Monday, February 20, 2012

On the path of parenthood

I had a friend ask me once if I was enjoying motherhood.  This was in response to blog posts and Facebook status updates of mine that emphasized the difficulties rather than the joys.  I admit that I write more about the challenges than I do the happy moments.  For one reason, I hate schmoop.  It makes my teeth ache.  It is really hard to write about the joys of motherhood and not come off sounding like a greeting card.  Another reason is my flair for the dramatic.  Trials make for better story fodder.  And there is a third reason.....which is that I honestly find the transition to parenthood to be so painfully difficult at times.

I, at times, have complained about Finn's lack of sleep, his extreme attachment, and his sensitive nature.  I may have made it look like my struggle with motherhood was his fault.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Having Finn in our family is probably the greatest gift ever.  He is hilarious and sweet and charming.  He freely doles out hugs and kisses.  He is such a good boy.  Words really fail me in describing how awesome this little person is.  Parenthood on the other hand......

Parenthood is a lesson in self-sacrifice.  Parenthood is about seeing the needs of others and serving them before you take care of your own.  It also appears that this characteristic of selflessness doesn't come automatically with the arrival of your child.  Instead, it is painfully grown with each act and decision.

I find myself remembering the parents of my childhood.  I remember my mother's clothes--faded, worn, and outdated.  I have two pictures of a particular pink nightgown of hers separated by at least ten years.  She did not get new clothes often; the money instead went to modestly outfit us.  My mother also had very little time for any hobbies.  The only thing I remember her doing away from us kids was her early morning walk while we were all sleeping.  It wasn't until I was in high school that she was able to paint and take art classes on a regular basis, not to mention reading books for fun.  It makes me wonder if she ever felt resentful like I sometimes do.    

I hate the question: "What do you like to do?"  I have had a couple of people ask me that question since being a mother.  What can I answer?  I can tell you what I used to enjoy back when I had time to pursue hobbies and interests, but I haven't done any of those for two years.  I find myself longing for the days when I had complete control over what I did during the day, when I could fill up my time with whatever I desired.  I wonder if I would feel less conflicted if I just embraced my current identity: a mother to a young and demanding child.  I just need to accept the fact that no time is my own.

Parenthood is a molding process.  In some respects, it reminds me of this quote by C.S. Lewis:   

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 

Parenthood is a process that restructures your values, priorities, and identity.  It at times feels like someone is banging around and tearing up my insides.  Ultimately, I know I will be a better person, a person who is more compassionate and thoughtful and selfless.  I think some people start parenthood off with a more selfless heart and a more giving nature.  For them, initiation to parenthood is smoother.  I, however, am still stumbling and trying to find my footing.  So understand that when I complain and kick against the pricks, I am just adjusting, albeit slowly, to a new kind of existence.


Jaimee said...

Honestly and eloquently put! I share your thoughts exactly. Not every mother can admit these things. So this is a shout out from one mom in the trenches to another! :)

Grace said...

This is a really beautiful and thoughtful post. Thank you for writing it; I enjoyed it.

However, my experience of parenting has been pretty different. There is a large element of putting yourself last (especially when it comes to sleep and privacy), which is no fun. But I still have a fair amount of free time (4 hours most evenings, for instance). And while it's harder to do things I like during the day, it has still been possible.

I don't think it's a good idea to give up your hobbies and interests. Maybe you can hire a babysitter, maybe you can have your husband do baby duty solo for a little while. My mother was a little bit of the martyr type, and it made me feel sad and guilty and like I was a burden. I don't think it's a good thing to place on any child.

To be honest, I don't agree with the concept of self-sacrifice at all. You give up some things for your children (or other loved ones), yes, but since you get other things in return it's more of a trade than a sacrifice. (The way buying something is not a sacrifice even though you give up money, because you get something back). I wrote a post about this a while ago here:

I don't mean to criticize you for your true and honest feelings (especially because it sounds like your child is more "high maintenance" than mine), just trying to offer another perspective which might help.

Janssen said...

What a great post.

I have a fairly low maintenance child, but I still have to work hard to remember that I am HAPPY to be giving up reading time to play memory for the twentieth time in a week (or day, sometimes).

I like Grace's comment too. I don't want to lose myself completely in motherhood. I want to put my children first in a way that doesn't destroy who I am.

Many interesting things to think about.

Lady Susan said...

Interesting discussion. I could expound on the idea of self-sacrifice, but that would be another post entirely.

And I don't think it is healthy to give up hobbies and interests entirely, but that perhaps there are times and seasons where we are called to put these to the side to concentrate more on our kids.

There are so many factors that come into play here: economics, child's temperament, parental resources, etc.

I was just trying to articulate my current feelings about my current situation.

Kari said...

I also liked the post, and as a non-parent, find the comments interesting. I have no kids thus no basis to weigh in, but I like to hear how all of my friends with kids handle life. So far, no two are alike, which is as expected and is probably good. :)


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