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2011/03/27

Grace in service is missing in action

After feeding the Short Person this morning I brought two cups of coffee and climbed back into bed for some family time, and fell asleep. I dreamed that we moved, I'd told my husband to choose the new place without me, I hated it (it was sort of an attic crawl-space and our furniture wouldn't fit, for crying out loud!) but no one thought there was anything amiss and ignored my tears and distress. Dreams often present ridiculous situations, but the essence of this one revisited a conversation I'd had with my husband the afternoon prior. He said, I don't feel in control of my day or my week, so I feel out of control of my life. I said I felt the same, that I'd made all the decisions that got me here but now it feels like I'm living the wrong life while, from the outside, it looks pretty ideal.

Does anyone else feel this way?

The funny thing is, it brings me back to the topic of wishing I had a religion. We did choose this life (and must remember to be grateful that we had that choice to make at all) but its constraints make us long for the Life We Had Before. The LWHB, as we'll call it, involved long blocks of uninterrupted time, spontaneity, comfortable income, and quality togetherness. These have been replaced by scattered, frustratingly incomplete tasks and conversations snatched between resented chores. The change in employment has meant less than half the functional income and, in my case, no positive feedback for effort expended. We're both feeling like our tolerance is being pushed by all the "shoulds" with a dearth of good news and comparatively few "well dones" or "get tos" to replenish us. But there's no going back. Many religions provide support in forbearance, which would be grand, but what I've decided we really need is a paradigm shift in the way we see our obligations.

Some faith communities put great value in the honour of service. This is out of vogue in the Standard American Lifestyle, with its focus on self-gratification, which is why the Standard American Diet is so problematic. We don't have the SAL, we've ditched the SAD, but that leaves us at sea on so many things, including how to feel about voluntary self-subjugation.

I like Steady Mom's attitude that motherhood is a job and we can learn how to do it better by first taking it seriously. Our children do not interrupt us, they make their legitimate needs known to the people who are there specifically to provide for them. Our homes do not clutter or dirty themselves, and railing against the work of keeping them in order takes more time and energy than making and following a reasonable plan for doing it. The career years I have forfeited are few in my adult life but immeasurably important in the life or lives of my child or children.

All of which is great to remind myself of whenever I feel put-upon, which is about 7, 287 times a day.

Cleaning is one thing, but where - outside the church - to find coaching on wanting what one has when it feels simultaneously like a gift and a burden? Any resources you know of or have found helpful? Please share!

3 comments:

  1. Have you ever read "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse?

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  2. I remember telling my husband a few months back, that I got what I wanted (that is being able to be a stay-at-home mom), but that now it is up to me to decide to be happy in that role. It is definitely hard not getting positive feedback like I did at work, and it is hard having a sense of accomplishment when the things we do day-to-day will pay off in 15 years rather than being "completed" now. It is easy to fall into thinking of cleaning as drudgery, not to mention diaper changes and the myriad of other things we do every day.

    I also do not have a religion, but I am a spiritual person, and I have found great comfort in reading about Buddhism and in trying to apply some of the principles to my daily life. If you are interested, some good books to read are Buddhism for Mothers (by Napthali) and Buddha Mom (by Jacqueline Kramer). I also find new-age spiritual books to be helpful in maintaining perspective. Some ones I've read recently are "There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem" by Wayne Dyer and "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle.

    I also have found great comfort in reading on the Passionate Homemakeking blog. Yes, it is Christian-based (and I am not), but nonetheless I think there are great insights. You might like these links:
    http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2010/10/what-every-mom-needs-to-know-after-a-bad-day.html

    http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2010/06/10-keys-to-patient-motherhood.html

    http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2010/08/contentment-in-all-circumstances.html

    Of course as the children get older, it also becomes easier to get back into the groove of things. I have to remember that there are only a few years more before they will be wanting their independence (and already my 4-year-old is occasionally choosing to go play be herself rather than be with me and the baby).

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  3. Thanks to both of you for the titles and links, I'll look into each of them. I have about a foot-long section of my bookcase dedicated to titles on spiritual philosophy; I should put the stuff on childhood brain development and sociological studies of cross-cultural marriage away and put something more topical on my bedside table. After all, brains will develop and we're already married, so I should focus on what's in front of me, right?
    "Just for today I will be happy... I will try to live through this day only... not try to adjust everything to my own desires... I will strengthen my mind [and] exercise my soul" http://www.steadymom.com/2009/07/steady-thought-for-the-day.html

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