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.
Furthermore, as I look around at my peers, I see that we are all victims of the same generation of moms who became total bad asses outside of the home, but never had the time to show us what things would be like if they ran the home as their sole occupation. Our mothers broke barriers, crashed glass ceilings, and encouraged us to do the same. A combination of the extra income they earned and the shift in attitude about the importance of domestic tasks left us totally ignorant. We are shocked by what is asked of us when we make the radical 21st century choice of keeping our Ivy League educations in our pockets and meal-plan, potty-train and try to vacuum once a week – who am I kidding? month. Ah.
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.