Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Growing as a mommy

I've started this post dozens of times in my head...and I'm sure that even after I finish, I will be seeking out different words, better words to convey my feelings and thoughts.  I'm challenging myself not to do that.  To say what comes from my heart, as it comes from my heart.  To allow this to happen, I can't re-read my writing, because I'll revise.  So I apologize in advance for errors in spelling, grammar, etc.  This post is going to be a hard one...

I'm in the midst of reading a book that I've been anticipating since January.  The night I found out about this book, I wrote a post about being a mom-a-holic.  Yesterday, I was browsing the Kindle store, downloading two other titles I'd come across in my recent soul searching mission as I re-adjust to my newly expanded role in motherhood.  That's when I remembered Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & Modern Motherhood by Samantha Parent Walravens. Yes!  It was listed in the Kindle store and within a few seconds, it was loaded and ready to go.

I started reading it today (shortly after downloading it yesterday, the kids needed my attention), and even with the necessities of 'mommyhood', I'm already about a quarter of the way through.  Torn is a collection of 'true stories from the trenches of motherhood'.  I am so grateful for the 'highlight' feature on the Kindle, because it is coming in handy on practically every page!  This book is a perfect read for moms.  All moms.  Career moms, stay-at-home moms, and every mom in between.  I'm finding it to be just the thing I'm needing right now...

(here comes the hard part...)
As I said, I'm sort of on this 'soul searching' mission.  I feel extrememly despondent in admitting my dissatisfaction with where I am in my life.  Don't get me wrong.  I am beyond blessed in countless ways, and am beyond grateful for all that has been bestowed upon me.  None of my feelings of discontenment are due in part to the countless amazing things (and especially people) in my life.  In fact, they are what have kept me afloat when I allow my mind and my feelings saunter down a negative path.

I've been allowing myself to become caught up in an ideal, a quintessential lifestyle that I've created in my imagination, now that our family is 'complete'.  Ever since finding out I was pregnant with Raegan, I've been subconsciously fabricating what I thought our life would be like once we were 'complete'.  I know, it sounds terrible...insensitive, even.  How could I not be content with a wonderful husband who is an amazing dad to our two beautiful kids??  The truth is, I was.  I was very content.  I just didn't feel 'complete'.  Once I realized that the missing piece would be another baby, I began making plans.  I stopped 'living in the moment', stopped 'appreciating the moment'.  For example, family photos.  I had really wanted to have family photos taken professionally, but once I realized we were going to have three kids, I held off.  I didn't want the photos to be 'missing' anyone.  Or certain routines...like meal planning, bed time rituals, toy organization...I decided not to 'finalize' anything because it would need to change to accomodate three kids. 

I'm a planner.  I crave routine.  I don't like to ask for help. When things don't work out as originally planned, or as I envisioned...I shut down.  It's not an endearing quality, especially since I just so happen to have two careers that require flexibility, and fluidity--teaching and motherhood.  To top it off, Randy's schedule is one that does not permit as regimented a routine as I crave in the depths of my soul.

I know that I don't tend to show this 'shut down' flaw in my character too often, because so many of my friends and family comment freqently on my ability to 'do it all'.  The truth is, I try to 'do it all', include mask the discomfort I often feel with what seems like randomness in my life.  Because I don't like to ask for help, I'm often times viewed as 'doing it all'.  In reality, I always feel as though I'm not doing enough--or that what I am doing isn't always what I should be doing--at least not first anyway.  I need to focus on finding priority in the things that I do, and being ok with the fact that in order to accomplish each task to the best of my potential and ability, that I might not get to every item on my list.

I recognize these flaws, and I'm working hard to change the--to fix them.  Not just for me, but for my husband, kids, family, and friends.  Because I'm starting to see how the cracks in my foundation are developing into bigger problems with the whole structure. 

Take my post from January about being a mom-a-holic.  I re-read that post this evening, and as I did, I cried.  I cried because in a few short months, I have noticed a change in me.  While I still love my kids more than life itself, I find myself struggling to find my true identity--to shed away the outer skin of my 'image', and reveal the true person I am on the inside.  I still love to kiss my kids faces, tell them I love them about a million times a day, and take photos as often as I can (nowadays, I'll admit, I'm slightly behind on doing so).  But there's a part of my 'mommy' that's lacking.  I become irritated much too easily.  I am impatient.  I avoid certain activities that allow exploration/learning/just-plain-fun because they're too messy/I'm too tired/I didn't plan for it.  I've allowed the kids to become too dependent on TV and have found myself using it as a babysitter for them (or, a mindless way to spend an entire day for me).

I am feeling as though my life as a mom is in some sort of a 'limbo'.  I think what's happening is that I'm envisioning life with three kids as 'life-with-three-kids-five-years-from-now'--when they're all potty trained (yes, even Brynn!), they don't require naps on a daily basis, can hold a relatively interesting conversation, and can all participate relatively equally in family fun activities. 

Again, I know I sound terrible.  I sound like a mom who is wishing away this precious time that I have now to get to a point when it becomes 'easier'.  That's not it at all.  Parenting never reaches a point where it's 'easier' (at least while they're living under your roof).  Granted, I'm not there yet, but I know once we get past the stage where they require essentially non-stop caretaking, we'll enter into a whole new realm, where they'll need me to solve problems that are bigger than 'my goldfish spilled all over the freshly vacuumed rug'. 

I am absolutely, positively cherishing every moment of this time that I have with the kids.  There is a quote from the book Torn that is one of the countless I've highlighted so far, and it shines light perfectly on what I've come to realize in my five years of mommyhood.  It says 'when you have small children and life is so overwhelming, the days are truly long, but the years are short'.

Today, when I read this, I cried.  It is so, so true.  At the end of this summer break, I send my little boy off to kindergarten.  A place where he'll make new friends, learn new talents and skills, and take with him from home pieces of his life that identify who he is as a little boy.  I want him to be true to himself, to be honest with his feelings, to learn how to embrace change and become stronger because of it. 

In order to make that happen, I need to set a role model.  I need to be open to my feelings, honestly and candidly share them, and above all I need to embrace change.  I need to live in the moment, not plan for the next.  I need to let go, be free, enjoy the beauty of every age and stage of my kids' lives, not plan for 'what we'll do when...'. 

I'm readjusting my definition of 'productive days'.  Some days, productive days might be that we run all our errands, dinner is on the table by a decent hour, and I remember to have the kids brush their teeth before bed (plus I've read them a bedtime story rather than promise it to them the next night).  Other days, productive might mean that we're still in jammies by 3:00 and lunch consisted of popcorn and string cheese.  Even still, we might have days where we abandon all the things that I use to think I *needed* to accomplish, and find something new to experience. 

Yesterday, after my sluggish morning, I began reading a book.  I came across the quote, 'when you have small children and life is so overwhelming, the days are truly long, but the years are short', and promptly put down my Kindle.  I threw on a pair of jeans and a tee, plopped a hat on my head, and packed all three kids into the car.  Our destination?  To Lowes--to buy flowers and soil and containers.  To fulfill a promise I'd made to Brynn when I had to throw away flowers she had planted that had died due to lack of transplanting them in a timely fashion.  Three kids plus flowers and soil and containers required two carts and a lot of patience.  We bumped into each other, knocked over flowers, and at one point nearly rammed a car with our cart full of potted plants.  But I didn't lose my cool.  I was patient, calm, and real.  I didn't make smart-alec jokes to the passersby who watched as our 'circus train' went around the garden center.  I accepted help from others who saw that, at times, I needed it.  It might not sound like much, but I was pretty proud of my impulsivity, my coping techniques when things did not go as planned (i.e. Gavin's cart-steering abilities), and my openess to help. 

When we got home, I couldn't find my gardening gloves (chances are it's because I have a terrible green thumb and Randy very well could have trashed them after my many failed attempts at growing anything other than babies in my belly!).  I also failed to locate our gardening tools (again, could have been trashed...or it's just that I've become such a stranger to them--probably because they dig in the dirt--that I had no idea where they could be hidden.

Either way, my options were limited, but surprisingly, my ambition to create these little container gardens was not.  No gloves?  That's ok...dirt washes off!  No tools?  That's ok, too...you've got hands! (albeit un-gloved hands with nails that are all relatively the same length that are calling out for a manicure...).  And so, we began...

And turned this:

Into these...

I know for many of you, this isn't much...but for me, it was a step.  A postive step in the direction that I've known I need to be heading in all along.  The direction I veered away from for a time all because I was waiting.  I was waiting for that feeling of 'complete', when I could really get down to the nitty gritty of being a well-planned mommy who has it all figured out.  The truth is, I'm never going to have it all figured out.  There isn't a perfect balance or a perfect plan for anything.  Another essayist from Torn wrote, "Expect the unexpected.  Embrace fluidity.  Perhaps what matters most is that you've got a boat at all--and time to enjoy a conversation in it as you travel". 

My soul searching continues...

Until next time

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