Weighing outside activities.

I really like this blog post: When It’s Time to Just Say No

I recently joined a morning Bible study–biweekly–and it was a really big decision for me, one I’d never had to make before because we didn’t have a car and so I was “stuck” at home.  And I struggled pretty deeply over what this two-hours-every-other-week would mean for my kids.  I don’t like putting them in nursery; I’d be much happier if everyone met in a giant room and the kids could play in the background while the moms fellowshipped and studied.  Since that isn’t the format, though, I had to think though the implications of putting them in the nursery, away from Mommy (and Mommy away from her first job as homemaker).

After talking to Seth, I decided to give it a shot.  I hope it will be good for the girls to have some exposure to kids near their age, and two hours every other week doesn’t sound like an unreasonable amount of time.  Maybe they’ll start learning about social expectations and obeying adults other than us!  At any rate, E seemed to enjoy it, and R clearly wasn’t traumatized–although when I came back after the study, the girls were standing (just standing), right next to each other, doing absolutely nothing besides silently watching the other kids!

And for me, it’s mainly about trying to be involved with church.  I feel like there are a lot of activities that I can’t be a part of, because of our home responsibilities, and so I’m sure it seems to many people that we’re “fringe” people.  But our biggest problem is that our kids go to bed waaaay early and everything goes haywire if they can’t.  So when the study came up, and it’s during the day and minimally disruptive to our home, it seemed good to participate.

But my point here is that it wasn’t a decision I made lightly.  I was really concerned about the impact it would have on my first responsibility as a homemaker and mother, which is the whole point of the post I linked above, although for her family and home, she decided it wasn’t good to do a very similar outside activity.  I think our morning starts very early, comparatively, and so it is neither hard to get out the door on time, nor does it blow our whole day–we have a nice long morning far before 9:30 ever rolls around!

I couldn’t agree more with the author, though, that it all boils down to making intentional choices about the ways we spend our time, especially our time outside the home.  I’m learning that a lot of life in general, actually, boils down to being intentional and purposeful–this is just one more little area.

Staying at home.

Sometimes I feel like a lot of people want me to get rid of my kids.  Can’t you get a babysitter?  Don’t you want to put them in the nursery?  Can’t you leave them with your mom?  Let’s have a mom’s night out.  I should add–I don’t mean my husband.  He’s mostly like me; rather bring them with us than get rid of them.
Our next-door neighbor was telling me a few weeks ago that they tried to go on their “honeymoon” (which they hadn’t had after their wedding) after their children were born, and they made it exactly one day before driving all the way back home to get their kids because they realized they’d rather have them along.  I love that.
It’s one of the things that I like about midwife-assisted birth.  Our kids come to all the appointments with me, and that’s the way everyone involved seems to think it should be.  They talk to them and include them and even have a room full of toys for them to play with.  They recognize the family structure and that birth is a family event.
But so many people just don’t “get” the fact that I’m a mom, a mom to young children, and with very few carefully measured exceptions, I feel very strongly that my place is where my children are.  It’s the same principle that makes me find daycare such a repulsive option–our kids are our responsibility, and delegating that responsibility to someone else on a regular basis just doesn’t jive with me, whether it’s for daycare or a weekly “night out” with my husband or a weekly “mom’s night” with other women.  I mean, really, consider the idea that a full seventh of the time, Mommy isn’t home for dinner and baths and bedtime.  That’s an enormous shifting”“shirking, I dare say”“of responsibility.  Especially with children as young as ours.
So, no, I’m not going to find a babysitter so I can have a night out with the girls or even a regular date night with my husband.  My husband is the best babysitter there is, but he isn’t me.  Our responsibilities in this role are not equal; daddies can’t stand in for mommies any more than mommies can stand in for daddies.  God gave our children a mother.  I’m not going to make plans to regularly abandon my primary mission field, or to throw my babies’ schedules into flux.  I don’t “need” a break.  Sometimes I need to have my perspective fixed; sometimes I confuse selfishness with necessity.  But this is my job, my calling–and it doesn’t stop just so I can have some social time.
I love it, most deliriously, when people understand that kids don’t wreck things.  I love going to a church where the kids are in the service.  One time we were visiting a church–a church much too small to afford a nursery–and the pastor remarked that once they had to sit in church with a baby screaming every Sunday through the whole service for a few months straight, because there wasn’t anything else to do and that it was fine.  That it was church, and that they wanted the parents to be able to come, and that they learned to cope with the distraction–they got over it.  This was the explanation I got after apologizing that our two month old had been a (tiny) bit noisy in the morning’s service, and it blew me away.  I would love a “Mom’s Retreat” that welcomed moms with nursing infants and toddlers.  I really, really, appreciate anything at all that gives me fellowship and socialization with other people without expecting me to dump my kids in someone else’s lap.
Because, well–I like my kids.

All of me.

One of the most striking things about motherhood is how it consumes.  One day, there you are, doing the things you want to do, on a schedule you choose (how much choice you really have you may not realize yet)–and then, suddenly, the next day, you’re completely at the beck and call of a small unreasonable creature.  And the only break is one you arrange at the expense of those around you.  (Baby naps, while they may be a refreshing pause in an otherwise busy day, are not “breaks” in my vocabulary, because you have to be quiet, observant, and restrained, and you never know exactly when the nap is going to end.)

And thus it is easy to lose oneself in the vastness.  And it is hard at first.  I read once a theory about oxygen in the depths of the ocean, that there could be a liquid (instead of gaseous) form that could help the lungs deal with the pressure of ocean depths.  I think this was in a fiction book, because I remember very clearly that they talked about how hard it would be psychologically, because it would feel, for a moment, like drowning.  Eventually you would discover that the liquid filling your lungs was oxygenated and life-enriching, but for that dreadful moment, you’d be sure you were going to die as your lungs lost their last tiny bit of air, all you’d ever known–only to be filled up by this alien liquid.  That’s the best description of motherhood I can think of.  One day air, the next day liquid.  Different.  Foreign.  Scary.  Drowning.  But eventually, every bit as useful and good and maybe even better.

The common response this overwhelming transition: don’t give in!  Take time for yourself!  Be your own person!  Have your own identity outside of motherhood!

Indeed, one must not allow one’s children to become one’s idols.  But this response of unabated narcissism annoys me.  I hadn’t quite put my finger on it until tonight, but after reading the umteeth blog about not losing yourself in your kids, I finally realized why this had been rubbing me the wrong way even more than usual: there’s a third way.  It’s not either/or, me or my children.  It’s not a split, some time for me, some time for them; a little energy here, a little hobby there. The thing all this pop psychology can’t account for is that some of us already lost ourselves long before we had kids.  It’s hard to be overly upset about the reassignment of our time and resources when we didn’t count them as our own anyway.  I’ve thrown myself into motherhood without too much fretting about my own lost opportunities because I recognize that this new calling of mine is one I’ve been given, and one that’s an honor.

I don’t mean that I don’t struggle–deeply at times–with the fact that so many of my old ways have been subverted.  There are certainly things about life pre-kids that I miss; a good night’s sleep tops the list at the moment!  But what I do mean is that I consider this a failing, in large part, when it distracts me or dissuades me.  Complaining and grumbling in my heart about this job I’ve been honored to do is well, sin.

A happy mommy does make for happier, better children.  That’s the mantra and the justification of the do-something-for-yourself crowd, and I have no doubt that it’s true.  But the more important question is, what makes a happy mommy–and what should make a happy mommy?  True happiness is not found in serving myself.  The same One Who made me happy before children is the same One Who makes me happy today, and the happiest, most satisfying thing in the world is to be completely consumed, used up, obsessed, and burnt to a crisp in affection and service to Him.

Compared to that, children are about as much work as brushing my teeth.