Friday, May 9, 2014
Happy Mother's Day 2014
Last week we loaded up our minivan and took a drive down south into the desert. We chased the kids down rock confetti washes of Capitol Reef NP, through the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon NP, around the giant patriarchs of Zion NP and slithered about in the coral sands of Snow Canyon State Park.
Everywhere we went people stopped to say, "What a good mom you are! Taking these children to explore these natural wonders! Especially with your hand so full!" etc. But the truth was, we were there because I had become very desperate to get out. That trip was really about me either succumbing to the depths of postpartum depression at home, or recharging in the great space of springtime in the desert.
Because this is how I experience motherhood, it's 99% the practice of self-care and 1% pure sacrifice.
For instance, I teach my children how to clean and pick up because I don't want to spend my whole life doing it myself. I feed them regularly because I fear their blood sugar dropping and the chemical change that turns them into mini Hulks. I beg them to love each other because the shrieking and dramatic displays of injustice easily make me cranky at both the perpetrator and the prosecutor. I take them on walks or to the park to deplete them of energy so I can relish as many hours at night alone as I can possibly milk in one day. And honestly, when I really think about it, I demand manners from them because it butters my ego when I hear people tell me my children are polite.
I've felt a fair share of guilt coming to this realization of my true maternal motives. But lately, I've thought a lot about the phrase "it pleases God" in the scriptures. Essentially, those of us who believe in God spend a lot of time doing what we do simply because it pleases Him. In fact, all of our time, if we're really devout. And I think that's really the point of loving and serving God. Because listen, all is good in our kingdom when my children try to please me.
And in this light, I suppose the art of parenting is to become self-aware enough to understand what leads you to true peace and joy--and then navigate your children towards that path in the hopes that they will feel it too. It's a pretty existential lifestyle, really.
So every year when we pull out our wallets and time to celebrate our mother's sacrifice for us, I feel a little uncomfortable because well, it really isn't much sacrifice when I think about it. It's really a lifestyle I chose and quite enjoy. When I think of motherhood as a sacrificial, pedistaled existence I begin to feel sorry for myself and almost ashamed. Motherhood is not like that for me, it's just as much about giving myself what I want as it is taking care of others.
It's like this: I teach my children to ride bikes because the joy I feel seeing them pedal down the street is exquisite. I sit down and read books with my children because I love catching them in states of suspense and wonder. I bathe them because a sweet-smelling, freshly-scrubbed, hair-dripping child wrapped and shivering in a towel is almost edible, really. I choose to spend almost all my time with them because they make life comedic, and dramatic and never, ever dull.
I take them to the desert because seeing them climb rocks and ask questions about geology I can't even begin to answer helps me feel like the hormones zapped after birthing them was not a hopeless cause. And, that postpartum depression is the temptation to believe lies.
I keep having children because I love having children.
And I just don't see it as anything but a choice that benefits me in huge, rewarding ways. I feel like all those sloppy, sweetly, saintly tributes just don't really apply to me. I mother because it's about me. And in turn, it's about them. And that's the miracle of it.
Except, that 1% of pure sacrifice. That's occupied by the hours I've spent pushing my children on swings. I get nothing out of pushing my children on swings. It doesn't tone my arms and it's really boring. I'm mean, even if my children are blissfully pointing their toes to the sky, I feel nothing except, "Ten more pushes and then I'm going in for a Coke with lemon, okayyyyyyyyyyy?"