Not having blogged here seriously for a long time, I am not going to apologize for that now. You may find some of the reasons if you read between the lines- or maybe not.
How did I find myself inspired to write here today? On this topic? I visited the blog of a long time blogger who has become a new mother. She said this:
Looking after a newborn baby is really, really hard. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, and it’s relentless. People keep telling me that it gets better or easier. I hope so. I’m pooped. ~Meg Pickard
When I read that, I remembered back …way back to my first introduction to motherhood, and yes, that is very much a description of how I felt at the time. I don’t know if there was a generation more unprepared for parenting than mine- at least among those who were like me.
How did this play out for women like me? We were sorely under-prepared for taking care of babies. We were socked with that relentless exhaustion and tried to play catch up with learning how to change diapers, adjust to feeding schedules, and generally learn parenting and household skills on the fly.
Humans are survivors- and women like me and our babies survived. From our survival lessons came the supermom syndrome. Which, for me, translated into a frenzy of trying to make everything “work”. And if you were like me you could make everything look pretty good…. on the outside. A house of cards, if you will.
This is getting ominous sounding, don’t you think? Well, in some ways it was, but in others- there were good times, there were some things I would do again, but the overall tone of life? No. Perfection makes a hard taskmaster, and I would trade that for making “Nurture” the keynote of our family. As it was, the keynote was more of “Accomplishment” as framed by my environment.
The reason I would change that focus and tone might be found in the name of a category I have on this blog, one that I haven’t yet found heart enough to fill up, but perhaps this post will be filed there,”Broken Heart Devotionals”.
Because another hard truth not told to new parents is the fact that not only can you fall deeply in love with your babies, but that they can grow up and break your heart. Not all of them, not inevitably, but it is one of the possibilities. And a parent needs to recognize that. It could change our focus and remove some of the deception that seems to infect every generation in some way or another.
I’m not going to get all sappy here, and I am certainly not going to imply that this is the inevitable outcome. Perhaps for some it isn’t in the cards, not even as a possible condition, I don’t know. I do know that when such heartbreak hits, it can come as a complete surprise… the same arrival of surprise that the exhaustion brought to an unprepared, naive mother in those first few months. With the same impact to your psyche, and your sense of what life should be.
Do not mistake facing reality for regret. There is no regret in the wonderful people that came into my world. I am happy for each individual child being a part of my world and the world at large. There is only sadness that I didn’t understand that nurture and tenderness, taking time for small moments, and living the love I felt for those people was more important than anything.
And if I were to sum up my advice, thoughts, and stories on parenting in one thing it would be be that last paragraph and its emphatic underline.
But I have more to say. Just don’t let go of that one nugget of truth, which is the only real piece of advice I wish to pass on.
Sand, because motherhood will both polish you and wear you down. It will get in your shoes, but it is also lots of fun to play with. In the right conditions it will focus you on the truly important things of life, even if a little late.
To go back to that mother’s observations which I began with:
It’s also really boring much of the time. No-one tells you this. In fact, I think it’s probably frowned on to say it. But if you’re used to being surrounded by agile minds conducting fascinating thought-experiments and verbally jousting at work every day, looking after a baby gets pretty tedious rather quickly, especially when they’re too young to play or engage much with their surroundings. There’s something about the relentless monotony of routine (is it feeding time again? So soon? I could have sworn we just fed a few minutes ago…), and the fact that your brain has been sucked out of your ears by exhaustion, and the need to be constantly entertaining or on the move. It’s knackering.
I see some things have not changed much from my generation. I think we gave that attitude to the next generation as something of a legacy. Perhaps it was the gleam in the eye of our divorced mothers, and we inherited it ourselves? It said, “Smart girls are bored by the dailiness of the life of Motherhood”. Not that this was the essential point of Pickard’s post- it wasn’t. I simply plucked it out as saying what I, and many like me, felt- to the letter. Or thought we felt because we were supposed to feel that way as modern, hip, thinking women. and whether you think a certain way, or think you ought to and subscribe to it- it boils down to the same thing.Many of us Baby Boomer mothers struggled with it in one way or another.
I think it is ‘Supermom’ residue, personally. which is the opposite of “Earth Mother” persona. E.M.’s have to live in this society,too, so I don’t think they get off scot-free. They are, however, more apt to take time for their mothering, as part of their identity.
Mothers are not all there is to the forming of a child’s life, and psyche. But I do think, that like fathers in their way, mothers of my generation went sort of AWOL. And we got mixed up about what makes a good mother. We got too much into the debate over working and not enough into the conversation of what loving a child looks like.
And even if mothers do things right, it doesn’t insulate them, their families, or their children from the vicissitudes of our society, which has lost its mooring. Really, it has. No one can even define the semantics of our roles or actions in any substantial way today.
But thankfully, one thing stands against all the assaults and assails of whatever is wrong with us as individuals and as a society, and that is that “Love Never Fails“.
It really doesn’t. If you really love your child or your spouse, or any relationship with true care and concern for them as a human being, as someone that matters, then you will go a long way toward nurturing that soul. And they will thrive from it.
Don’t get sidetracked about what that love looks like. Don’t get fooled by some made-up experts rules. Do things that puts the wellbeing of that person on the top of your list.
Being a Christian, I don’t think there is any defining lesson on what that looks like more than you might find in I Cor. 13, the Love Chapter of First Corinthians. I don’t think we can make up what love is like any more than we can make up what nutrition our child needs. There are certain hard wired realities in humans and in life.
We could be more wise about disseminating real facts on that. Just like real facts on neo-nate development. Certain things happen and develop at certain stages, humans need certain things to thrive. Lets be very real about what those things consist of and how to properly deliver them to each other and to our families.
Love has elements of attachment, elements of freedom, and elements of hands-on actions. There are many recipes for a healthy relationship, and part of life’s challenge is to use the elements in a way that produces a whole human being.
For those who found themselves in Hell’s Kitchen, there is a new day to work at creating a life of Home cooked, life giving, wholeness making Love. It will be seasoned with humility, because it is hard to start over, to let go of preconceptions, and to admit we make mistakes.
But I’m very hopeful we can do this.