What do you mean I can’t go running six days a week? Can’t continue my quest to read all the Bronte Sisters and Charles Dickens? If I am being honest, these are the selfish questions that, all too often, creep into my young mother psyche.
I used to chalk all my quasi-deprivation feelings up to the fact that I must have the wrong disposition for motherhood. Especially the brand of motherhood I have chosen (large family, homeschooling). Why don’t I get excited about sewing bibs and curtains and redecorating the nursery? But, now I have come to see this frustration in a clearer and more proactive light.
First, the clarity. From my armchair sociologist point-of-view, I see now that I am the product of my upbringing. Growing up, I was allowed a very selfish existence. My dual working parents hired nannies and housekeepers and it was considered enough of me if I was getting straight As and excelling in varsity sports. But really, how selfish were those pursuits! I got to stay up late reading books, I got to run miles and miles in the sunny suburbs of Virginia every day after school – wearing the latest running shoes and chatting with my close friends. At the time, I carried a certain sense of self-entitlement.. “of course my room was messy, I was too busy studying or working out.” But, as I have grown, and tried to maintain our familiy’s home for the first eight years of marriage, I have realized what a disservice this attitude was to me. Truly, if my parents had expected more help from me around the home, perhaps I wouldn’t be as disgruntled or shocked by the sheer amount of domestic work and lack of personal time required of a mother of young children. I look on with admiration at my friend, a mother of seven who was raised doing hard work on a farm, and she has a much easier time accepting the amount of time it takes to run a home sucessfully.
Secondly, the proactivity. My human nature alone cannot conquer my selfish desires. I still feel resentment and jealousy bubble up when I see fit women out on a long jog, or someone enjoying a novel on a park bench. But prayer is the answer. Prayer and deliberate living. If I start my day with a morning offering — offering my day for God’s greater glory — then it is a lot harder to become sullen and resentful. I then have to remind myself again, midday, of the purpose of life, of my vocation, of giving it my all because God gave me so much, and then as I lay my head to the pillow I painfully look back at my failings of the last 16 hours. I often have to say a prayer of contrition for my selfish outbursts, my lack of patience with an undeserving child.
So, as a thirty-year-old, I am slightly more grounded, focused than I was as a 21-year-old. Breaking apart my tall, brightly painted totem pole of selfishness is going to take years. But, when I am done, I hope for a statue that is closer to the ground, but much more beautiful and precise than the haughty wavering one of external accomplishments on which I embarked on marriage.