Monday, July 7, 2008

Finding My Way

Thanks to all of you who left kind and wise comments on my post about mothering woes. It is definitely good to be reminded of the big picture. I know my children have a loving mother and father, which is a lot more than a lot of children. And I also know that if I can teach them to love God and love their neighbor then I am getting the essentials. I needed those reminders and am thankful for other people who can bring them to me.

But I do think I am in a place where God is trying to teach me something, to humble me a bit, and to bring me into a better sense of calling. You see, I don't really feel like I have grasped my calling as a mother. Sure I love my kids, feed them, dress them, get up with them at night, and occasionally even do fun things with them, but I don't see myself as a mother. I know that most moms have a desire to be involved in activities and work and relationships outside of mothering, and I think that desire is a healthy one. But my problem seems to go beyond that. I'm not sure that I can describe it well except by contrast to other mothers I know.

Many mothers I know seem to have a real sense that their priority right now is their children. Beyond just meeting their physical needs, they take time to reflect on how to parent their children well. They sincerely desire what is best for each child, worrying in a good way whether or not they are meeting each child's needs. They have an intuition about how each child will respond to a given situation, and they work to accommodate that. Of course, there is a fine line between letting the child dictate one's life and working to accommodate a child's needs, but these moms seem to have found a balance. In other words, they see themselves as the person to whom their children look for guidance and comfort and security, and they are willing to do what it takes to maintain that trust. Though mothering may no always be joyful, they find joy in seeing themselves as mothers and in doing their best to fulfill their calling. I sense this when I hear them talking about their children, and I wonder how I am missing it.

I think this is what I mean when I say I am missing a parenting gene. Or maybe I am just late getting on the boat. I know I am a mother, but I have not accepted my calling to motherhood to its fullest. I have good moments, but I have not made this role, these relationships, this calling a part of my identity in a way that allows me to truly parent selflessly and with a sense of God's leading. I don't commit time to considering my children's needs or my parenting strategies. My husband and I don't often have conversations about how we parent. We just sort of go through life hoping we don't screw our kids up too badly.

I'm not saying that all of this reflection is necessary for good parenting. People in different circumstances around the world certainly don't have the luxury to worry about their parenting styles when they just worry about having enough food. And parenting young children definitely leaves less time for reflection than I will have once they get older. But I do think God is calling me to really consider the implications of this privilege of motherhood that I have been given and to start getting serious about it in a way that I haven't before. I think it has to start in prayer, for me and for my kids, and in an ordering of my house around love of God and neighbor. I'm going to pick this book up again, since I started it months ago and never got very far.

Thanks again, for listening to this rambling topic. I think it is more for my own reflection, but if it can encourage someone else or bring encouragement to me through my readers, then I am glad.


wheelsonthebus said...

Honey, most of us just get by the best we can and hope not to screw up the kids too badly. Some people just put on a better front than others...

Missy said...

I think I really do get what you are saying. There is a way in which. . . we know when we are not delving to our deepest level when we are doing something. . . when we have somehow not internalized what we are doing. When our action in a relationship comes out of the truest part of who we are, and when it does not.

I think I get that. And what is ironic is that our outward actions might not change all that much, but it makes a huge difference when they come from a place of reflection and authenticity.

Thanks for sharing.

SF Mom of One said...

Sometimes, I think I have the internal part right-- the identity and the reflection on mothering. But my execution is---um, often flawed. Interesting inverse of what you are describing, and you helped me see it. I just started doing centering prayer--no direct connection, but prayer does seem a generally useful path, of course. (I know, that is my Unitarian language coming out--"generally useful".)

Wishing you a wonderful next stage of the journey.

TwoSquareMeals said...

Missy, you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for summarizing my random thoughts so succinctly. It's not so much about what we are doing, but the place out of which we are doing it. That doesn't mean I am any better at this mothering thing, just that I am more settled into my calling as a mother, that I am doing it because it is a part of me and not just because there are little people demanding it of me.

Tipper said...

Sounds like you know what you need to do-so that is a start! I "get" what Missy said too.

Catherine said...

Thanks for continuing to share this with us. I'm glad that God is showing you what you need to learn right now.

I also agree that there is a huge sense in which the grass frequently looks greener with other mom's than it actually is. Because, I have once or twice said to myself "I should be more TwoSquareMeals is with her boys." So...perhaps all of us moms are in the same boat, and don't realize there are as many people in the boat with us as there are.

Grace and Peace, 2Square.

Farrah said...

I think parenting 2-5year olds MUST be one of the hardest tasks ever! I am on the front of the journey and you are a little farther down the road. But they are both the most amazing and the most frustrating little people possible. You are an amazing mom to all your kids!!! We all have areas of motherhood that spark questions of who we are and are we doing this whole thing well. I just hope that God has a plan for our weaknesses as some sort of major learning tool for our kids. It only seems fair.
Love you much!!

Melissa said...

Most of us out there are making this up as we go along. And we all have times when we think just like you. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they are either lying or an honest to God Stepford wife.

Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

I am impressed that you are asking these questions and making an effort to actively define these things. Great idea. As a mother of 4 now pretty-much-grown kids, I don't think we ever consciously did that. But in retrospect, I can see we did have these ideas, just never verbalized. It would have helped to do so, and I applaud you.
Here's my advice:
1. Find one or two mothers you really admire (and admire how their kids turned out!) and pick their brains. They will be flattered. Come to them regularly with specific questions, people are afraid to give parenting advice unasked.
2. Find one or two childrearing authors that make lots of sense to BOTH of you and read, discuss, and amend to suit your needs. Together is very important. United we stand, divided we yell and get exhausted.

I could tell you our philosophy and author if you are interested.

Keep in mind that each mother has her strengths and weaknesses and no one has it all perfect. Ask God and your kids to forgive you for yelling, resolve to do better, and know that God smiles on you each time you humbly ask for help.

Rachel said...

hey there, you are such a great mama, twosquare. not b/c you do great things for and with your boys... even though you do. but b/c you do indeed want to parent out of those deeper places, as missy so eloquently put. i cheer you on in that place of reflection. may we all go there and stay there for more time than we would want... even when it feels messy, ya know?! love ya and respect you.