Archive for July, 2009

What’s It Worth?

Caryn: So my kids are away for the day and I’m supposed to be working on this big freelance project that’s due in a few days, but of course I keep spacing out. (I’ve learned I actually thrive on chaos!)

Specifically, my mind keeps returning to a sentence I read in a great book by Anne Tyler called Breathing Lessons. Here’s the line: “It was Serena who’d said that motherhood was much too hard, and, when you got right down to it, perhaps not worth the effort.”

This line scared the little dickens right out of me–because when I read it (and it was in the middle of some serious mommy chaos!), I thought, “So true.”

Nice.

To be fair, right now, I don’t believe it at all. I think that motherhood IS worth it. But I have to get it out there that I’ve had plenty of moments when I’ve thought otherwise. That I agree with Serena. So there. I said it. Sometimes I think motherhood is too hard and maybe not worth it.

Anybody else share this terrifying little truth? Even for a moment?

Carla: I don’t know if I’ve ever thought it wasn’t worth it. But I have thought, I can’t do this anymore. For me, that’s a scary thought because, well, I have to keep doing this. So what would happen if I just gave up? That scares the crap out of me.

I don’t think these terrifying thoughts are reserved for mothers by any means. There are truths too awful to say out loud in everyone’s life: What if I have this job for the rest of my life? What if this is all there is? What if I never get married? What if I can’t stand to stay married one more day? What if I never have children? What if I hate having children? What if someone finds out I’m a huge fake? What if I fall apart?

It seems to me that the reason those are such scary thoughts is that they all point to that big question: “Is it worth it?”  If I don’t end up with the life I hoped for, is the life I have worth anything? And apart from the usual Christian platitudes that, for me at least, don’t really get to the heart of the fear behind that question, I don’t know that we can ever answer that.

I think part of what we–or at least I–need to work out is what “worth it” means. Worth it to who? Worth what? Why does “worth” matter? As with most things, sometimes unpacking the baggage behind my fears helps dissolve some of the worry and terror.

Caryn: Good points. Because in my “Is it worth it?” moments really I’m just dealing with those same old unrealistic expectations that come from the outside–and from right in me. Unrealized dreams. Fears of missing out. All that good stuff. Huh….. What do you all think?

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Happy Campers

Caryn: I have leeches in my fridge right now. They were once bait, but my son—in a long line of animal-loving and rescuing people—decided that instead of using them all to try to catch bass in Green Bay, they should be kept as pets. Pets. Leeches for pets.

And I said it was okay. (Note: I did draw a line when he came to me worried about what they would eat since they really need human blood. I know this boy well and his eyes told me he expected me to offer my wrists. No go. These leeches may die a slow death, actually…. Better to be bait!)

I said it was okay because I’m still on the totally-loving-my-family-loving-my-role-as-mama high that this week’s family camping trip in beautiful Peninsula State Park put me on. (This is not to say that the whole trip was bliss and I didn’t totally melt down and yell at my family at the campsite on Tuesday night. Because it wasn’t and I did….) But aside from prowling and crunching-on-something animals and one huge storm that kept me from sleepinig too well, this trip was great.

Woods. Lake. Bay. Beach. Kayaks. Swedish pancakes. Piers. Beer-battered fried cheese curds. Seeing my five-year-old daughter play fairy house around a tree stump. My two-year-old turning around to smile at me as I pointed out bluffs and caves from the kayak. My seven-year-old hooking nightcrawlers and leeches and casting off with his dad. Me having a solid hour of blissful, sun-setty quiet on a bay-side park bench while two of my kids played together at a playground. What’s not to love about this?

And that was the thing. I know there’s not going to be much to respond to or comment about here, probably. But I just felt like with all the “complaining” we do (or I do) about the roughness of motherhood, about the unfairness of expectations, about losing our identities, I wanted to just give a shout out to what Carla has called the “wonders” of motherhood. (Actually, I think it was the “Wonders of the First Year” but who cares.)

Were I not a mom, camping just now would’ve just been okay. (Though I still think the beach is best sans kids. Oh, how I miss lying in the sun and reading without having to worry about someone drowning!!) Without being able to watch each of my three kids’ personalities shine in the shady woods, it would’ve been, well, watching my city-boy husband roll his eyes at the other campers staring into their fires wondering why we weren’t in that nice hotel with the big porches. Watching a fish boil, at least.

This week’s time in the woods and on a lake with my lovely family just helped me appreciate my family for who we are—individually and collectively. And I loved that. So I thought I’d share.

Carla: I’m so glad you have been willing to sit at my feet and discover the joys of camping.

We, too, were camping this week and I felt much the same way–that despite the fact that neither of the adults got to spend any time in the fabulous hammock, despite the rain that forced us into our tent for most of an afternoon, despite what my husband says may have been the most horrific 45 minutes of his life spent on a bug-plagued trail with our two oldest kids, we had a wonderful time together. We told the kids stories about when they were younger. We pretended we were a pioneer family venturing into the woods for the first time. We snuggled and read and explored and laughed (and some of us yelled a little bit).

Family vacations don’t always bring out the best in me, but camping seems to work for us. It does remind me of the wonders of parenthood. At least once day, I looked at my babies playing together or helping each other or working with us and I was flooded with that warm mommy love.

So maybe the question is, what bring out that rush of love for you? In what activities or moments do you find yourself being reminded of how glorious parenting can be?

Caryn: Well, thanks a lot, Carla. That was going to be MY big wrap up question! (And for what it’s worth, I discovered the joys of camping as a child. The rest of my family hated it, but I actually liked it. So, technically, I was re-discovering the joys. But yes, you sparked my interest again.) So, Revolutionary Mamas (and Steve), what does bring that rush of love?

How to Get a Girlfriend

Carla: I’ve been reading this book that our Rev friend Kristi told me about. It’s called “The Passion of the Hausfrau” by Nicole Chaison and I love it! I am working on another post that will go into more detail about the book and the trajectory it’s sent me on, but first I wanted to pick your brains about something Nicole says.

She has this whole shtick on needing a girlfriend and that finding really great female friends is just about as difficult as finding a spouse. She writes about the little ways she scopes out other moms at the playground and how she navigates the early conversations to find points of connection. She lists her “turn-ons”–moms who can laugh when they have baby puke running down their backs, moms who are willing to be vulnerable, etc. The woman is incredibly funny–and pretty crass at times so this book is not for the easily offended–and I found myself laughing out loud all the way through the book.

This idea of “courting” other women in our efforts to develop friendships struck me as having some real potential for the revolution. So I want to know–what are your turn ons? What draws you to other women in your search for meaningful friendships? What do you find yourself doing or saying to draw other women to you?

For me, I find that, like Nicole, I am instantly attracted to moms who are open and honest about their struggles, who don’t act like they know everything or have it all together. I am also drawn to women who seem to have other things going on in their lives–interesting hobbies or jobs or ideas.

For me, talking about our children is a pretty big turn-off. I mean, I know it’s kind of a starting point for a relationship, but for me, that only goes so far. I don’t mean that I never want to talk parenting, but for the most part, I need women in my life who are interested in me as a whole person, not just as a mom. I want to know what my friends think about religion and politics and current events and celebrity gossip and new restaurants and my shoes. And I want them to care what I think about those things as well.

I feel the same way about any subject, really. If I make a friend through work or church or standing in line at Target, our friendship won’t go very deep if all we ever talk about is work or church or Target. Our commonality is a starting point, not the sum total of the relationship. This might be why so many of my female friendships in recent years have been with women who don’t have kids or whose kids are now adults.

Caryn: So, the time I was on your pastor’s radio show, he was all about my “girl crushes” and now you’re asking me about my girl turn ons? Jeez Louise. But, okay. Of course, I’m game. Lesbian rumors be damned. Or, maybe, darned, I should say. No need to swear here.

I’m with you, actually: mom talk is my biggest turn off when meeting new friends. It’s a great starting place and easy common-ground thing, but as anyone who’s taken more than two peeks around the Rev can see, when we start talking only mom-and-kid stuff is where a lot of us tend to get lost.

So my biggestfriend  turn on is a woman who can bring herself: who can share something funny, interesting, personal, challenging, quirky, painful, convicting, funny again…. [QUICK NOTE: My husband just came into my office to tell me something, started rubbing my shoulders, and asked what I was working on. Of course, he zeroes in on the first sentence here. He’s VERY interested in this post. Men…..]

I like women who understand that I have more to bring to conversation and the world than my kids. And while it seemed to me—at least for the first probably four years as a mom—that friendships like this were doomed, never to be had again until maybe Shady Pines or on the Lumberjack Tour (Carla and I will have to explain this another time…If we haven’t already), now I actually have a bunch of friendships that have nothing to do with motherhood. So mom and kid stuff actually doesn’t come up.

In fact, one of my newer good friends Tracey and I live in the same town, are the exact same age and have kids very similar ages. But we met and bonded over more worky and churchy stuff so we know very little about each other as moms and even less about our kids. In fact, last week we ran into each other at the spray park—each of us with kids in tow—and it’s sort of an awkward, nearly shocking experience because we don’t know how to relate on that mom-level.

Now, granted, to have the fullest extend of a friendship, it’s probably nice to meld all the areas of our lives, but I’m just sayin’: I like having friends who know more about me as a woman than me as a mom.

Getting to this point isn’t easy, though. For me, it tooks like years of hard prayer and then huge leaps of being the first one to be vulnerable and dive into the big stuff. Doesn’t always work. But it’s sure great when it does.

Carla: I must say, however, that the Revolution is helping me learn how to be friends with other moms. I love the women who are showing up here because you are honest and broken and funny and real and smart and interesting and challenging. So how do we keep finding each other?

I want to know what you lovely ladies (and Steve) do to find and nurture friendships. I know this is a struggle for a lot of us, but when it’s worked, what’s made it work? What are the essentials of a meaningful relationship? What keeps you from moving into a deeper friendship and what encourages you to take a step forward?