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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13 responses to this post.

  1. One of the things that launched my book writing career was the fact that my husband would ask, “So, what did you do today?” and I would respond, “Watched Barney, changed diapers, tried unsuccessfully to outwit the two year old. I’m losing brain cells by the minute!”
    I think a bit of work outside of the work of motherhood, even part-time from home, really gives you something to get up for.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Tammy on November 26, 2008 at 8:03 am

    My husband says I’d be happier if I went back to work, and I think he’s right–at least part-time work. Somewhere where people appreciate what I do day-to-day. As it is, I feel hurt when no one comments on how good my meatloaf is. How sad is it to fish for compliments from your children and husband at the dinner table??

    Regardless, right now I keep myself somewhat sane by looking forward to and thinking about my next meal. Thank God I’m a foodie 🙂

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  3. I think the issue of monotony/variety is applicable to all of life, not just motherhood/parenting. I’ve kept a daily journal for years, and more often than not, my entries can be the same kind of thing day after day – “Worked on this-or-that, played with kids, made spaghetti for dinner, got kids to bed, spent the evening reading.” Part of me wants every day to be exciting! new! fun! dynamic! but another part of me realizes that the majority of life simply is routine, and that’s okay. There’s a dialectic tension between the ordinary and the innovative – we need both.

    I suppose there’s probably some sort of cultural bias in American society that prizes the new and unusual over the seemingly humdrum and rote. We are all fascinated by the exciting and new iPhone or Bond movie or whatever. There isn’t as much value placed on continuity or consistency in the day-to-day. The challenge, spiritually, is to learn to look forward to the ordinary day as much as we anticipate the special days. To receive every day as a gift, whether it’s Christmas or just another Tuesday.

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  4. Posted by Carla on November 26, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Al has offered an excellent segue into more smart stuff from me!

    I have written about parenting as a practice of spiritual formation and I think that’s a big part of what Al’s saying. There’s something meaningful for us in the boredom if we are willing to look for it. It might be that it moves us to slow down or to appreciate each day as God’s gift. It might be that it moves us into action as we consider how to use the time and energy than seem to be draining away. It might simply force us to seek peace and contentment instead of some elusive sense of “fulfillment.”

    I don’t want to over-spiritualize monotony or even housework–sometimes folding the laundry is just folding the laundry. But I do think it’s worth our time to consider what God might have for us in our boredom.

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  5. Posted by David J. Fowlie on November 26, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Well, the monotony of everyday life is not exclusive to any specific gender, that’s for sure. I feel it often. It’s really kicked in this year for me. I was talking about it in my men’s group last night. I went into detail as to how my tedious schedule can really drive me batty. Working 7.5 hours. Coming home to take care of my 2 yr. old and making dinner. Having dinner once my wife comes home from her work. Then my wife will work from home and I’ll do the dishes (usually). Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. It gets old fast but an Ipod helps! Thank the Lord for podcasts!

    It’s gotten better though. It used to bother me a little more but I deal with it now. I figure it won’t be this way forever. Only if you accept and make the most of it. You find the things that stand out, the stuff you look forward to each day and anticipate the day away.

    One thing that helps me to figure out what I can look forward to each day is perspective combined with gratitude. Sometimes we’re so busy with all we do that we tend to lose focus on what we have around us. Maybe this MOPS woman has lost that. Methinks though there is something deeper underneath what she was sharing. If I even think of not having anything to look forward to, I just think of the days when I’m walking home from work and I can’t wait to see my daughter’s face.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Tina on November 26, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Al and Carla…beautiful words! It’s what Paul talks about… about being content with “the much” and then the “not so much”…to not let the natural realm of what we see, feel, smell, taste etc… move us in either an up or down direction. It is about a spiritual balance in peace and contentment as Carla stated, in all of our ordinary day’s and special day’s as Al stated. I hope more mom’s read this before tomorrow ( Thanksgiving), as I know so many women who will place all sort’s of “great expectation’s” on tomorrow’s event’s. And if they do not get those “great expectation’s” met in the way that they need them to, then all sort’s of wrong starts to happen on so many level’s! Many kuddo’s for reminding us that God works in ALL circumstances in amazing and fun way’s, we just have to be willing to look!

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  7. I completely agree with what Carla is saying about God having something for us in the boredom or monotony.

    For me, some of these things boil down to sheer obedience. God places the task of keeping house into all of our lives while children, and family into some of our lives (not wanting to exclude any singles here). Vacuuming, washing dishes (or loading/unloading a dishwasher), laundry, and dusting are not exciting tasks. Yet they are necessary. Wiping snot from a toddler’s nose – again not exciting…but definitely necessary!

    I am not promoting that all women need to stay home or anything like that – as a full-time teacher and morther, I couldn’t promote that. However, what I am promoting is that we all (men too) take seriously our responsibilities and see them as small obedience moments. A life thought: When my house is in chaos, most of the rest of my life is too. Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Sometimes the best thing to do to clear my head is to clean my house – even though I loathe the thought of scrubbing my kitchen floor.

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  8. Carla, I also love what you said about finding the meaningful within the boredom of day-to-day parenting. There is certainly a lot of monotony in it. But I think a major part of the reason we find it so dull and difficult is that society gives us the message that the small daily tasks involved with taking care of children and doing housework are not important. Pretty much anything else is more important, in society’s view — especially making money, collecting material items, and entertaining ourselves.

    I think the Mommy Revolution should take back the meaning in dirty diapers and laundry! Because what is more important than children, and the care of them? I can’t think of anything. The future of our world depends on them. Sure, it’s a hard job, and we get little gratitude for it, but I know I feel a lot more positive about it when I try to keep in mind how incredibly important it is that I’m around to show my kids that someone loves them and will care for them down to the tiniest detail. And not only are we training future adults, we’re also showing them by example how Christ cares for us all, and how he sacrifices himself for our well-being.

    Housework and childcare used to be considered the most important job a woman could have. Not that I want to go back to the 1800s (I enjoy the fact that my husband changes diapers!) but I think a larger view of feminism is called for. It needs to be admirable for us to make the choice to stay home with our kids if we want to! After all, isn’t feminism about allowing we women to do whatever it is we want to do? It’s unfortunate that feminism has been narrowed pretty much to doing the jobs only men used to do, instead of broadening to include anything and everything that women do.

    I love that fathers now do so much more of the childcare, and some even stay home full time with their kids, but for biological reasons, we women end up being the ones who stay home most often, and who do most of the childcare. Let’s bring back the glory and honor to that position!! We shouldn’t have to feel that we as people are boring, un-intellectual, or otherwise diminished by this work.

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  9. Posted by Melissa on November 27, 2008 at 11:31 am

    This is interesting. I feel this way about work. No matter what happens each day I find it boring and repetitious. I don’t feel like I can complain as I have had really good jobs that many people would love. I never felt like I had a purpose until I adopted an older child last year. I tried really hard not to have any expectations about parenthood (as advised by caseworkers). But parenting has definitely given me a sense of purpose.

    I have a wonderful 12-year old with very severe behaviors that challenge me constantly. I am very aware of what she missed – a calm, predictable home with a mother who picked her up when she cried, cleaned up her messes, fed her often, spent mind-numbing hours playing with her, tucked her in, etc. Each of these so-called mundane tasks are what makes for a well attached, emotionally healthy child. A child who can make it through a day without streams of profanity, constant anxiety, physical violence, or self-harm. A child who will grow up to be an adult that doesn’t end up in the criminal justice system or mental health facility. I know that each seemingly meaningless task I do for her or with her has a profound impact on her life. I keep a mental picture in my head of how each dull, repetitious task is a healing balm. In one year I have seen the huge difference it makes. Before the adoption I don’t think I would have believed it.

    I think it is hard for parents of “typical” children to understand how magnificent their very mundane daily activities truly are. Neglected, abused, traumatized, and abandoned children throughout our world desperately need what you sacrificially do each day. I am willing to step out and over-spiritualize the monotony of parenting. I love to think about Jesus washing people’s stinky feet and the impact it had that very day and every day since. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”

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  10. Great comments everyone! A special thanks to Al for allowing Carla to get into “smart stuff”!

    I too have to say that I’ve become a fan of boredom and monotony—I’ve seen God do some mighty things in my life during these “hemmed in times” (as one woman called them—I love that!). Times of wandering in wilderness with manna meal after meal after meal can do powerful work on you! Thank God for that.

    But what originally made me sad about the MOPS woman wasn’t that she was bored, but that she had NOTHING to look forward to–ever. Now, I realize that since I am a total homebody, introvert, the things that I look forward to in my day (checking email and Facebook, reading new books, articles, blogs, chatting with friends when I take my daughter to preschool) are FAR from what most would call “exciting,” but still I have things in my life that I love, that fire me up and make me happy to wake up in the morning. I just wish it wasn’t always so EARLY in the morning.

    All this to say, of course all of us will have seasons of monotony and boredom and dull and blah, but still, I think we should live expectantly, hopefully, and find at least one thing a day that gets us going. We should challenge each other to live like that.

    Reply

  11. Caryn – thanks so much for bringing us back to your original thought as well…the challenge is exactly that – a challenge. Here is a thought: why do so many of us tend to look for the worst in our lives and share that? Notice Facebook statuses sometimes, and one can get a little overwhelmed at the negativity. Are we afraid to find the joy? Are we afraid to hope?
    What would we talk about then? 🙂

    Reply

  12. Thank you for this post. I can really identify with the gal from your MOPS meeting. I felt very much the same when my son was younger. I am happy to report I just needed a few hours a week to be myself again, without the mommy part. I started doing home parties (direct sales) and it was the answer to my prayers!
    We each need to find what works for us and not be judged by our peers. You gals have some great points here! Thanks!!!

    Reply

  13. Good Day:
    Your right there are great opportunities but paying for one isn’t the best

    Reply

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