Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Left Behind?

Over at In the Heart of My Home, Elizabeth Foss continues to unwrap mission and motherhood and vision. Her last point is one that hits close to home with me. Of her entry into the online world, Elizabeth writes:
I watched as women built social network platforms, broadened horizons, and took full advantage of all the internet could offer to further a ministry and build community and encourage creativity and even provide some income for a family. I remembered when I made a decision to be a mother at home nearly a quarter century ago. It wasn't even a decision! I had no regret leaving the professional world behind to stay home with my baby. But this? This online world? It crept in and became big in my life before I really recognized it for what it was.

I found myself chafing. I wanted to be working on my book. Instead, I was plodding through college algebra. I wanted to be researching moving my blog to Wordpress. Instead, I was filling out the teacher, parent, and counselor portions of the Common App. I wanted to be writing a blog series on the The Mission of Motherhood. Instead, I was struggling to oversee a home renovation for which my husband had long planned. I wanted to commit to a speaking engagement. Instead, I knew that I was needed at home (and on the soccer field) because Mike would be traveling. I was frustrated.

Both in real life and in my virtual world, I see exactly what Elizabeth is talking about -- women pursuing opportunities and doing neat things. Sometimes, I admit, I chafe, too. I struggle with the fleeting thought that I've been left behind. I scratch my head, especially, at women who are younger than I am, have more children that I have, maybe they're expecting another baby, maybe on top of all that they're homeschooling and somehow, someway they manage to write books and travel to speaking engagements.

I can't seem to get the laundry done or keep the pantry filled.

And then I blink my eyes, and my priorities come back into focus. My priorites. Not theirs -- not yours. What's under my roof isn't necessarily what's under yours.

And what's under mine?

I've got a five-year-old who got off to a rocky start in kindergarten. All those pesky g's and p's and b's -- who came up with these and why do they all look alike? After a pow wow with his teacher, I fully recognized our school experience with this little guy is going to be 180 degrees different from our experiences with Tim and Kolbe.

He needs me everyday.

I've got my first high schooler. He knuckles down to four and five hours of homework most nights. Now we're adding basketball to the mix.

For very different reasons, he needs me everyday.

I've got a fifth-grader who faces unique challenges and who also runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle as the wheel who rarely squeaks.

He just doesn't seem to need me everyday.

I've got a three-year-old who looks at me and asks, "When will I be a grown up?" I tell her, "Not anytime soon, sweetie pie." She wants to have tea parties and build tall tippy towers with her blocks, and (to the total delight of her mother) she suddenly wants to rocked to sleep at night.

She needs me everyday.

Then, of course, I have a husband, a man who lays his life down for us every. single. day. A man who stays up late and gets up early, a man who painstakingly has the older boys help with every job around the house, a man who carts one of the little people every time he goes out the door.

He needs me everyday.

I married relatively late in life (at 33), and I birthed Ainsley really late in life (at 45). I had Tim, my first, when many of my friends were having their last. Tim's early years were marked by hours and hours hanging out in our backyard with other moms. When this crew of little boys all went off to school, some of my friends went back to school themselves. Others resumed careers they had put on hold to raise children. As for the Dolins, well, we were just getting warmed up. The result is that most of my friends (not all) have lives that look very different from mine.

And I don't have a single regret.

I sat in bed reading Frog on a Log to John and Ainsley, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the little girl with pigtails sitting on my lap and for her rapscallion and totally charming brother curled up on my right.  John was the miracle we had pretty much given up on. And then -- Boom! -- along came Ainsley. (Yes, kids, that's how it happens. Watch yourselves, now).

A bunch of my friends finished a half-marathon a week or so ago. Years ago I might have spotted the pictures on Facebook and felt a wave of envy. Look what they did! Why can't I do that? But at this stage in my life, gosh, I'm just so proud of them, thrilled with their accomplishments, happy they're out there supporting one another.

This could be a sign of maturity. I could be growing in detachment. Then again, perhaps I'm just tired. I recognize that I can't juggle as well as some women. And as I approach the half-century mark, I'm (mostly) at peace with this reality.

In the very best sense of what Elizabeth captures, I realize that we are in an intense and crucial stage with our family. I need to be present. I need to put first things first. Some of these are mundane, boring tasks -- chores, really -- but for this family to grow and thrive, the mundane cannot be ignored.

This morning I washed and dried the fabric for the pajama pants Tim will be sewing in Lifeskills Class. I helped John fasten the belt he still struggles with. I made sure Kolbe had his Chapstick, and I tucked the last two of the good cookies into his lunch.

A thousand details go into family life.

One of the oft overlooked details is taking care of me. Barbara Curtis' death shocked many of us. And I am totally with there with Elizabeth who, as an older mother, calculates how old her youngest would be if she, like Barbara, were to die at 62. A year ago I learned I have the early, early stages of the bone disease that has brought my mother so much suffering. The good news is that there is so much that I can do to keep it at bay. The bad news is that I'm doing absolutely none of it. Zip, zero, nada! First things first means taking care of the person who is taking care of everyone else.

Six years ago we received the wrenching news that our neighbor -- a 43 year-old mother of ten  -- had died in her sleep with her nursing five-month-old baby lying next to her.  We don't know how many years we'll have, but as Elizabeth wrote, "I don't want to spend those years living inside a screen, distracted, disconnected..."

And as I mull and type, mull and type, I hear the sounds of a riot breaking out just feet away. It seems John has absconded with the last plate of ribs. You don't take food from a growing teenage boy.

I'd best go practice what I preach.


Kris said...

Kelly -- I just loved this post. I don't blog, but I do homeschool (as you know) and I do some part-time work from home to help ease the burden of Catholic school tuition for my oldest. I always feel like I should be out doing "more" - volunteering, working, etc. But in my heart, when I really look at my days, I know that the days where I am "doing" things are the worst days for my family. Everyone is grouchy at the end of the day, things aren't the way I like them in the house, and it just doesn't work. The days where I totally focus on my role in my family (even taking 30 minutes to go for a run!) are the days of peace in my house. And that's where I am right now. When I am 62, my youngest will be 23 - fresh our of college, and hopefully still needing some guidance from his Momma!

Anonymous said...

Kelly, I felt I could relate so much to this post. I often feel behind or like an underachiever in comparison to other people - and of course it's idiotic to compare my life to other people's lives! As you say, we don't know how long we have, so how can we possibly compare?

I personally think that a lot of women are desperate to portray their lives in a certain way (perhaps I am guilty of this as well?) - but it's like driving through a neighbourhood of fancy new houses and realising that most of the people in them are up to their eyeballs in debt. I think as mothers we can also be "in debt" to ourselves. One of my greatest struggles is to look after myself. And yet - I, too, am a linchpin.

Years ago I bridled when an older woman said to me, "The mother is the most important person in the family." At the time I felt that was a disservice to my very family-oriented husband who has always been unusually involved with our children. However, as time has gone on, I've found myself agreeing with her.

I find myself reminding my teenage daughter that Jesus commanded us to love one another *as ourselves*. Big hug to you.

Kelly said...

Kris and Christine - You always have wisdom to share!

We are linchpins -- which takes nothing away from the role of the father.

I haven't started running (yet), but I did start taking my vitamins again!

Enjoy your weekend.