Blogging in this Season of Motherhood: From Mary Alice

Mary Alice has written the following post – enjoy! 

My first four children were born in three years, so while some families change and develop gradually, milestones seem to hit us more like a tidal wave.  There was the intense, exhausting and sometimes very lonely time of 4 children in diapers who made lots of little messes and needed vigilant care.  I was up many times during the night.  There was another period, when the tone of life changed, of early elementary homeschooling, a blessed time when “school” meant trips to the farm, homemade banana bread, hours on the playground and lots of picture books.  They were awake from 7 am to 7 pm, but they never stopped moving.  Those four children are now passed the age of reason.  They can participate in real, intellection conversation; they ask questions which require me to think, pray, and sometimes research before I answer; they need to be driven to baseball, ballet and choir, and they need more hours at their desk each day to get their school work done.  They are often still up and asking questions after 9 pm.

Along the way, as those 4 have grown, we have been blessed to add three more little boys to the mix, so that these days, I am actually in all three stages at once.  The bulk of my children are big kids who need intellectual preparation, I have two boys who need a rich preschool life of play and stories, and a crawling baby who needs diaper changes, spoon feeding and supervision.  Each of my children sleeps well and has good habits, but still I am sometimes up with a teether, sometimes up with a nightmare, and sometimes up with an after dinner existential crisis.

I am tired and I am busy and my cup is full, in the very best way.  I am happier at this season of parenting than I have ever been in my life, but to give my best to all of these children requires me to really limit what I am giving to any other endeavor.  I try to do what I can in my community, I invite friends to talks at church, I buy the plates for the choir picnic, I work the scoreboard at the little league, but I cannot be in charge of anything, I do not have the capacity right now to serve in that way, I am in charge of too much right here in my own little quarter acre.

As my children come into pre-teen intellectual development, they challenge my authority sometimes, and there is some fighting to be done, some giving in on both sides, and even some hurt.  It takes a lot of prayer and a lot of deep breathing for me to remain calm, sometimes when a child is angry with me for boundaries which I know are important, and at other times when a child of mine is hurt because of things that I cannot control.  In both cases, I have found that in order to have a measured response at home, I need to limit the areas of conflict in my outside life.

I have learned also that anything that I give my leisure time to must be “self care” which builds me up for the work that I have to do.  I have taken the time to make a retreat this year, which was restful and gave my prayer life a boost.  I am limiting my reading to books that are really worthwhile – not all spiritual reading, some just cultural books, but books which will refresh and renew my soul.  I am reading the newspaper, because my children are asking questions and I would like to be informed.  I have whittled my blog-roll down to just 4 mom blogs, each of which is really worth my time.  I read them on my phone, in morning, usually with my first cup of coffee, and they help me get in the right mind set for the day, or give me something to think about tweaking in my own operations.  I consider these professional reading!  I am going to the gym more than I am taking naps, it is working better to get me through the busy time in the late afternoon and early evening.  I am being super careful about what I eat, knowing that over caffeinated or post-sugar sluggish mom is not a big help to anyone.

I am kept pretty honest in all of these things by 4 pre-teen brains which are ready to call “hypocrite” when I spend too much time staring at a screen or sneak a handful of chocolate chips.  Rather than resent it, I am really thankful for the way that these children hold me to good resolutions.  After all, I quit smoking when I was pregnant with my first child, and I have been improving myself, for his sake, and to my own benefit, ever since.

All of this is a long winded set up for explaining why I have been away from blogging, and how I am going to approach blogging for the near future.

Writing is self-care for me, but only when I do it in a very controlled and limited way.  I am quick to get addicted to comments and discussion, or even just to putting my own thoughts down.  In this season, I want to spend more time talking to God and my husband and children, and less time just throwing things out into the blogosphere.  I tend to over share, and in this season want to be particularly careful when it comes to blogging about my older children, to respect their privacy and, frankly, to avoid chronicling some of their worst moments, those ones that none of us will want to remember later.  I hope that my writing is also sometimes helpful to others.  Building Cathedrals is one of the 4 blogs that I subscribe to, I love to read what the other builders write, and I do want to continue to participate in this mission of supporting, uplifting and sometimes even challenging other Christian mothers as we all walk together.

Building Cathedrals was founded on friendship, and I am so blessed that these friends have been understanding, and given good advice, as I have sorted out this stage.  For a while, I thought that I might not be able to blog at all, but they have helped me to find a path which I think is just right for me.  I am going to step away from administrative responsibilities for Building Cathedrals, and I am going to post as a “guest blogger” twice a month.  We are actually all scheduled to post just twice a month anyway, but I have never really lived by that schedule.  Today, I am actually composing offline, in Word, so that I am not tempted to spend a lot of time checking on stats or messing with other parts of WordPress.  In my mind, I am going to treat this almost like a column.  It can also sit in my desktop for 24 hours or so, so I will be less tempted to click “post” on something which I am not really ready to share.

Family life will continue to change, but I do think that for the stretch ahead this is a solution that makes a lot of sense.  I am not sure that the readers will notice much of a change, but I do think that the blog will be better for it.  The administrative decisions will be made by those who have the energy and gifts to be focused in that area, and I will be out of their way, but you will continue to hear from many voices about Catholic parenting.    AWOL Mommy has also switched to “guest blogger” status and has already written one of the best blog posts I have ever read, so I am hopeful that this change will be as fruitful for all of us.  Stay tuned, God works all things to the good for those who love him!

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  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Wonderful, Mary Alice. You are like a mother hen to all of us, so I thank you for being transparent and teaching all of us about setting appropriate limits on this journey of motherhood. Many prayers this morning for all of us as we press on and care for our families yet another day…

  • Karen

    I adore all of you Builders and you each contribute to my mothering! Thank you for continuing to blog, Mary Alice! I for one like your detailed, over-sharing posts as I am more about application than theory. I was fearing that this was a good-bye post and am so glad that it isn’t! Balancing seems to be the backbone of motherhood–good luck!

  • Annie

    Mary Alice, I have missed your posts and like Karen, I am glad to hear this is not a good-bye post! I’ve never commented before but just wanted to say that I have really appreciated all of your wisdom that you’ve shared on this blog. I am a ski fanatic too (in Idaho) so I particularly loved hearing about your ski sabbatical! God bless you and your family in this season, and thanks for sharing all of your experiences with us.

  • AWOL Mommy

    For the record, I am nothing like Mary Alice.
    My life is a chaotic burbling brook, and I am not disciplined enough to wash my floors or walls or sheets as much as my family deserves, so I am a de facto guest blogger.
    Alice, you continue to inspire. Don’t worry, we will always harass you into dropping your thoughts in on these pages.