Friday, January 20, 2012
feeling like an outlier
I have debated about whether or not it is necessary for me to add my (published-on-my-blog) voice to this topic, and after thinking about it all day today, I've decided to write about it. Mostly because I sort of feel like I'm on an island when it comes to this topic and I'm wondering why I feel so differently than most of my friends (at least the ones who've spoken up) about something that we're all so invested in. I'm wondering if by adding a different perspective I'll find that some of you actually do feel the same way that I do and I'll feel a little less weird about not being sure why I feel differently. So here we go.
The topic I'm referring to is the Huffington Post article written by Glennon Melton called Don't Carpe Diem (click on title to link to the article-- and if you haven't read it yet you'll probably want to before you read my post so you'll understand what I'm talking about). I don't often read links that people post on Facebook, but after about a dozen (literally) of my friends linking to it with such (SUCH) high praise for it, I clicked over.
I immediately knew I didn't love it the way everyone else did. I immediately started questioning myself and wondering why the author's sentiments did not resonate with me the way that they did with some of my dearest friends.
(A quick disclaimer: can we agree on the fact that either side (resonating with it or not resonating with it) is perfectly acceptable? I understand and respect that everyone who posted about it felt validated and uplifted by Melton's words, and I hope they would understand and respect that all this is is me feeling differently, not me feeling like what I feel is a superior. Let's all still be friends, K?)
As I've thought about it today, there are about 4 things that I keep coming back to that help me understand why I (and maybe some of you?) might not relate to the opinions in the article.
The first thing (and the most insignificant to me), is that I actually really appreciate and value it when someone tells me to enjoy the time I have with my children. I never hear the message "ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU'LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN'T!" TRUST US!! IT'LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!" I simply hear someone who has been in my spot before saying, "Hey look, I know there can be rough patches, but as a whole, these years of your life as a mother to young children are such a little blip of time and then they are over and you'll look back on them with such fondness and happiness and gratitude that YOU got to be the mother, that it was YOU that had the opportunity to spend your days in such a meaningful way." I hear someone who maybe feels a little nostalgic for the days of her past when she was the one with the screaming kids in the cart. Really. And I don't think she's trying to tell me that I can't feel frustrated and overwhelmed and frazzled at those screaming cart moments, just that all of it, the exhausting and invigorating, the frustrating and the glorious, will add up to the sum of our days as Mother and once we are on the other side of them, they'll seem to have gone too fast. I just hear someone else who is in this sorority of motherhood reminding me that it truly is the most beautiful blessing. And I'm always grateful for the reminder.
Another reason I've thought of that perhaps explains why I don't relate to the article as a whole is because of my own childhood and mother. Again, I don't want this to sound like people who don't mother/feel the way my mom and I do are inferior or don't love their kids as much or something (ridiculous!). I am simply stating that the way my mom mothered has influenced the way I mother. And so the fact that I knew so 100% clearly that her children were her delight and joy, that she wanted us with her constantly, that I never EVER heard one word of complaint about taking care of us, that she almost never took vacations without us because she would just rather have us with her, those things all have influenced me. I also had the sort of rare experience of watching, as a teenager, my mother be a mama to new babies. I watched her drive my carpool to school the day after she had come home from the hospital with my new baby sister, and now I look back on that and wonder why she didn't seem exhausted or overwhelmed-- she had a 3 day old baby to care for now in addition to the 4 of us, and she just took it all in stride like she was made for it. (She was.) After watching her find such incredible joy in the days of her motherhood it is not hard for me to understand why I love it so much too.
On that same note, I have been taking care of babies for a long time. Like, really taking care of them. When I was 9, my baby sister and I shared a room as soon as she was old enough (probably 3-4 months) to move out of the bassinet in my parents' room. From then on out, my mom never had to wake up in the night with her because I did it. If she woke up crying, I'd pick her up and bring her to bed with me. If she needed to nurse, I'd bring her to my mom and then she'd end up back in bed with me after my mom had returned her to her crib. She was my baby. I've wondered if the early (and constant) exposure to taking care of babies that I loved (I had two more baby sisters after that first one) helped me to be equipped to take many of the challenges of motherhood more in stride-- I had been blessed with 3 dress rehearsals before I had the real thing :).
So, those reasons above are things I've thought about, but they aren't actually what I think are the main reasons that the article didn't resonate with me. These final two things seem more significant to me.
I am not that hard on myself. I don't need someone telling me that it's okay to not feel guilty for not enjoying every moment, because I don't feel guilty if I don't enjoy a moment. I have never thought that I am supposed to be reveling in all of the tough moments as a mother-- I know they are going to be there, and I know I am going to get through them (hopefully with some amount of grace), and when they are over, I'll be glad we got through them and move on. It never occurred to me to feel "guilty and panicky" (the author's words) for not loving moments that aren't really intended to be loved. Does that make sense? I still love motherhood, and feel like I am truly soaking in these fleeting days with my children, but if I am feeling overwhelmed and frustrated in a moment where my child is pushing boundaries, I am fine with that. That is an okay time to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I don't feel any guilt for not enjoying that specific moment. I just am not that hard on myself. Sometimes I actually feel like I am a little too easy on myself. Which leads me to my last thought...
I much prefer (and need) people to expect things from me than for people to tell me that I am fine just the way I am. I need people to hold me to a higher standard, and I think it is because of what I said above, that I am not that hard on myself. This was first evident to me in a church setting. I have never been able to relate to the talks or lessons (usually specific to women) about how we need to be gentler with ourselves or stop expecting so much of ourselves. I have come to realize and appreciate that there are many women who value those sentiments because they are genuinely quite hard on themselves, and need that reminder. I feel like I need the opposite though, and end up feeling patronized by the "be patient with yourself, you are good enough" lessons. I want (and need) talks about how much better I could be doing, about how great and valuable my contribution could be if I'd just put forth a better effort. So when I read in the article about how trying to enjoy every moment "just doesn't work" for the author, I felt that same feeling of someone telling me that I am fine just the way I am, that I shouldn't worry about trying to be better. I know that wasn't the author's point (and again, I feel like her point is valid and I'm happy that it resonates with so many), but that is what I felt from it.
I also felt conflicted by the idea of segmenting time into Chronos of Kairos because I feel like I should be making a valiant effort every day of turning Chronos into Kairos, of seeing and feeling the beauty in the small bits of our lives. Obviously I'm not talking about turning the moment where your 4 year old chops up your curtains with scissors into Kairos (though actually you totally could if you wanted :)), because that is an okay time to feel frustrated and angry and to not feel guilty about it (am I repeating myself enough here?). But mostly, I WANT to live in Kairos, and I WANT people to want that for me, not to tell me that it isn't possible or worth trying for. I think it is.
Do any of these thoughts ring true for any of you? I'd also love to hear thoughts from those of you who loved the article. Do I seem totally off base? What was is specifically about the article that you loved? I hope I haven't muddled my words too much or made anyone feel judged or inferior. That was not my intention at all. Just wanted to express my thoughts and opinion. We can still love each other, I hope :).