Because the kids spent the night with grandparents into Labor Day, I had the rare opportunity to wake up to an empty house Monday and then spend the whole day alone. I can’t recall when that happened–not one person for 8 whole hours. The house was so quiet, I heard noises I’m not usually able to and wondered, “does it always creak like that?” I never had the opportunity to notice. Although I was giddy to have so much undivided time to grade essays, work on art lessons, and catch up on things, the day felt more empty because the kids weren’t there.
When I was younger, I asked my mom what she wanted to do when she grew up. She’d smile at me and I felt all the warmth of a thousand hugs and patient direction in her response, “To be a wife and mother.” Yes, yes, I got that, but what else….?
Unlike her restless daughter, Mom didn’t struggle to find identity in what she accomplished. Content to be a pastor’s wife, our teacher, beloved mother, a grandmom, she has carried each role with dignity, grace, and an intentionality few achieve.
Eleven years ago when I found out I was going to be a mother, I took a photo of myself in my purple striped shirt and the stretched elation on my face. Waiting three hours for my husband to come home made the day long, but I still floated through the afternoon on dreams of hope and excitement. The actual adventure of motherhood proved more daunting than I’d imagined. After all, my domestic mother made life with children look blissfully simple and fulfilling. How hard could it be?
Ahem, find me 5 years later with three small children. Some of them know how to wipe their own butts and tie their own shoes and some do not. I am wedged in the middle of demands and questions. And amidst theirs comes mine: “Who am I now? Am I still valuable? Important? If no one knows who I am or what I’ve done or what I’m capable of, am I still significant? If the people that need me the most don’t appreciate me or listen, am I still making a difference? What is it?
I started praying, asking God for insight…and a change of heart. I needed a new perspective on success or I was going to implode. I had so much more I wanted to accomplish. So many more dreams to explore. I felt trapped. And that is not a healthy place for a home-school mom to be.
“Make this my dream, Lord. Make this my best longing.” Unraveling my pent-up insecurities and often unsatisfied drive for more, I slowly started to become a being, not a doing. I wanted to be home with children. I didn’t fight the life placed in front of me; the life I didn’t even know I really did want. I didn’t want to just get to “the next”, but truly dwell in “the here.” Progress is slow, for old ways die with reluctance, but I am learning to sit more in the middle of the see-saw.
I’m certainly not the mirror image of my mother–our personalities will never be the same–but I’ve come to appreciate what she did and how she did it in ways I just couldn’t value 10 years ago. My parenting emerged as awkward beauty, but I’m learning to value what makes us uniquely strong and in the different ways, bless those around us.
“I know all the things you do at home, the way you’re so content there, is your art, like writing is mine. I just want to find an experience of home now.” She has been the keeper of home for me, and I have been the keeper of journey for her. And now we look for the lost portion in each other. So much of my growing older seems to be about paradoxes. The reconciliation of opposites. The bringing of balance (Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling with Pomegranates).