Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Art of Mothering

I found out I have some new readers recently, so I apologize for the boring posts lately :)


Much of my recent thinking has been swirling around the great task of mothering.

I'm listening to a book called "The Seven Stages of Motherhood." Should polish off disks 7,8 and 9 today. I feel like I did a mental journey through pregnancy, postpartum, first-time todlerdom, preschool and kindergarten so far...no wonder I was so tired last night.

I'm ruminating on conversations at church touching on how we all feel insecure as moms... and such an interesting spectrum of women at our church right now...from the mother of newborn twins to the established mother of five...to the mother of grown children...there are so many questions to ask and so much experience to share. They had to throw us out of the lobby on Sunday as the conversations were just rolling along... How could we better facilitate the Biblical concept of the older women teaching the younger women?

I filled out the application for information regarding foster/adoption in Arkansas. Within two days, I had the info for monthly orientation meetings and a phone call from the "resource person." I took hasty notes on an envelope and found that many babies come into care in this area because of Garrett's law...which states that babies who test positive for drugs at birth must be removed to foster homes. So I have been doing some cursory reading regarding meth babies in particular.

For those of you who are gasping at the fact that we are thinking about this again, take a moment to catch your breath....apparently the prospect of things "settling down" naturally leads to this path for us. I feel a little guilty about the fact that I didn't love being pregnant, and adding to our family that way again is not appealing at all. We are both not sure that we are "done" however, so we're just thinking about it right now. It would require a lot....like a new car and a little more financial security than we have had in the last year or so....but we've never been ones to worry too much about having it all before loving a kid. And, it is such a long process, that it takes some timing skills to know when to jump onto the train. Donna has said often it takes a year to think about it...but I wonder how long it takes the second time?

I'm not that mom, by the way, that is SO into kids that she just wants 14 of them. I'm not really very much fun as mom, really. I like my kids, but I'm not all that great at it, compared to others. In fact, I have recently come to the conclusion that I am a great wife...really, I can say with confidence that I have put a lot into our relationship and feel really confident of the strength of our bond....but as a mom, I have no such confidence. I have a few vague theories that I am working out, but I reject a lot of the current fashion regarding mothering. I marvel at some of my blog friends and how they do such creative and fun things with their kids...how they hang out with their kids...I'm not that girl. I love my work and I love being busy. My kids know that even though mommy is here, when she is working, she is busy...so don't be bugging her with stupid interuptions (ie.."MOM! can I watch tv? She keeps bothering me! I'm bored." etc. etc.). It sounds harsh, I know, but I tell my kids often, "My job is not to entertain you." And I really believe that it isn't. I'm here for them to answer their questions, to keep them safe, to feed them, to hug them, to laugh with them, to remind them of their responsibilities, but if they want a tea party, they'll have to schedule it for the times I'm not working.

I guess the truth of the matter is that I have never allowed the kids to be the total center of my attention. I get the impression that that is different from other moms. I hold this view partly out of fear (of putting my whole self into the kids and then being bereft when they move out) and partly out of thinking it is right. I retain a certain detachment from my children. I respect them as individuals completely separate from who I am. I've always felt that way too...from the time that Mattie was a tiny baby and I could tell that she hated wearing socks or that she didn't need or want to be held too much. I just figured..."Hey, that's who she is." It took me longer to figure out Vinny..his need for ritual and things he could count on to help him feel secure and more confident of what he can handle. He is very like me in many ways, but he likes to be with someone/anyone much more than Mattie or I do (like his dad?). And Charleigh...well, she is a constant wonder to me since she is made out of completely other stuff.

And maybe I am detached because I am not confident. I've always avoided things that I couldn't be the best at. If I'm not certain I can be THE best mom, I'm probably avoiding trying to be the best mom I can be.

I am just as concerned with how the job of mothering (or housework or church or art or clothing or memory-keeping) was done in the past as I am with how it is now and how it will be in the future. I'm actually more concerned about the past. "Vintage" is not just the name of my church...it is a philosphy for me. I think there are some real positives to the way things were done in the past, and not everything new is better.

Okay, I just wrote those last few paragraphs with a lot of bravado and a certain amount of...'Okay, I said it...now jump all over me and tell me how awful I suspect I must be."

So how do I square all that "hands off" mothering style with considering another child? I think it fits well, actually. My goal in mothering is to raise kids who are self-reliant and confident of their ability to make good choices, able to take care of themselves and others, and responsible with their resources. My goal isn't to make childhood the best time of their life, otherwise, why would they want to leave it? I believe that what makes childhood magical and good is the safety and security of being protected from adult worries and realities until they have practiced the skills and coping mechanisms to face them...NOT the paving of life from the time they are small, so that the bumps are minimized as much as is humanly or economically possible. So, ultimatley, I think it's good for my kids to welcome another needy kid to our family if we can.

To me it is all about resources and goals. You are given a certain amount of life to spend. What are you gonna do with it? I'm still really working on evalutating this. I'm at a point in my life where I am asking the question, do I spend more on myself or do I just admit that I've given making my mark in life a good run and my resources are now going to focus on "what I can do for my kids?" This past year has been focussed soley on survival...as a Christ-follower, a couple, a family, a church. We are moving on now. Now it is a question of now what? How do I contribute to making this church work? How do I express my own creativity and "accomplish God's purpose for me in my generation"? How do I care for my children in the best way possible to help them love God and follow Him? Do I move my kids to center-stage now... or ever? It's a lot to think about. I'll need more time to think it through...and more voices of experience to listen to.

The circles of my influence (wife, child of God, mother, etc.) are crying for some kind of mental re-organization. Most of all, I'd like to be delivered from the contant feeling of guilt..."I should have done more, I should do it differently...I shouldn't have done it that way...." etc. etc. I know it is a common feeling, but I can't imagine that God wants us moms to live in the constant shadow of guilt. Or maybe, it's just part of the curse...part of our pain being greatly multiplied in childbirth...

yeah, feel free to jump in on this before my head explodes.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

First of all I think that the things that you are trying to teach your kids makes you a great mother.

You may not "hang out" with your kids persay but when they need your attention you give it to them.

You are enthusiastic about the things that make them excited. You actually care when their feelings get hurt and help them to find a way to deal with it.

Yet it still remains that we are all not perfect so whether we want to or not we will at times screw up. And your children will commit to raise their children without those mistakes but they will also make mistakes of their own.

Maybe that is where grace comes in, there is an extent when we do what we can do in our limited capacity and then we leave the rest up to God.

My dad and my mother both majorily screwed up in raising a family..but look at what grace did to me.

I think that you are a great mother, and a terrific wife; and i have learned much about the type of woman that i want to be by watching you.

Lastly,

I think it is great that you guys are thinking about having another child. There are plenty of children who need good loving homes.

Anonymous said...

Let me be first to chime in.

I love you. I think you are amazing. I am constantly in awe of you, amused by you, annoyed with you, amazed by you.

Someday (if not already), our kids - all 14? of them - will join me in rising up and saying that we have been blessed that our lives have been intertwined with yours.

Anonymous said...

Dang - Sara beat me by mere moments.

Anonymous said...

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

ness said...

: )

sara...I give them my attention....or at least like half of it ; )

bobb...you are a sweet man.

the two of you...don't you work during the day or something?

True confessions...I prefer a world where I am perfect and grace is not necessary...

ness said...

A...you read all that?

and two...what's your problem?

Anonymous said...

Vanessa, it is called "i get a lunch break" most of the time..at least today i did..lol

Anonymous said...

Yes, I read all that.

And 2, I just like using "I just threw up a little in my mouth." It seemed appropriate.

In all seriousness, and Robb can attest that I told him this to his face a couple months ago, the thing I think I admire the most about the two of you is how you are with your kids, at least the first two anyway, Charliegh is in a league of her own. I often marvel at how both you and Robb are with them, saying things or doing things that would never even occur to me, at just the right time in response to a statement or action that they make. And they really are two very good and well adjusted kids. It is very impressive.

Anonymous said...

Well said A !

Anonymous said...

Well said A !

ness said...

that's nice of you to say. I feel a lot of responsibility to be a good advertisement for having kids. : )

Ah yes, Charleigh...she who thanked you for holding her hand on Sunday morning : )

courtney said...

man, i'm sorry i missed all of this yesterday! Ness, you ARE a great mom. I think you get caught up in comparison too much even now. I watch what you do with kids all the time to help me figure things out with Dora. She's kind of a funny combo of all three of your crew so I get to pick and choose :)
So, high-five, sista'-friend!
Secondly, I say more babies!! Partly because we are soooo totally ready for baby #2 over here that we get excited when otherpeople discuss the option for themselves---is that wetrd? Ron's actually getting antsy for the next one!! THAT blows my mind!
Lastly, A,just get on with it already!!

Anonymous said...

How could we better facilitate the Biblical concept of the older women teaching the younger women?

great question.....one I am contemplating. I had a younger girl in my church ask me to mentor her. How scary is that? I feel I have no great words, no amazing advice. I feel I am still on the journey myself, often confused and frustrated. Sure, I have three kids, the youngest being 17. Ought to speak for something, huh? But I was a mom with much the same philosophy as you....I too felt inadequate at times when I saw all the cool things my friends did with their kids, what super moms they were.
BTW - don't worry about this: I hold this view partly out of fear (of putting my whole self into the kids and then being bereft when they move out) They won't move out..... Mine are still here, and it's not that I was such a wonderful invested mom. It's that it's cheaper for them to live here.... LOL
Where did I start this response, oh, yeah, younger and older women. Still working on it. Still trying to find my place as an older woman. Trying to realize that I may have something to say, something to share, something to give even tho I feel like a novice in so many ways.
I realize that didn't answer your question. Guess I was just thinking out loud....

Anonymous said...

BTW - I think it's cool that you are considering another child. Blessings!

courtney said...

gerbmom, you sound like our mom when she says she's just trying to listen and be supportive as if that wasn't a great thing to do! We younger moms sometimes just need to know that it's perfectly normal to not always know what we are doing....and we want to know that after all the sacrifices, that joy is still there, watching your children reach higher. So, while you might not think you are saying or doing anything of value, you are. Keep us posted on what you come up with too

ness said...

Yeah, so much of the women thing is what A calls the "ritual of lament." We need to say it, put it out for the larger group and know that it is within the bounds of normal. (I could change the name of my blog to ROL actually : ) Having an older woman say, "been there, done that, cried over it and got the t-shirt" is super helpful. It helps to know it is part of the journey (that will at some point be over) and not some weird side-street that is NOT where we want to go.

Now, okay...let's try to establish something...what is a BAD MOM? Cause I gotta be honest, I give most moms a pass no matter what they do...I even give Charleigh's birthmom credit for doing what she could. Pretty much short of eating their young, they all get some credit for something, don't they?

I just want to do the best I can with what I've got. In the book "good to great" the author says that the enemy of great is "good enough." Based on what my parents and God have done for me, I feel a need/desire to not be just good, but great. I'm not sure everyone has this compulsion, but I sure do.

Anonymous said...

Ness.....how many times have Dad and I said that we admire how you deal with your kids....and the proof is in the puddin.....part of our philosophy was to raise kids so that they you would be lovable....that meaning......you weren't so obnoxious that nobody wanted to be around you.....How many times have I had someone trying to paun of their kids because they couldn't stand to be around them.....my response has always been....if you don't like them, why would I? It's not written in stone, there are some exceptions, and everyone has a story, but the main issue is..do you respect your little wonders in the manner that they need to be respected....they have feelings....they have bad days... their lives are not perfect.... just like yours....you have to know where their emotional temperatures are all the time.... you do not have to roll over and play dead, if they ask, but you have to help them interpret themselves in this big old world of which they are not the center, and go from there...you know all this stuff...I know you do.....I am frustrated that what I see going on regularly is that you poor young mothers are so insecure about your mothering because there are so many "experts" and are dogmatic that their way is right.....here's the deal....no one is right...no on is wrong....stay in the home...work out of the home....play with your kids....don't play with your kids.....as long as you can communicate to your kids that you are really doing the best you can for them at your particular time....you really can't do anymore than that.....even if you aren't doing the best you can...there's a part of you that wants to, but just can't.....you respect them...they will respect you......the end results are that you are going to goof up and not because you wanted to.....you just didn't have enough wisdom to put it all together where it needed to be put together....I pray wisdom and incite for all of my children everyday.....what you get is what God wanted you to have....it should take a load off.....I'm saying also that woman need to support one another in this particular aspect of life.... We had a program at church where people would offer to mentor other people......I ask for a young mother.....I did not receive one response.....I felt bad....I think it was because they were scared that you have to lay awake at night and pray until you have knee marks in floor beside your bed.....prayer helps alot, but the process of raising children should not be so scary, and no one should have to be insecure......there are bad mothers, it has to be said, but I don't think that they are bad because they want to be.......You, my dear, are a wonderful Mom....Courtney, you are too.....just talk to your little wonders and when you get done talking, talk some more....

Mom said...

What got left out of my post was....when you get done talking.....your kids will talk back, and it will be fun to listen to what they have to say....I do it and hear i
t all time...Mom

ouxrna.....Mother savy

Mom said...

Okay...I have to get away from this computer.....but I am pretty sure that a good mom is defined as one who does not eat her young

ness said...

Thanks Mommy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, lots of good stuff to read. I could add so much because like many moms, this is something I think about alot.

I have worked with so many kids who are really messed up. The thing I see that the parents have done wrong really boils down to one thing: selfishness. When I look at my parenting and see things that I have done wrong it is the same thing. I think a bad parent is one who does whatever he/she wants and not what their kids or anyone around them really needs. And I'm talking about genuine needs. If I yell at my kids its because I'm too lazy to get up and do what really needs to be done. That's just one example of thousands.

There are so many parents out there who are living for themselves and that is what is messing up their kids. So you are right. Charlie's mom was in incredible mom because she did the hardest thing any mother could do for her kid.

courtney said...

totally agree with Heidi about the "bad mom" thing...selfishness is the problem. So, I think we've defind bad mothers for you Ness. Don't be selfish or eat your young; although I think I'd like to take one from a headline today...don't put your baby in the hot oven and leave the apartment.
Thanks Mom for loving us the way you did. I think I'm truely blessed by being surrounded by so many good/great moms who really try hard to do it right....my mom, my big sis, my mother-in-law, my next door neighbor, et al. It really does help to hear their stories so you don't think you're maybe just crazy.

ness said...

oh no! so also...maybe doing drugs makes you a pretty bad mom...

wow...selfishness...that's a pretty good definition. Good job, Heidi. Interesting to square that with all the "put yourself first" stuff we see everywhere. There is an element where you do have to do "engine maintenance" to keep yourself in good working order, but I do think a lot of moms take that as permission to be immature.

At the library today...wow...I forget how great the outside world is....

Amber said...

Wow... look at all the posts! I guess there was a lot to say in response to you, ness. Not only are there new mothers, and seasoned mothers, but there are those of us who desire to be mothers. I've always known that I would be a mother one day... it's part of who I am. But I'm not there yet. But can I be included in the "need to learn from the older women" group?! Please, huh, can I, can I, pleeeeeze? There's so much to learn, and I totally know that most of that will begin after a child's arrival. However, I think the older women can still teach those of us that still have that little sparkle of hope for a child yet conceived.

Courtney said...

Amber's in, for sure. There's another sub-group, you know. The mom's who want to add to their family with that second child but for different reasons can't right now--how rude is it to be approached by total strangers who feel comfortable telling you how having only one child is so wrong. I must apologize for this post but I just got back from the grocery store, and, after an hour of trying to keep Dora in the cart, deal with phone calls from work and just get the stuff on the list to stay within budget--I managed to get into the car BEFORE bursting into tears. I may have encountered 20 or 30 people in the crowded store and one person showed me enough compassion to treat me as a person. One. I got ignored by cashiers, treated curtly by clerks, and one "gentleman" was kind enough to say "Move it, Mom. I need through."
So, Moms Unite! Let's at least extend a little grace to each other as professional courtesy, please. My situation isn't yours. Your kids aren't mine. Just assume you don't know the situation and have compassion.

ness said...

Oh my! Amber... I remember when I was at that point. My aunt and my cousin and I prayed together one night...my aunt and cousin had just lost babies through miscarriage and I had been trying unsuccessfully for nine months. I got pregnant that night. : ) Want me to have her say a little prayer? She's good. My cousin and I both have full quivers : )

Sis...hang in there honey. I'm sorry those mean northerners were bad to you. Soon, you'll come "home" to the south again with a big round belly and a bank full of cash. It'll be great.

courtney said...

Ah! the South will rise again! You're very right. I really hope you guys go for another baby and I'm anxiously awaiting another one for us. I've loved raising our little girls together, which I never thought we would get to do. I'm so very thankful for you, you have no idea.

klasieprof said...

Well All of us read blogs,...and it seems as tho there may be a need here..so what if WE started a mom support blog?
One more blog to read...we don't care do we?

I have a lot to say on Parenting...but just haven't had time to write.

I will..but..WHO thinks we could do a MOM bloggy thing?

Donna
Foster PARENT REcruiter (we have enough foster KIDS)

courtney said...

Donna may be on to something...and could be a mentoring-from-a-distance tool

klasieprof said...

HOw bout If I set something up..I"ve done several other groups..they are different than "Blogs" as you can go back easily and jump into older conversations, and there is a place we can 'CHAT" at pre determined times, have Open chat , have directed chat etc....

Yeah?
goslak: what your seat belt does after you slam on the brakes.
Donna

klasieprof said...

OK, Our New "support" Group for mom's (dads ok too)
EMERGENT MOMS (we can change the name if you want)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/emergentmoms/

I have posted some pictures, a couple messages to get us started.
It is "Open" right now for membership..if we want too later, we can have 'invitation only" etc.
..OK!!

HI Ladies,
This group is the result of a need of moms, that need "the older to
assist the younger".
In our case, This group must me a SAFE HAVEN for ideas, discussions,
requests, funny kid stories, and sharing our dreams/desires for our
children-born or unborn.

We are open to all moms, Biological, Foster, Future moms, "retired
Moms- HA HA", Christian, Emergent Thinkers, traditional, yes, Even
Baptist moms!!

Please remember this is to be a SUPPORTIVE environment...if you can't
keep it NICE...just say "read your post" or something like that.

Here's to US-Raising the Future!!!

klasieprof

Donna

klasieprof said...

There are also some links, feel free to add yours.

Amber said...

What a cool idea! I'm in!

Ness... prayers are always welcome. But we just got comfy with the idea of planning for a child. So don't expect any effective outcomes just yet...

;)

stephanie garcia said...

Wow ... very thought-provoking post. I enjoyed it and will have to ponder it for awhile! (:

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