Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Rearing Our Children Shouldn't Mean Forgetting Ourselves

“I know for sure that you can’t give what you don’t have. If you allow yourself to be depleted to the point where your emotional and spiritual tank is empty and you’re running on fumes out of habit, everyone loses. Especially you. “( Oprah Winfrey)

Desperate for a shower? It will have to wait because Lacey needs help putting together a puzzle RIGHT NOW! Sitting down to return some much-overdo emails? My four-year-old asks persistently enough until she winds up on sitting on my lap, hands on the keyboard, getting her way and visiting . (How could I ever put my “selfish” desire to write to friends above my child’s educational needs? Is there a font for sarcasm somewhere? lol) Giving my husband my undivided attention at the dinner table as he discusses our finances? It will have to wait because the girls both need more to drink…and they need it now!

To my dismay and recent discovery, our culture has convinced us that in order to raise successful, happy, complete children, our little ones should be reared to believe they are the center of the universe. When they speak, we stop talking. When they interrupt our conversation with a neighbor, we shift our focus. If they are thirsty or hungry for more than five minutes…our anxiety tells us they might not survive if we don’t pull over and plow down the drive-thru! We jump at their every move and give them their every desire. We hesitate to say NO when our gut tells us to. We feel we are failing if they want for anything or experience even one ounce of disappointment.

Thoughts of them sitting, sobbing on a therapy couch in their teenage future color and drive our every decision to smooth things over the best we can immediately; to make their lives positive and all about….well, all about THEM. After all…if we are SAHM (stay-at-home-moms) isn’t this why we gave up our day jobs? Our daily parenting goals become about making our little toddlers and preschoolers happy, and doing it 100% of the time!

Sounds noble and self-sacrificing on the surface right? After all, my two daughters have needed full-time, around the clock care since they were born. Don’t they “deserve” to be the center of everything, every conversation, and every meal? Isn’t this the testament of real, sacrificial love and what I signed up for when I opened my heart and body to new life? The resounding and exhaustive answer is NO. In the process of “giving” my children every ounce of my own energy, with the goal of being the best & most perfect mother on the planet, I have created a home environment where I have paid a price. I have lost parts of myself.

When we are spending our entire days mothering, giving our children our full attention from dawn to dusk and often even into the night as we comfort them in our arms, it can become easy to make our little ones the center of our world. But what happens to our life when our bambinos become our daily and even hourly primary and sole focus? Well, unfortunately, I can speak from experience. When meeting our children’s needs and desires becomes our main priority, above all else, our days become out of whack, our spirits tired, our spiritual walk boring, our passions lost, our husbands lost in the shuffle and our marriages can grow stale. We become a slave to our children instead of an inspiration. Our souls burn-out.

Without making a conscious decision, I have been the type of mother who puts her kids’ desires above everything else, including her own basic needs. My home has been geared toward serving the little ones first, leaving my own wishes and the calls of my husband in the dust. It has taken a toll on my spirit. It took getting pregnant with our third child to make this revelation, one that will dramatically impact how I mother from here on out. Author Bria Simpson hit the nail on the head in her book THE BALANCED MOM. “We’ve perfected modern motherhood with its intense child-focus but have lost pieces of ourselves in the process.” (pg 2, Introduction)

If you can’t relate…I APPLAUD YOU! I have many friends (some who log in to this blog) that have not allowed mommy-hood to completely strip them of their identity. But maybe some of you may understand where I’ve been and why writing this blog has been so therapeutic (and humbling) in helping me to admit I don’t have it all figured out.

I am recognizing how much I need to be around good, strong, authentic women who are raising balanced children and still retaining their personalities and passions. Women like my sister Diana, who continues to inspire me by showing her children how much she values their father. She prioritizes her husband’s needs and continues to let him be her hero. Women like Vickie and Andrea who are interweaving the pursuit of their God-gifted passions into the vocation of motherhood, allowing their children to witness the example of a balanced woman. And those like Angela, who mother with such delight and present spirit and who take pride in their self-care that I can’t help be inspired to be better (and to actually care about what I am wearing and how my hair looks) when I leave her company.

I am learning, through trial and error, about the type of mothering that God is calling me to do. Mothering is a vocation, a life-altering experience. It is an opportunity to grow in our faith and in our understanding of love. The act of mothering should allow our hearts to breathe, not our passions and ambitions to shrivel. The responsibility of raising and molding another person’s soul should give us a glance into the freedom of God’s love. Parenting is a chance to explore and breathe, not feel like we have been handed a peanut-sized prison sentence!

When approached from a Biblical perspective, the definition of being a mother is much different than what we see around us in today’s world. God’s standards are not driven nor decided by man. The virtues He values: patience, self-control, gratitude, selflessness, and kindness-are no longer taught in most homes. They aren’t touted on television stations, magazines, cartoons, songs and books. Instead, unknowingly and without mal-intention, we emphasize sensuality by catering to the needs of our children to show the world that we are “incredible, capable, self-giving mothers”. Our children rule the roost. We tell our husband to wait when we needs us because our children need us more… and then we are frustrated when our man doesn’t pursue us romantically the way he used to! Without realizing it we are raising children geared toward self-centeredness.

For me it has taken almost 4 years to recognize that I have fallen into this trap of allowing all of our family decisions to be primarily made by the needs of our children. I wish I had had someone who was traveling the mommy-road ahead of me to point out the DANGER signs looming ahead. However, as with any light bulb that goes off in our heads it is never too late to make a change. With the help of prayer and the unconditional love of my husband, I am now battling to transform a bitter, exhausted, and angry heart back into the woman who God designed me to be. I’ll keep you posted on my journey!

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” PSALM 86:11

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