Monday, February 6, 2017

The changing face of Mothercare.

I have always been a vocal advocate of the practice of self-care. Frequently on this blog, in my Facebook feed, and any chance I get in person, I exhort my fellow-moms to set aside time to refresh themselves, so that they can return with full cups to the daily duty of pouring themselves out for their spouses, children and whomever else depends on them for daily needs. I try to model it.  I host Girl's Nights, book clubs, and parties. I swoop down and carry off overly-pregnant girlfriends for dates at the spa. I drop by with care packages for new moms. I block out Friday nights and Sunday afternoons several times a month to go out with J, or spend time window shopping. I learned early in my mothering (thanks to some excellent books and mentors) to grab tightly onto every quick moment to suck in a few deep breaths of relief and freedom whenever opportunity presented itself.

Now I find myself inexorably leaving that fast-paced, relentless, surf-pounding stage of motherhood behind. My youngest is six. He's a rotten sleeper, so I do still have plenty of those nights that leave me a little blurry around the edges the next day, but generally speaking, I'm out of the trenches. So what is this changing face of Mothercare for me now? I no longer have the same need to peel the velcro-fingers off my unshaven legs and dash out the door for a coffee date, real quick, before I suffocate from All The Touching. I actually have the time and luxury to shower, coiff, and make-up before I leave my relatively independent boys in the capable hands of their extremely independent older sister and MOSEY out the door to a coffee date. 

So do I still need self-care? Do I still have an excuse for that coffee date?

I say yes. With a caveat. Coming out of the trenches, I find myself still on the front lines of mothering (not to put too fine a point on a metaphor). I am finding a need to be more deliberate in my choices, more mindful and intentional. I'm out of the sprint and into the marathon. I need to have a little more care to choose my activities and find things that don't just return me to humanity, but actually nurture me as a MENTOR and a MOTHER. I am sensing a need not just for survival, but for growth. I am now at the stage of not just keeping these three future-humans alive and relatively safe without completely losing my sense of self in the process, but actually leading them forward in their faith, knowledge and purpose toward that ever-elusive goal of Mature Adult. It is a sobering task. A burden which requires the daily training of the committed athlete, if I am to carry it well.

In addition, I have a daughter who needs to share some of my moments of leisure. She no longer requires my attention for her basic survival, so I have to reach out deliberately in the quiet moments of my rest and draw her into them with me in order to connect with her on a level deeper than barked commands, or bedtime stories and snuggles. The reality of parenting a young women peels away yet another layer in the self-sacrifice required of a mother. 

I find this difficult. 

I am an excellent manager. I tend to hold my children a little at arms length and organize them into a (mostly) well-functioning machine. The hoop-and-stick routine that works well with young children who require really only love and correction (and food), falls short of the ever-more-and-more complicated emotional needs of an almost-woman. And I occasionally find myself in selfishness grasping tightly hold of the old way of relating-- mother to child, protecting my Self by occasional escape-- and resisting the woman-to-woman, shared-Self relationship that I'm being drawn into. 

So I find myself sometimes compelled to trade in my movie nights and coffee dates with friends for window shopping with my daughter, and planning special weekends for her and her girlfriends. I still do set aside time for myself, but I feel the need to devote some of that time to study, work, and prepare; not just breathe and enjoy. In this next stage of parenting, I find myself with more free time and less of it to spend without consideration. My increasingly independent children require of me the kind of self-sacrifice that I find most difficult-- not just physical, but relational self-sacrifice. And my self-care is becoming more deliberate, more intentional... perhaps less fun...

But in the long run, I trust, deeper and more rewarding.












Tuesday, January 3, 2017

#wordoftheyear

I have always loved, but never before participated in the tradition of choosing a Word for the Year as part of a New Year's resolution. It seems a fitting addition to the mental list of goals I make every year-- something to ground, or shape my plans for my year. Something to remind me of what I aspire to, or have learned in the past year and wish to apply to my coming year. So this year, I decided to participate.

After a lovely discussion on Facebook, much consideration and a serendipitous devotional reading last night, I've chosen. My word for 2017 is 

Steadfast.

Lamentations 3:22-24

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

These words come in the midst of a chapter describing great turmoil and trial, the like of which I've never experienced, and the attitude described here is one I covet for myself--turning heavenward in the midst of difficult circumstances and remembering and praising the faithfulness of God.

I choose this word first of all because I want to be reminded of this aspect of the character of God as I walk through my year. He is an inexhaustible fountain of mercy, provision, and loving care. I want to remember daily in 2017 the expression of His steadfastness throughout my life. I want to meditate on my Ebeneezers-- those piles of stones in my life marking out His particular attentions.

I also choose it because it is a character trait that I want to assimilate. Steadfastness. Faithfulness. This is the first concept I pondered that seemed relevant to every part of my life-- personal, mothering, wife-ing (is that a word?), homeschooling, business. 

"A long obedience in the same direction."


stead·fast
ˈstedˌfast/
adjective
  1. resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.

    "steadfast loyalty"


My husband beautifully exemplifies this trait. It is something I have noticed and admired in him since we first met in high school. His steady, thoughtful way of approaching life has provided our family with security and peace in the midst of some pretty intense moments over the years and I want to emulate that part of his character. His loyalty, too, is something that has protected our marriage relationship and served him well in his professional life. Those who have counted him among their friends know that he is a rare friend indeed. I want to be like that.

The serendipitous devotional reading was from "Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work" -- a book that I highly recommend any time I get a chance to recommend a book. Another of Kathleen Norris' books, "Acedia and Me" was a life-changing read for me in 2011, after Jamie was born and I was stranded in a new city with a newborn and two other small children, missing my friends and feeling as though I had forgotten who I was outside of Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. I highly recommend that one, too. It was Norris who sent me to that passage in Lamentations and she goes on to speak of the application of steadfastness in our daily tasks:


Laundry, liturgy and women's work all serve to ground us in the world and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings, But they have a considerable spiritual import, and their significance for Christian theology, the way they come together in the fabric of faith, is not often appreciated. But it is daily tasks, daily acts of love and worship that serve to remind us that religion is not strictly an intellectual pursuit, and these days it is easy to lose sight of that as, like our society itself, churches are becoming more politicized and polarized. Christian faith is a way of life, not an impregnable fortress made up of ideas; not a philosophy, not a grocery list of beliefs. (emphasis mine)

I want my daily tasks to be acts of love and worship; work, teaching, mothering, wife-ing (I'm just going with it-- it's probably a word), being who I am in Christ-- everything I do...


 ...in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17


Here's to a New Year in the Faith!