Here’s my typical Friday night experience as a single parent having just dropped off my kids with their dad for the weekend:
“No kids! I can do anything! I should call a friend and go out for drinks!”
“Eh, I can’t really afford it and it’s last minute. No one will be available. I should just go home.”
“I don’t want to go home to my empty house. I’ll go out by myself! I’ll go somewhere fun and new that I get to pick!”
“I’m lonely. I don’t want to go out by myself, I’ll just go home.”
“I’ll take a book with me so going out by myself seems intentional! Maybe a handsome, bookish gentleman will ask what I’m reading!”
“I’m not technically free to date, nor am I secure enough in myself yet to think anyone would be interested in me, I’ll just go home.” Continue reading →
Photo by Jennifer Balaska via Wikimedia Commons
My dear friend Kristen, mother of three boys ages four and younger, recently posted the list below on Facebook. I loved it so much, and she graciously gave me permission to reproduce it here. Here’s why I love it. First of all, it made me laugh. I identified with every single one of her penances. I love that there can be as many different parenting philosophies as there are parents in the world, but there are also so many things that all mothers share and understand. I also love this list because it is so encouraging. It’s so easy at the end of a long day at home with kids to look around at your toy-cluttered house, laundry piles, and spaghetti-crusted dishes and wonder what in the world you have to show for your day. This list is a reminder of all we mamas lay down for the sake of our babies and families. Continue reading →
I had the privilege to be a guest blogger for a good friend: author, pastor and father, Adam Feldman. You can find my post about how motherhood has impacted my faith here, and while you’re at it, look around and enjoy his writing!
I met Adam and his wife Kim several years ago, when their church was meeting in the living room of someone’s house, none of us had kids yet, and we had a lot more free time to spend at coffee shops, reading and writing and talking. It’s amazing to see where we are now – Metanoia has grown by leaps and bounds, we’ve all had a bunch of kids, jobs and life changes, we see each other much less, but our hearts are still close.
I love when that happens.
“Thus far the mighty mystery of motherhood is this: How is it that doing it all feels like nothing is ever getting done?”
This is what goes through my mind as I finally lay myself down in bed tonight. I yelled at my kids, there are dishes in the sink, and I’m just pretending not to see the pile of laundry in the corner of my room.
But…I got one-on-one story time with my littlest, talked with my 5 year old about when our unborn baby got its soul, and painted my daughter’s fingernails.
And that counts.
Sometimes you have to admit when you’re beat.
31 day blogging challenge? I’m beat. I’ve always been someone with plenty of intention. All kinds of intention. I just have a hard time on the follow-through. I was determined to write 31 posts on one topic, even if they weren’t published consecutively, but I realized that at least in this instance, my blind will to finish my commitment was keeping me from moving forward – I got stuck on 31 days, and let all kinds of other writing ideas and inspirations disappear into the creative ether.
There is something to be said for keeping a commitment for commitment’s sake. In fact, it’s something I want to practice much more. But not now, not today. Today I’m moving on.
Today I’m thinking about new things. About a new year, a new day, a new life. A new baby growing in my belly. An unexpected gift. Though logically I should be anxious, this new little one was so unplanned that I can’t do anything but accept. I smile to myself to think about this little secret seed I carry, safe and warm and hidden, in one of the coldest, dreariest months of the year.
I’m beat. I’m tired. But I’m hopeful and expectant. Things are changing as they always do. I’m letting them change, letting them pull me, lift me, take me somewhere new.
This morning, I found myself in my fleece-sheeted bed with my three year old under one arm, my two year old against my back, and the cat purring on top of me. When my first son was born, we hardly ever let him sleep in bed with us, worried that we would never break him of it. Now I sadly imagine the near future, when babies will have disappeared into the bodies of taller, more independent children. My husband always loved falling asleep with the babies. He still reaches for the smallest after a hard day, the two of them dozing on the couch together.
These warm little creatures nestled against me bring so much peace – we are each other’s refuge and rest, a still place of perfect love, nothing asked but everything received.
This is how I wake up every morning:
A little body in snug pajamas is wedged between my husband and me; an even smaller body is tucked under my arm. Soon the bigger of the small bodies starts wiggling and squirming and making the smaller one laugh. Then my husband is up and off to work, and the demands begin. Both little bodies desperately need the first diaper change of the day. The smaller is crying loudly but without words for a bottle, the bigger is begging with words for a “snacky bar” (granola) and “kid’s coffee” (warm milk with vanilla and sugar) over and over until I finally – and literally – drag my own adult body out of bed to attend to the little ones’ needs. With the baby on my hip I ready a bottle, make my son’s breakfast one-handed, and settle the two of them in to eat in front of PBS.
Then I have my coffee.
I need my coffee. It’s not the caffeine. Well, I’m sure it’s partly the caffeine. But more importantly, it’s a moment to retreat inside myself, find a tiny pocket of silence in which to rest fleetingly, and then emerge to take on the day. That quiet cup symbolizes the dark and fertile place where love grows. If I am to properly love my little seedlings, I must tend to my own garden first. For the rest of the day I will come second. I play, clothe, change, and bathe, tending to their needs. I even eat after them. And that’s as it should be.
I can’t fully explain how that place of silence affords such grace. I only know that if I fail to grasp it, we are all the worse for it. And if I let myself rest momentarily in that quiet place, I am somehow able to get through the day, however imperfectly.
Right now, I am perfectly happy. I’m making dinner in the kitchen while my children play in the basement, distracted and quiet. The Witmark Demos are on the stereo, and I am singing along quietly with Bob Dylan’s young, strong voice. I smack fat cloves of garlic with the side of my knife to release them from their papery skins, chop the heads off thick broccoli stalks and enjoy the solid sound of the blade hitting the cutting board.
This is what I thought life as a stay-at-home mother would always be like, and this is most emphatically not what life usually is. It’s been seven months since my second child, my daughter, was born, and probably about as long since I have been able to enjoy cooking dinner without anyone else in the kitchen. I knew family life was hard work, but no one ever prepared me for how draining, ceaseless, and all-consuming it really is. Nor could anyone tell me the complete joy and depth of love it would also yield.
Madeleine L’Engle writes of marriage (and I find it true not just of the marriage relationship but the parent relationship too), “I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown.”
For all the times I’ve cried in frustration trying to get babies to sleep at 3 in the morning, I’ve kissed chubby cheeks in pure delight. For every petulant “No!” from my two-year-old’s mouth, there has also been a heart-melting “I love you, Mama.” For every stormy misunderstanding between my husband and me, there are moments of utter unity. And, for every clamor of little voices, smashed toy and broken piece of china, there are, increasingly, moments of solitude, music I want to listen to, and the sound of a knife chopping broccoli.