Archive for April, 2009

Reverse Identity Crisis

Caryn: Wow. Feels like we’ve been a bit neglectful of our Revolution! Good to be back writing here. My excuse is that I’ve just gone through perhaps the crazy-busiest month of my life. Normally I enjoy my nice little homebody, introverted life, spending my days mommy-ing the kids while ducking back often to check email or get some work done. But for the past month (six weeks, actually)—since the release of my book, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.I’ve spent tons of time on the road. Traveling to conferences, driving to speaking gigs, even driving to one place to be on a little TV show. That was fun (I’ll get a link up to it one of these days!).

Of course, I loved all of it. But then something weird happened, just after I finished taping that TV show last week. I had been away from home for yet another overnight and as exciting as it had all been at first, I was seriously getting tired of this “life on the road” (you know, the road ain’t no place to start—or raise—a family).

It hit me in the South Bend, Indiana, Target. I had stopped there quick before getting back on the road home for two reasons: 1. I wanted chai and oatmeal. 2. I felt guilty for leaving my kids so much and wanted to get them something. (Okay. One more: 3. Because the only other things to get them in South Bend are Fightin’ Irish things and I just can’t do that. Sorry.)

So anyway, while at Target at 10:30 am on a Monday morning, you see lots of moms and kids. Granted, I’m usually beyond annoyed when I have my kids with me at the big T (though, as we’ve noted before, it’s better than when we’re at the big W-M!), but seeing those moms and kids made me miss mine like mad! I got teary-eyed at Target!

So I grabbed some non-Irish souveniers, got my chai and oatmeal, and nearly ran to my car.

Here’s the weird part. It was in that same car—outside a different Starbucks!—six-and-a-half years ago that I had my first identity crisis after realizing how much like myself I felt after a brainstorming meeting with Dave Goetz (all detailed in the book!). This time, I sat in that car having a reverse identity crisis realizing how much I needed to get home to my kids to feel like myself again. Crazy, huh?

But since I’ve gotten to a better place, I realize this reverse ID crisis just supports my contentions about the “integrated life” we need to strive for. We need to have things in our lives that are just for us—that are ours. We need to do things and be things that God made us to do and be. We can’t deny who we are once we become moms. But, I think once we are moms, our mommy roles and resposibilities become so intertwined with who we are, that we can’t deny the ways that makes us more “ourselves” either. We need it all—meshed or intertwined or mashed up or whatever word suits you—to feel like and to be the real us.

I’m not saying we should have our kids at our sides at every waking moment or that time away from any one facet of our identities can’t be really good for us, but I’d love to hear about ways women have been successful at integrating their lives in the day to day.

Carla: A: We have been on a Journey kick at our house of late and I love the shout-out to the fabulous Steve Perry. B. You are so dead on with this.

No single part of our lives represents the whole of who we are, no matter how great or fulfilling or miserable it is. There is such a temptation to talk about life, ourselves, motherhood as a single entity, as something that stands alone. It’s certainly easier to give advice and make decisions and write articles and preach sermons when we distill something to a single point, but that doesn’t reflect the true integration and complexity of real life.

This is true for what’s best in us and what’s not. We can be a combination of success and failure, confidence and uncertainty, strength and weakness. That’s the beauty of being human.

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Giving Up Exorcist Mom

Caryn: So I went 40 days without Diet Coke. Today I could drink it—since I only gave it up for Lent—but I won’t. I kicked that habit to the curb, baby. And I’m not going back to that evil, wicked temptress. I may need to take up smoking or find some other vice, but Diet Coke won’t make me that crazy, craving woman at 9:30 am any more. At least for now.

All this to say, I realized during this period of Lent that indeed there are areas of our lives in which we Revolutionary moms can and should grow. I’m not saying all of us need to kick the Diet Coke (I know you’d rather lose a limb than your morning D.C., Carla), but I think it IS important every now and again to look at our lives, see the things that maybe aren’t too healthy for us and chuck them. Lent is a great time, of course. But it’s not the only time.

For instance: I reconnected with a mom I know from my son’s baseball. I loved her last year (she’s smart and outgoing and always wears cute hats and has cool hair, for what it’s worth) and was excited to chat with her again. Anyway, we were talking about beverages or something and that lead to Diet Coke, my giving it up, how I think it is evil and makes me fattier, yada, yada. And this leads to her saying how she gave up yelling for Lent. She realized she was turning into the “Exorcist mom” too often and needed to get a grip.

Her experience in the giving up of yelling was remarkable, she said. She’d spent time praying when she felt like yelling and was experiencing some real growth.

Huh. Of course, I have just a TOUCH of an issue with yelling and becoming a total Exorcist mom when life gets crazy and I get stressed. And yet, it hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that it was something I could—and should—simply “give up.” I realized I needed to “do better,” but I hadn’t ever thought to commit to letting go of it completely.

So I might try. I might follow her lead and just give it up. I’m thinking some prayer and breathing and a stretch or two in its place may do the trick.  Perhaps do better with my daily Scripture reading. Or, the smoking thing might actually help…. [I feel the need to put in a big old, JUST KIDDING here. I hate smoking. I realize it’s practically child abuse to smoke around children…. So in case you felt the need to mean comment about this—I jest.]

Thoughts, Carla?

Carla: I ran out of Diet Coke today and am already getting a little panicky trying to figure out when I’m going to be able to head to the Super T to get more. So clearly, I’m not giving that up any time soon. However, I like where you’re heading with this. I think we all recognize the obvious “vices” we need to limit or eliminate from our lives. But there are so many little failings that we somehow find ways to justify.

I am a pro at explaining why I have every right to be crabby on any given day–I’m under-appreciated, I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in 12 years, I have a deadline, the kids are on my nerves. And while all of those things might be true from one day to the next, they really aren’t good reasons to be mean to people I love.

What gets tricky for moms is figuring out how to both accept that we aren’t always going to be the kind of moms–or people–we want to be and giving ourselves some grace, and still working on those pieces of ourselves that aren’t where we know they ought to be. In The Myth of the Perfect Mother, I talk about motherhood as a practice of spiritual formation. And this is exactly what I mean.

So much of what we hear and read about motherhood focuses on the kids. But motherhood is as much about our growth and formation as it is about our children’s. We are shaped and changed by parenting–in good ways and some not-so-good ways. On our best days, we become more patient, more compassionate, more selfless. On our worst? We are angry, short-tempered, stubborn.

Formation happens when we are intentional–like a mom who breaths in patience and exhales frustration–about building up what is good so that it crowds out what is not so good.

So tell us friends, what practices do you have that help you become more of the person you were created to be?

Update: If you want to hear more about Carla’s take on the spiritual practices of parenting, check out her conversation with Doug Pagitt here.

Oprah Steals From Us…Again!

Carla: Once again, Oprah has stolen our thunder. People’s Exhibit A: Monday’s show about the secrets of motherhood. I mean, didn’t we just talk about that?

So let’s try a new topic and see how long it takes for O to get her mitts on it and call it her own. I say we talk about sex. That’s right, sex.

Motherhood and sex are like orange juice and toothpaste–lovely on their own but has anyone figured out how to have one without it messing up the other? I have read a bazillion–at least–articles about how to liven up your sex life and while the advice always makes sense, it never seems to hit at the real reasons women with children so often have pitiful sex lives. From the lack of interest to the lack of energy to the lack of time, it seems like every women I know who has children and a husband enjoys being cuddled by one of those parties far more than the other.

So maybe the Revolution can get to the root of this whole sex issue. Maybe some of you have gotten back your mojo and can share your secret with the rest of us. Maybe some of you never lost it and can keep that to yourselves (kidding!). Maybe some of you have plenty of mojo and no “Joe” with whom to share it. And maybe some of you are like the countless women I know who love their husbands dearly and would be perfectly content if they never had sex with them again.

I know rest, time together, time to yourself, etc. all factor into this, but I also think there’s more going on than just a lack of sleep or time. So what is it? Why are we so disinterested in sex after we have children? Or is it just me?

Caryn: It’s just you, Carla. I’m sure the rest of us have no idea what you’re talking about…. But for the sake of argument (and because my brother and people I work with read this!) I’ll pretend I understand whatever you mean about this “dissinterested in sex” business. I might even—again for the sake of argument—take your “disinterest” and raise you an all-out “UNinterest.”

Why does this happen? Obviously, there are some big issues behind this. I’m sure physicians and psychologists could give us a litany of reasons. The quiver-full folks will just tell us its our sinful nature (which, as the resident Calvinist, I’ll agree with—on the point that were we not fallen, our sex drives would be fine and dandy, not because we’re denying the earth more of our children….). And our husbands or partners would give their own insights (I’m so praying my husband doesn’t catch wind of this post!).

You mentioned the lack of time and sleep. For me, honestly, it’s lack of SPACE. One of the biggest issues for me as a mom—and an at-home one at that—has been being constantly surrounded by people. I’m an introvert in and out. And the lack of alone time leaves me teetering on the bring of insanity nearly all the time.

Sex often feels like the thing that will send me over the edge (and I don’t mean in the good way that sex can send us over the edge….). When I’m desperate for alone time and space and the whole “recharge” thing, when I’ve just finished a day clung to by little needy people, the idea of a big needy person (no matter how much I love him or how sexy I find him) wanting to cling to me…. ugh.

And yet, the opposite is also true. When the house is quiet, when I’ve had time to myself, look out! (Let’s just say it’s a good thing my husband and I both work out of the house.)

So that’s my thing. I have no idea what you extroverts can blame this on.

Go ahead and steal this too, Oprah. But go ahead and take it one step further—have us on your show to talk about this. You need the Mommy Revolution. I, for one could be at Harpo Studios in probably 20 minutes flat.

Carla: What, no comment on my orange juice and toothpaste line? Come on! I have been saving that one for FOREVER!

I think as Christian women, we have another set of issues that impact our sex lives. For Christian women, sex is fraught with spiritual baggage. For those of us who grew up in the church, sex was something we didn’t talk about, weren’t supposed to think about, and ought to avoid until we were married. I once read a quote that put it all into perspective, “The church teaches that sex is dirty and wrong and that you should only have it with the person you love most.”

Christian women who didn’t grow up in the church inherit that message when they connect with a church. And anyone who fails to hold off until marriage is reminded at every turn that she committed a sin she can never really move past. I mean, when’s the last time you heard a woman say, “I spent a lot of time lying to my friends before I became a Christian.”? When women talk about the “before” and “after” it’s almost always about sex. Sex is held up as the primary way our sinfulness plays out.

So women who wait to have sex until they get married have to make a shift from “good girls don’t” to “good wives do.” Women who didn’t wait have to make the shift from “this is a mistake” to “this is what God wants.” So many of my friends who struggle with sex are caught in this battle with themselves–and I am too. We want to desire our husbands, we want to be comfortable with our sexuality but we spent 10-20 years fighting that desire and being taught that it was sinful. Sexual feelings are tangled up with shame, guilt, and an ever-changing sense of ourselves. We don’t know how to integrate our sexual selves with our Christian selves.

Motherhood brings all of this to the forefront. It’s hard enough to think of ourselves as sexy and Christian. It’s even harder to throw the mom identity into that mix.

Caryn: Carla, I believe you’ve heard this one before: “Oh, great. Another person blaming the church….” Honestly, your new revelation has some validity—though not so much in my own experience. I must say. But I grew up weird. And a touch wild. Let’s just say I rejected a bunch of the “teachings” I heard. When a lot of it didn’t make sense, I threw it all out. Of course, I do think some of my “past” plays a role in my present… But for different reasons that you cite.

This is already getting too long so I won’t go way into it. Plus, I really think we should save some of this for Oprah.

So what do you all think?