Having it All

A re-post for Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day!

First off, I have to apologize for using the most overused title in all of women’s literature. For many reasons, this is a subject that is often discussed and will never be resolved. Women ask me all the time, “How do you do it all?” For the people who really know me, this is a funny question because I don’t really do that much. It is a lot of smoke and mirrors, truly. This is especially true compared to the women who came before me.

I have six kids. My mom had seven. From the time she was 22, until the time she was 53, she had children that needed raising. She had no formal college degree and no work experience to speak of, even well into her 30′s. But when my dad finished his education and went to work for the IRS, he was not allowed to work a second job, so Mom went to work outside the home. She applied at a Piece Goods store, something she knew about because she sewed all our clothes for years. That was the beginning of my mom’s life as a “working mom.” It was the 70′s. She was not alone.

I’m about to turn 39 in a few days. The first time I was aware of my mother’s age was at her 39th birthday. I was five years old. My youngest is now five. This was near the beginning of her working mom days. I have never been to college or had a job. Well, not since I filed and answered phones for an insurance office my senior year in high school. I have wondered if I could do what she did, and she would say, “of course you would if you had to, like I did.” But becoming the manager of a store is not exactly having it all, granted.

My mother circa 1965ish

Later, my shy mother would take on a sales job that was totally out of her range of experience. She would go on to be very successful at her job, even making more money than my dad for a few years. It was the 80′s. She was not alone in this either. I was entering my teens and I knew my mother did not like this job most of the time, but she was very good at it nonetheless. It was a time when we needed that income for college for my sisters and all the things teenagers need. I really don’t think I could do that, but she would tell me I could, if I had to, like she did. But again, a door to-door, drive-all-over-the-territory, fill-out-Saturday-paperwork job ain’t exactly having it all, I know.

In 1988, when I was 17, Mom landed the perfect job for her. She became a tour guide for a local bus tour company. Mom has said many times that raising seven children uniquely prepared her for leading retirees around all over the country. She got to travel and make money doing it. She got to take my dad with her occasionally and she got to visit her children and grandchildren around the country. She was loved by everyone who traveled with her. She had been preparing for this all her life, raising children, managing a store, going door to door until the shyness was no more. She was in her 50′s and she got to see the country and have a great time doing it. This I’m sure I could not do, no matter what you say, Mom.

My mom is a praying woman who leaves the worries of this life to a mighty God. She was 39 like me, with no IRA, no 401k, probably not even money in a jar anywhere. Now she has been retired from the travel job for years. At 70 years old, she and my dad celebrated 50 years of marriage. She enjoys her grandchildren, bakes cookies, visits the nursing homes, gets her nails done, and does needlework. That may not be your dream, but it is the very definition of fulfillment for her. At no one time did she “have it all” but if you add it all up now, it is more than she ever dreamed.

Knowing all this history about my mom has always helped me not to panic about what I don’t know or haven’t done yet. I feel sure there is a plan for me and I try to stay ready for what I am meant to do. I’m pretty sure, I’m meant to have it all.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer. 29:11

Growing Weary

Yep

I have tried to explain to my friends who still have toddlers how much different life is when everyone is your house is older than five. The change sneaks up on you til one day you look up and smile, realizing you have had a complete thought, a complete meal, or best of all, a complete night’s sleep. Your brain is freer, your body is less tired and your whole system is less stressed when the little ones around you are not as prone to kill themselves or someone else all day, every day. One day, you actually forget what all the stress was about. It’s true. Even more true if you are staying at home with them all day.

When I think back to the days of endless spills and crying and bodily fluids and sleep deprivation, I feel so tired for the ones going through it now. It is just plain exhausting. I remember if I try. I was a walking biohazard for years. I think I sat on a couch nursing for an entire year of my life, with all the chaos swirling around me. I think I did – it’s kind of a blur.

I have noticed a disturbing trend among mothers and how they deal with this stress. I’m afraid when it all becomes too much for that mother who so wanted to stay home and raise her little one, she escapes back to the work place. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about going to work to pay the bills or to keep up your skills or any of the very valid reasons women have for going to work. I’m talking about the woman who chooses to stay home, but is just plain wearing out. When she feels like life is not rosy at home like she imagined,

This what going to work feels like - in comparison.

she begins to wonder if the pressure of being worried,  tired and unsure of what she is doing can be outsourced to others who seem to know more. When you are new to mothering, daycare workers seem like effortless experts. It is tempting to go back to doing what she knows how to do well at work, for a fixed number of hours a day. And getting paid? Who doesn’t want to go back to getting paid?

I know a lot of moms think they will go back temporarily, until that magic someday when all is right with the world and they can try staying home again. Then they slowly get stuck needing that paycheck to pay the bills they have and they secretly think they don’t have what it takes to be a full-time mom anyway. Everyone supports the usual choice to work, but it is much harder to find people who support her right to “sit home all day” or “struggle financially” or “shelter her children from the real world”. So, even though she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, she lets that dream die. She is weary.

This is the most annoyed she ever got.

When I had only one child, I lived 20 minutes from everything and everyone. I had no television and no car. There was no internet or texting. My husband worked all day and my friends were all at college. We were even without a church for a time. I read a lot of books and talked on the phone a lot. (It had a cord and everything.) I was basically Caroline Ingalls as to isolation, but without her grace and patience. My daughter was easy to raise and our schedule was regular. I was lonely and poor, but I had no options for work. I only had a high school education so any money I could make would be lost to daycare anyway. I got weary of the isolation and repetition of my days, but I had no options. I know I would have caved to the lure of a paycheck or a car of my own or a group of friends at work in civilization. I was forced to stick to my dream of being a full-time mom. For that, I am grateful.

folding is overrated

There is a reason the Bible talks about the older women teaching the younger women to be happy at home. It doesn’t come naturally to our restless spirits. It is a skill that develops over time. Women who leave work to stay home with their kids are surprised by how difficult it is and often say work was much easier. Without support, the weariness can win out, leaving a desire to escape it all, even to work at the place she thought she wanted to leave. A professional, successful mom once told me, she couldn’t wait for Mondays, when her nanny comes and she goes back to work. I looked at her in stunned disbelief, but when I thought about it more, I could see that her weekends are probably a time when she feels out of her depth, from lack of practice and experience with her own children. It is a sad truth that can play out if we don’t stick to our desire to stay home, even when the times get really rough.

the harvest

I was inspired by this verse:  Galatians 6:9 Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. It doesn’t say, don’t grow weary because it is a sin, or don’t grow weary because that is for losers. It offers the long view we all need to see us through. The promise. In due season, we shall reap. The sowing is tough, no doubt about it. But the reaping, the stage I am beginning to see now, is more than worth all the isolation, financial struggle, and missed sleep. For those of you who want nothing more than to be at home and raise your children, do not lose heart. Press on and keep the reaping season in view, knowing you are raising His child.

Rethinking Sleepovers

Seems harmless enough, right?

My memories of sleepovers are probably like yours, eating, laughing, gossiping and not sleeping. I’m not sure why I loved spending the night somewhere other than my home. I sure don’t like any bed but my own now. But, back then I was willing to lay on a hard, cold floor, staying up all hours and having a great time.

Recently my husband and I have started wondering if all-nighters are good for our kids. Physically and emotionally, they are a mess when they come home from eating junk, drinking caffeine and missing several hours of sleep. At first we would allow them to sleep over on the condition that the parents of their friends insist that they sleep. We later found that our kids would fall asleep at a reasonable hour, only to wake up in the wee hours and the parents in the home would have no idea that my child and their child were awake for hours while they slept.

My husband asked me this question, “Would you let our child go play during the day at a house where the parents were asleep all day?” The answer was no, of course not. I know my children could stay up much longer than I could. They will outlast the adults every time. Even for our fairly sheltered children and their sweet, fairly innocent friends, we have found  that the middle of the night is when they will try out bad words they have heard, misinform each other about the birds and the bees, and ruin everyone’s sleep for a month with a ghost story that is not easily forgotten.

During waking hours, children do not feel as free to speak about what they shouldn’t. If the adults are sound asleep, this gives them a freedom they never have any other time. At one sleepover, my son’s friends had a very deep religious discussion that led to him crying and doubting God’s existence and the truth of the Bible. This was among Christian boys, nine and ten years of age, who are parented by good people. They were just airing all their

I can only hope they are scared and not fascinated by what they are looking at.

questions, but without an adult present to help guide them through such a tough topic. During the day, the mom or dad would be able to intervene and bring some truth to these common questions.

Because of our experience, we have put a halt to spending the night with friends for our kids. We started to feel like we were leaving them on their own in places where they would not feel comfortable enough to wake an adult if they needed one, or to call us in the middle of the night. This leaves us feeling like we are leaving our kids to fend for themselves any hours they are not sleeping and not under the care of an awake adult.

We have lived in this town long enough to know our kids’ friends well, This is not about being concerned about the character of the kids or their parents. We already knew that the parents we leave our kids with are great people that we trust. But even the best of parents can not supervise while they are asleep. This is more about not trusting children to be left to their own devices. It was a tough call but one I feel like we had to make.

I would love to hear from other moms on this topic. This is new for us and it is hard to explain to our friends and to my kids’ friends. What rules have you made for sleepovers at your house? Do you feel completely comfortable leaving your kids with their friends? What age did you start with sleepovers for your kids. Do you get up in the night to check on kids at your house? Let me know how it works for you in the comments section below.

A Shout-Out to my Friends

face time

It has been a crazy couple of weeks at my house. My husband started a new full-time job, after being self-employed from home for two years. Our water heater was on the fritz so he had to spend his first free weekend working on that. This led to a plumbing problem, which led to a basement flood, which led to a massive clean-up for me when the weekend was over. I have wanted to get some exercise and get things cleaned up. I got a lot of both.

When things go wrong in your life, big or small, you learn who your friends are. Friends make up the silver lining of any dark cloud. I had friends who were very caring and helpful. I even learned the benefit of sharing my problems. In this case, whining to a friend on the phone allowed her to offer her three dehumidifiers that were so helpful in drying out our basement. Who knew she was the owner of three dehumidifiers? She did, and I’m glad I shared our problem so we could receive her help.

I miss my friends. I have really buckled down over the holidays and after, getting all the shopping done, getting back to school here, and staying in because the weather is so grim. I have a great group of ladies that I can count on. I don’t talk to any one person everyday, but I know I could if I needed to. I used to think I needed that one best friend to do anything and everything with, but I have learned that no one person can be all that for you and you can’t be that for them. When it comes to friends, it takes a village.

If my friends were a village, it would be the best village ever. My friend with the secret stash of dehumidifiers is so upbeat and smiling and sweet. This is in great contrast to my sensible, cynical self. Her presence is a reminder to act as open and friendly as I feel on the inside, like she does.

I have, not one, but two friends who will let me know if the people on Fox news say it is time to climb out of this handbasket of a world that is headed to Hell. They are on top of what is going on which allows me to keep my head happily in the sand most of the time. These two ladies also are packing. As in carry and conceal. So, you know, they’ve got my back, and yours too if you want.

I have a friend that I have been close to since the 9th grade. She was in my wedding and I was in hers. I still go and see her and relax in her beautiful home. We pick up where we left off, even though it takes some time to figure out where that was. She never feels the need to mentor me or for me to mentor her. We are equals that go way back and it is a great way to relate to each other. With her I have history and a million stories that I treasure.

My church friends have a special place in the village. Then there are my friends who like to watch the shows I watch or listen to the music I love. There are friends who can and will edit my writing for me. (Is “shout out” one word or two and is it hyphenated?) I even have a friend who has more kids than I do, a truly super mom. I have a friend I met on Facebook.

exactly

We did not meet in person until almost three years later but it was as if we had always known each other. My sisters are my friends. My oldest girls are adults now and they are my friends as well. My mom is a one of my friends, the one I have had the longest. My husband is my best friend and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All this rambling about my friends is meant to celebrate them at a time when I realize I need to make an effort to stay close to them and to be a good friend in return. As far as how it pertains to raising children, it is very important for moms to have friends and maintain those relationships. Did you know that the same great hormone released during breastfeeding, eating, or lovemaking, is also released during a good long talk? Women are wired to be together and be at ease with each other. Friendships are not a luxury for your rare girls-night-out events. We should have healthy, ongoing relationships with other women for our good and for theirs. I”m reluctant to say that something is good for your kids just because it is good for you as a mom, but this is true about good friendships.

In a Biblical village, the women would gather at regular intervals to gather water or do chores together. We don’t get enough chances to see each other these days, so we have to do what we can to see our friends. Even if Facebook is the closest thing we have these days to the village square, it is a great way to let a friend know you care and are thinking about her. It is also a great way to make a plan to see each other in person. So, check in with your village of friends. If you have three friends or thirty, they will be glad to hear from you.

Thank you to all the friends who helped or offered to help during our mini-crisis. It’s so good to know you are so willing to lend a hand. We love you all.

selfishlazymom.com is already taken

The cold that has been going around my house is trying its best to take me down. This strain is particularly bad and we are not handling it well. This is why I have not posted this week and will not share a new post today.

I did have an old post come up while talking to friends this past week. I told them how God managed to use even my laziness and selfishness to help me learn how to parent. When that was the bulk of what I had, He made the most of it. What a great example of grace for me and my kids. Here is the post I wrote about how that went for me.