Not ready for Prime Time

Not ready for Prime Time December 8, 2011

My husband got a call yesterday asking whether our family would be willing to be interviewed at home by ABC News for a report on large families and happiness.  Our toddler refuses to wear pants when he is at home, so I am thinking that it was prudent of us to decline.  However, just thinking about it has left me pondering two important questions:

First, am I happy?

Second, how does my understanding of happiness compare to what an ABC producer might spin as a happy family?

I know enough about sociology to know that how I really feel is not statistically relevant to an actual study, so what follows is not an attempt to justify or refute any sort of research, just a bit of public naval gazing, exactly the kind that my husband would prefer to avoid.  Then again, his public self expression comes in the form of Japanese poetry about Philadelphia sports, so who should be more embarrassed?

When I am really honest, I have to admit that my happiness is quite easily shaken.  In a very human way, I am happy with the first sip of a gingerbread latte and unhappy when I look at the laundry pile, etc.  But on this feast of the Immaculate Conception, I also know that with a large family I go to bed each night worn out and sometimes worried, but content in a very deep way because I am confident that I have said to God, in the big decisions of my life, Thy Will Be Done.  When I lay awake unhappy it is usually because I can think of lots of small chances I had that day to say “yes” to the Lord and failed, and I am trying to teach myself to rely on Confession and a fresh start, and to accept God’s forgiveness.

My temperament tends toward melancholy, it runs in my family, so happiness is something that I have to really try hard for most days.  One of the ways that I do this is to limit my exposure to the outside world.  I know that for extroverts this would backfire, but for me it is just happiest to be at home, on my own schedule, thankful for what I have, reading to the children by the fire.  When I go out in the world I tend to do too much coveting and comparing, and I also find it sort of exhausting.  When I get cabin fever, I am well served by taking my children on a nature walk or long bike ride rather than out to a busy playground or shopping center.

Today is an out in the world day for us.  Mass feels like something that we have to “fit in” between a birthday party, ballet, piano lessons, and a doctrine class.  The stress of having to be in several places at once this afternoon has been weighing on me all week.  The problem was solved by one phone call this morning and a tough decision — the children who have piano at the same time as the birthday party will go to piano and not the birthday party.  The children who are supposed to nap during the birthday party will go home for a nap and miss the party.  The children who do not have other obligations will be dropped off at the party and then picked up by grandfather.  The present will come out of the stash in my closet and be imperfectly wrapped by a child.  Dinner will be a casserole out of the freezer (Thank God for that!).   These are some keys for my sanity — stick to the schedule, say no, ask for help, prepare in advance.  Later on, I will take the girls to ballet, where it happens to be observation day, and I will get a gingerbread latte and watch my girls dance and I will be happy.

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  • Bellaboosmom

    I love this.u00a0 Thank you for your honesty and wisdom.u00a0

  • Elenaculshaw

    The gingerbread latte is enough to make my night! u00a0I had a very rough start to the week but managed to rescue it by convincing Grandma to babysit all 5 so that hubby and I could go out to dinner and Christmas shop on Friday. u00a0We have had so little face-time lately with each other that the thought of East Side Mario’s and Walmart without even a 15-month-old is enough to make me giddy for the whole week, morning sickness and all. u00a0This was a great post as I feel just as worn out by the world as you expressed and I relish in the humdrum of daily life – except for the moments when I want to break free which are usually remedied by a slight change to the schedule (and some alone time).

  • Kat

    Beautifully said, MA, I always appreciate your honesty. We have a drive-through Starbucks right around the corner – it has saved my day many-a-time :)u00a0

  • Kate E.

    Beautiful, We were so happy to see you all yesterday. Your home is so full of joy, those kids of yours just make me glow for days. I am hoping the little guys is feeling better today after a good night sleep. Enjoy your latte and ballerinas. I think much like the tiredness I feel at the end of the day, the happiness too is bone deep.

  • Katy

    I wonder how many of us are feeling the pinch today. With Mass to “fit in” somewhere today, large projects and Christmas looming right around the corner I feel ashamed and sad that I let myself succumb to despair at this time of year. Our homily last week had a really lovely sentiment that I have been repeating in my head: “Advent is such a wonderful time of peace when everything else in the world wants to pull us down.” Thank you for this reminder that happiness is not always the goal and that it comes in small, precious doses every now and then.

  • Anonymous

    A latte really makes me happy too!nnI’m an extrovert, but there is just something about this time of year that makes me want to withdraw from the world.u00a0 I love just being in my decorated home, listening to peaceful music, and having plenty of time to pray.u00a0 December is a retreat of sorts, and I love that.u00a0 nnAnd for what it’s worth, I think you are ready for prime time!n

  • Harmony

    I second Bellaboosmom… As an introverted melancholic working mother of a toddler, I so relate, even though we’re not a large family yet. Thanks for sharing some of your challenges, solutions and objectives–it’s encouraging to me to hear from someone farther ahead in life and maturity.

  • JMB

    I went to the noon Mass at my parish, and a classmate of youngest daughter, her mom and sister were sitting in the pew next to me.u00a0 I worked out this morning, so I didn’t have time to sign out my daughter from school and take her to Mass. I felt terrible.u00a0 The whole time I was sitting there I kept thinking that I was a complete failure as a Catholic because it’s a HDO and I didn’t bother bringing my kids to Mass.u00a0 It’s hard.nI ended up dropping off my oldest kids at the Carmelite Chapel at the Mall for Mass and hung out in Marshalls while I waited for them.u00a0 The little one never made it to Mass because after school she had a birthday party to attend. I tried today, that’s all I can say.

  • Graceinmyheart

    Loved this!!!

  • AWOL Mommy

    If those two boys in the picture are not ready for primetime, I don’t know who is. Really, MA, I wish you had said yes because your honesty and commitment are exactly what inspires, not your perfection.