Almost every day, without fail, there is an incident that makes me question my ability as a mother. If I had a sticker chart, there would be no shiny star stickers – unless my husband were doling them out, because he holds a rosier view of me. I tell him it’s because he’s not around me during the day.
My heart connected with this passage as I read my friend Becky’s post about Drudgery: “I grappled all year with the tension between the work I wanted to do (writing, public speaking, working for pro-life organizations, getting more involved in ministry in the church, missions) and the work that was my actual day-to-day job (changing diapers, making meals, and cleaning the same things over and over and over again). My mind understood the necessity, and even the honor, of my vocation as a wife, mom, and homemaker, but my heart rebelled at the repetitiveness, the constant-unfinished-ness…the drudgery of it.”
I can’t relate to all those high ambitions, because really sometimes all I want to do is finish a knitting project, take a nap, try my hand at a new a craft, just be unbothered. How many times have I bolstered myself with the knowledge that Motherhood is Hard Work, but the Best Job in the Whole World? I’m raising frickin’ arrows for God! Then I let a four-letter-word pass my lips, yell out in anger at something my three-year-old has done and have a mommy tantrum, and it feels like any good I’ve instilled has been erased. For good.
It occurred to me the other day that I do like to organize things; I don’t necessarily mind a bit of laundry, washing a few dishes, making breakfast… then why this same sense of dread at the drudgery? Why the feeling in the morning that I can’t get out of bed and face the day? I know there will be a dirty diaper awaiting me, I know there will be little-kid demands before I’ve rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I know I will have to tell my kids to get along and share and BE QUIET! and LEAVE HIM ALONE! for the thousandth time before 9 o’clock.
I realized it’s not the tasks themselves, but the absurd amount of time and energy spent on doing them over and over. And over. Never finished, never perfect, never ever really crossed of the To Do list. When three loads of laundry turn into six because suddenly every cloth diaper change contains poop, when my daughter has an accident at naptime and I have to change her sheets and blankets, when a drink is spilled at lunchtime and I go ballistic because I don’t want to wash anything else today!
When I’m not throwing a load of laundry in, I’m probably in the kitchen… and whereas I like to bake the occasional treat, I loathe spending all of my time measuring and mixing and bending over the sink washing dishes and cleaning counters and barking at the kids to stay out of the spice cabinet and no don’t touch that! Trying to come up with healthy meals that taste good and please everyone is no picnic; sometimes I feel like I constantly think about food because I need to plan ahead, defrost, put something in the crock pot, mentally take stock of what’s in the cabinet, do they want to eat pasta again for the third meal in a row? All of the pressure is on me to do the shopping and preparing and make sure everyone is happy and healthy.
Gwendolyn loves books, and while that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside considering the fact that her father gets dizzy if he steps foot in a library, there are limits to how many times I can read Amelia Bedelia Plays Baseball. For one, Amelia Bedelia takes things way too literally, and while I understand that’s the point, Gwendolyn doesn’t get that that’s the point… and I don’t even like baseball! And why can Amelia Bedelia bake so well? Surely she would botch the recipes like everything else she does. But I digress, and though I myself love to read, I would not necessarily choose to curl up with a book from Gwendolyn and Josiah’s library. Finishing a novel is a luxury these days.
Did you know that every day is Gwen’s birthday? So she can have cake and ice cream, of course. Luckily, pretend cake and ice cream. And a picnic (usually consisting of salad and lemons), after a breakfast she may or may not have eaten and after which I may or may not have yelled at her. Her pretend play is very cute and very important… but more so on an observation level.
I am constantly catching myself, wondering why these things bother me… and I realize it’s because I like a Balance. A little bit of work here, a little bit of rest there; and playtime with a toddler does not count as play nor does it count as rest. I could seriously go a whole day without talking; I hate the sound of my own voice, and adjusting to having to constantly talk and plead and referee and boss and soothe can be quite draining. I prefer Mommying in small doses, with a good measure of down time where there are no domestic demands on me and my sanity. But since this is not realistic or attainable, I suck it and drink the pretend tea, eat the pretend pizza, read Curious George in a slight monotone, give Josiah a bath in the sink because I couldn’t scrape all the poop off his bum, pick up the same books and toys I picked up before and honestly can’t ever remember being without, fret over the Perfect Lunch and end up making PB&Js, throw the kiddos down for a nap when the clock tells me the time is right, and as soon as they’re awake query Is it bedtime yet?