Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Motherhood: A Lonely, Miserable Job?

What exactly is the healthy balance between community and independence? How do we manage being honest versus complaining? Is motherhood a lonely, under-appreciated, terribly challenging vocation? Should it be?

We all struggle with something. If you believe that someday you will get a handle on things and life will be easy and smooth, you are kidding yourself. Sorry. Among non-believers and Christians alike, happiness and deep satisfaction are elusive. I apologize in advance for saying it, but I think it is supposed to be that way.

The only way we can truly become who the God of the Universe, Our Loving Creator made us to be is to become like Him in all ways, to fulfill the image and likeness in which we were created, to be saints. The only way to do that is to, for most of us, drastically change ourselves, and that is brutally hard work, no matter your occupation.

Hang on for a wobbly ride when you let God take the lead!
Think of one day last week that was particularly challenging. Why was it tough? Did you snap/scream at your kids? Did you shirk responsibility? Did you disrespect a spouse or parent? Did you encounter problem after problem? Am I failing at this motherhood thing, because I have really rough days? No. Are you? Absolutely not! In fact, if it's all roses and sunshine, that is more likely solid evidence that we are failing.

Here's the thing. At the end of the day, whether or not my to-do list is complete (it never is), regardless of my emotions regarding my day, God is there. He is with us every step of the way when we screw up and when we get it right. And His love for you is the same no matter what.

But it's still hard, and I do believe that if we do not admit that, we do ourselves and other moms a disservice. The trick is how to acknowledge the hard without spiraling into a pity party. Especially with social media, it can be so easy to beg for prayers and chronicle our crazy day, and that's not necessarily wrong. Too many times, though, I see those status posts and not the grateful ones. As for myself, I usually refrain from posting the complaints, preferring to email or text close friends when I am in need of immediate prayers. I do not feel comfortable sharing the everyday triumphs, though, because wouldn't that be bragging? Oh, what a quandary!

Yes, that's my van after it started smoking on our way home from Mass on Sunday
(not posted on Facebook, although I considered it)

So, what's my rule? If I am glorifying God, I post it. I can glorify Him in the messy with a positive (humorous?) attitude, and I can glorify Him in the beautiful moments, too. Otherwise, I email or text a small circle of friends who know me well, better than most of my Facebook friends, and can pray for me and celebrate with me accordingly.

Lately, my feeds have been full of moms who feel isolated and also moms who are trying to find ways to connect like-minded women. I, too, have a passion for connecting women, especially Catholic homeschooling women. It is lonely to be in our homes most days, because women do need each other. Relationships with other women are so beneficial to putting our lives in perspective.

Let's face it. Us homeschooling moms think the world revolves around our house and our family, and it is too easy to get caught up in our microcosm of the world, further isolating us. (and I mean this regardless of how many extracurricular activities and classes your children take out of the house, because this happens to the moms, not the kids) Everything I read and everything I encounter, I digest in the context of how it affects my family. (or could affect, such as the day I struggled with whether to go to Sea World Homeschool Day or not, because there might be someone there from Dallas, ugh)

Sea World Homeschool Day
(tip: take a photo before you enter any crowded place, so you can describe a lost one to security)
Then I think about Caroline Ingalls, living in that little house on the prairie, rarely seeing other women at all. We often romanticize her family life and hold them up as role models. Why? Because the stories are written from Laura's point of view, and as a young girl, she could not comprehend the complexities of her mother's character. I am sure she discovered them as she grew, but her books are innocent in that regard.

Was Caroline lonely? I would bet my life on it! Did she take it out on her children and husband? Not that I recall. She accepted those emotions as part of that season of her life, just as we should. She relied on Scripture and family and hard work to get her through to the next season, when they moved on to Plum Creek where the girls attended school, so there must have been other families nearby again.

Motherhood is lonely. Motherhood is hard. But, it is not miserable. In fact, it has the potential to be miraculous if we allow God to perfect us. For at the end of each day, regardless of the ugly, if we place our failings at the foot of the Cross and rest in the arms of our Savior, we will be transformed, little by little, into the women God created. Scraping the filth of sin off of ourselves is tough and like toddlers, we often squirm away to avoid having our face wiped! Letting go of the sense of failure and dusting off mercy is painful. (I tend to cling to my sins and dwell on my inadequacies.)

I tried to capture the layer of dust on our Rosary basket a few weeks ago.

I have experienced, however, that as I leave one day behind me and focus on my simple faith, every day gets brighter, and I am stronger by His grace. The next day, I am a new creation and can face the job with a renewed hope, even welcoming the difficulties as opportunities to allow His grace to pour out on me and my family.

Despite the challenges, do you acknowledge God's hand in it all and let Him work on perfecting you?

Bless Your Heart!