty side come out in motherhood conversations because I truly believe that women are suffering because of the false, unbiblical messages the church had laid on them for so many years. So while I’ve been willing to take some hits to bring down the monolith of bad parenting philosophy, I haven’t been willing to have endless–and pointless–conversations about other issues that I know will end badly and solve absolutely nothing.

But I have felt a bit braver lately and been testing the waters a bit more in the hopes of being more truly myself in the world. I have started laying some of my opinions out there to see what happens. And let me just say that with a very few exceptions, it has not gone well.

This is where my ulcer is coming from. I want to be able to talk to my brothers and sisters in Christ about politics. I want to be able to be honest about what I think about cultural issues and not have my faith questioned because of it. I want to hear what other people think and then have them listen to what I think (one friend did this very well–you know who you are, Kim). I want people to assume that I am intelligent and thoughtful and have good reasons for my beliefs and that just because we disagree, it doesn’t mean one of us is an idiot.

The other day my neighbor was telling me about a mom’s ministry she’d been going to. She said she’s struggling to build friendships because the women she’s met all assume every Christian shares their political beliefs and she’s worried that if she is honest about her positions, they will either argue with her or flat-out reject her. So she stays quiet and knows she will have to be careful about when and how she lets down her guard. That’s so sad to me.

We want to create a conversation where there are no assumptions about what we believe or don’t believe. Where every woman knows she is free to be who she is and that she won’t meet with derision or distain. Where differences are seen as a chance for us to learn from each other. Where we start from the belief that we all want the same thing–happy children, healthy relationships, lives that count for something, a better world–and that the details of how we get there are not really the point. We want our voices to be heard. We want your voices to be heard. But we will not shout each other down in our efforts to be heard. I’m not really talking about politics here, I’m talking about everything–from elections to homeschooling to marriage to money to why Target is so far superior to Wal-Mart. We can disagree, but please please please, let’s disagree with an eye toward true conversation, not a need to convince each other of anything. This, perhaps more than anything else, is what the Revolution is meant to accomplish.

One of the many things I love about Caryn is her acceptance of me. Honestly, we could not be more different on so many of the issues that have come up in this election. But we haven’t had one ill word between us during the whole thing. We have talked about the places we differ. We have even joked about them. But I know Caryn is a smart woman who has clear, well-thought-out reasons for why she feels the way she does. And I know she believes the same about me. That’s what we want the Mommy Revolution to be about: Women who recognize that there is so much more to do with our time than argue and try to prove ourselves right.

Caryn: Let me just start that I can’t believe you’ve ever even had to DEBATE that Target is superior to Wal-Mart! You don’t need people who think otherwise in your life, Carla. They are brazen fools. Life’s too short. That said, my babysitter DID have a cute pair of shoes on today. When I asked her where she got them, she did say the big W-M. So I may be running there later this week and forking out $9.88 for those cuties.

But anyway, it’s interesting you write this today. Up until my unfortunate unfriending on Facebook due to my political views, I actually didn’t realize how ugly things had become. Maybe I’m dense, but I ‘ve always thought it was FUN and INTERESTING to have friends who disagreed with me politically, philosophically, or spiritually. I like hearing people’s views—and poking and teasing where I think they’re nuts—because it sharpens and stretches me. It didn’t occur to me that some people would actually HATE me because of my beliefs (for my beauty, sure…). And yet, they do.

I think Facebook—as much as I love it—has heightened this for all of us. We’ve all made ourselves vulnerable to “attacks” by speaking up and out. And we’ve made ourselves vulnerable to hurt when we see what others write, what groups we join, what articles we post and videos we mock.

But I think it will get better—and will work toward the good. Because like you, I never really promoted my own political views in a desire to be liked. But I also made a lot of assumptions running in the world we do that are way off base. (Note to Wheaton College: What in God’s good name are you teaching over there that you’re turning out Liberals left and right?!?!? Whatever it is, stop it. Or for crying out loud, let those kids drink–so they don’t rebel in their voting!) And I think it’s cool that we have anything going that shoots down assumptions and lets us see the “real” in each other—even if we don’t agree with it.

All this to say, Carla, you keep on being yourself. And keep on sharing your views and your thoughts—no matter how tomfoolery-icious they are. I think you’re fab even when we disagree. I actually LOVE that we disagree. It keeps things fun—and it keeps me on my toes. In fact, today I DON’T have an ulcer because we have a president I know YOU helped elect. And I think, if Carla likes him, he can’t be that bad. (And if he is THAT bad, I’ll have so much fun blaming you!) 

So—everybody, lay off Carla! 

Carla: And Caryn too! I’m concerned that this post comes off as whiney and thin-skinned. And maybe I do feel a little beat up from the last few weeks. But my intention is to say that I long for a place where we can talk about our lives with openness and honesty and not worry that we’re going to be blasted for not holding the same views as others, especially by other Christians. I want this to be that place.