10 Years of Mothering (a reflection)

I wanted to write something when Mateo turned 10 this month, to somehow commemorate a decade of mothering by summarizing the lessons I’ve learned along the way into a cute, tidy, entertaining little snippet. I tried. But I couldn’t do it. Because I don’t know how to make mothering come out tidy in words or in real life. So that piece of writing had to die and instead I’m going to tell you the truth.

We are in a season of change around here. Our boys will all be in school full time this fall. For the first time in 10 whole years, there will be no little boys home for all or part of the day, at least until 2:45pm. Also, Rosalie is not a baby anymore. She and I are going to have a lot of girl time while the boys are in school. My heart is soaring and aching at the same time. I love watching the boys learn and grow and become more independent. I’m enjoying my time with the little girl I didn’t think I would have. But those years of them all being little one right after the other – those hard, intense, exhausting, demanding years – I sometimes miss them. I listened to all of the people who told me to enjoy it because it goes so fast. I don’t regret not holding them enough because I held them all the time. I didn’t miss a single thing. And it still went by too fast and too slow. I guess that’s just how it works no matter what.

Being a stay at home mom was not my plan. It was the opposite of my plan. I knew plenty of women who did plan to have a houseful of kids and be home with them and I thought those women were crazy. I thought I’d be bored or need more stimulating, meaningful things to do with my life, my time. I didn’t imagine I’d ever want to slow my ambition down for motherhood. Now, as I have started working part time from home and talking seriously about returning to work and/or school in the near future, I am wondering how I am ever going to slow down motherhood for my ambitions. Motherhood seemed small before I walked into it. To be honest, I felt small for a long time as a mother. I was constantly calculating how many years before my kids would be in school and I would return to my previous pursuits – not because I was wishing time away, but because I am a planner. I like to know what’s coming and when, as far in advance as I possibly can. I had this need to justify being home, by having a long term plan for what would come after. Because I felt like I *should* want to be studying or working or using my God-given talents and intellect for something loftier than mothering.

Now I’m just trying to hold on to this season for as long as I can. I have loved being a stay at home mom. Period. No qualifiers. No justifications. I did it because I wanted to. It made me happy (and also crazy) in a way that nothing else ever has. The last decade has been one big long run on sentence of a come to Jesus, aha-moment, wake up call in my life. All of the books, libraries, pens, paper, time to write, read, learn, draw, and study in this world – none of the things I love to do and be most, come close to giving me the kind of joy that mothering has. I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to admit that, even to myself. We aren’t supposed to lose ourselves in mothering. They say it’s not healthy. Except that I did get lost in it and I’m better for it.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” -Jesus

The truth? There are as many ways to be a good mother as there are mothers and children. We are all laying something down, losing ourselves, praying and hoping we’re making the right choices for us and our kids in the short and long term. I’ve never met a mother who isn’t sacrificing something. Why do we do it? Because mothering is the loftiest thing. Whatever kind of mothers we are, we are doing it for the good and best of our children and there is nothing small in that. How I can have nothing but respect for my mom friends of all kinds, but constantly second guess my own self is a bit ridiculous. Maybe it’s time to stop doing that. Maybe after 10 years it’s time to just let the pressure and expectations go.

I don’t know if I’ll end up back in school or back in the maternity ward having another baby. Or both. Or neither. I don’t know anything about the future. I do know that in 10 years I’ve learned that mothering is not what anybody thinks it’s going to be, and we are all probably doing better than we think. It really is this hard, we are all sacrificing something (I think that one bears repeating), and everybody has a good reason for her choices so we all need to be kind and lay off. Internet fights are not worth the time and effort. Internet friends are worth the time and effort, but you need people in real life, face to face, too. Nobody has it completely together. Nothing we face is really new under the sun: someone, somewhere has been there. Find those people. Hang on to them. Your mother was probably right about a lot of things but don’t tell her I said so. Oh, and read with your kids, often and about everything. This gig is always changing; the kids are always coming with new and diabolical ways to throw us off our game and life just will not stay the same no matter how hard we dig in our heels and try to make it stay stuck. That’s about the gist of what I’ve learned in 10 years. It hasn’t been a bad way to spend a decade, I’ll tell you that much.

As for us, yeah, we are in a season of change. I’m never going to be a brand new first time mom again. I’m never going to have 4 kids in 6.5 years again. I could (and might) have another baby but it will never be like these last 10 years have been. I’m thankful for this wild ride we’re on. I’m thankful that parts of it are slowing down to make room for new, different things. I’m thankful for the lessons learned and the gifts that are my children. I didn’t plan for or think I wanted this path in life but it’s good to be dead wrong every once in a while.

This is where the last 10 years of my life have been spent.

This is where the last 10 years of my life have been spent and it took me that whole time to realize there’s no place I’d rather have been.

copyright (c) 2015 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

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