Today’s guest post and response to Dear Mom Friend comes from Bethany Morrill, a college mate who is becomming an even closer friend thanks to facebook (Yes, I believe there are positives to facebook, despite what I may have communicated last week). Bethany and her husband, Tim, are raising their two darling daughters in the Louisville area. If you want to read more thoughtful posts like this, you should encourage Bethany to start a blog.
Dear Mom Friend:
I miss you, too. Having one kid seemed so manageable. We got back on an even keel, everyone was sleeping again, and life was golden. Then we had baby number two, and I have found it difficult to maintain any relationships with friends (single, married, or married with kids). It’s detrimental to everyone. Even as a parent, I find it boring to talk constantly about child schedules, the best preschools, what diaper brand to use – isn’t that the point of getting together with friends? To escape this part of my life?
Here’s the problem: I feel like that is ALL there is to my life right now. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, my kids are not only my children; they are my full-time job and my current mission field. I feel like I have lost my own dreams, ambitions and hobbies into the black hole of parenthood. I don’t have much else to talk about, and that makes me feel like my life is small…so I revert back to talking about kid things.
Don’t get me wrong, I love children. All of my life, I wanted to have my own, and I wanted to stay home with them (My husband and I talked about that at length before we got married). I started babysitting when I was 12 and worked at a Day Care through high school and part of college. I worked as a VBS teacher, studied elementary education, and eventually became a children’s librarian. I was surrounded by kids all the time, and I didn’t think the transition to parenthood would be so very different!
It is very different.
I love my kids, but no – I’m not always happy. We live in a culture that encourages women to “have it all” and pretends that you can. I think that’s a lie; I think that no matter which choice you make (career, children/homemaker, or both), you always feel that something is out of balance. And to admit that you’re not always happy makes it sound like you don’t love your kids, or that you’re not grateful to have the opportunity to stay at home with them, which isn’t true. I know a lot of women who would like children or women that have children but work full time look at my pictures on Facebook and think, “She is so lucky.” I look at pictures of others bopping away for a weekend with friends or getting pedicures or taking ballroom dance lessons or a Zumba class or going on a date or sleeping in past 8 a.m. and I think, “She is so lucky.”
Here are the stats about my life: I’ve been a mom for 3 1/2 years, and in that time, I have lost regular Bible reading, a regular exercise routine, and most time for myself. It’s difficult to find/create alone time with my husband to keep building our relationship. It shocks and frightens me that I do not read books for myself any more (about 3-4 per year) even though I am a dedicated book lover and trained librarian. In 3 1/2 years, I have spent one night away from our oldest, and we have yet to leave our youngest overnight. I have dealt with mild depression and weigh more than I have at any point in my life.
I admit that some of those things have been my own choices; they are a combination of living far away from family, the expense of babysitters, having two kids instead of one, my decision to plan activities/crafts/preschool for my three year old (which takes a lot of time), my husband’s long hours at work, and the fact that my youngest, who is fifteen months old, still doesn’t sleep through the night. But at the end of the day, when I’ve been correcting behavior, singing Wee Sing songs, playing peek-a-boo, smoothing tantrums, changing diapers, and scraping dried pasta off the kitchen floor, not only do I not have anything interesting to say to a friend, sometimes (total honesty here) I don’t even want to talk. I’m so spent that if a friend does call after the girls are in bed, I am guilty of not answering the phone – because I just don’t have the energy to put on socially acceptable behavior for ten more minutes. This is why Facebook has become the best way for me to keep in touch with people, although you and I both know that it is no substitute for face to face relationships. And so over time, my friendships have become shallower and more distant.
I recognize that I need to change! I can’t blame my kids for my present state when I have made the choices to stay at home and plan preschool lessons and curl up on the couch to watch Psych or The Big Bang Theory in the evening instead of taking the initiative to keep my relationships strong. I have been caught in the trap of thinking that taking time for myself (whether it’s for exercise, hobbies, or relationships) is somehow depriving my children and being selfish. And we’re taught that being a good mom is to be totally sacrificial, giving everything you have to care for your kids – there’s no room for selfishness. But friend: I’m giving myself permission to be selfish. I’m giving myself permission take time for myself and to build (or perhaps rebuild) relationships.
On the rare chance that I go out with a girlfriend, or play games with just grown-ups, or read a book for myself, I feel free; I actually feel physically lighter. I remember a part of myself that has been missing for a long time. I remember that I wanted to run a 5k before I was 30, that I longed to serve on the Newbery committee (which several of my SLIS classmates have already done), that I want to learn how to make stained glass, and that I would love to go to the library and choose a book for myself instead of desperately trying to hunt down titles for preschool before my 18 month old destroys the shelves.
Older women often tell young moms that being the parent of a young child is a golden time and so short – that we should treasure every minute and not miss a thing. I agree – being a parent of a young child IS a temporary part of my life. And it’s precisely because of that that I don’t want to lose my whole self to this single aspect of my life. If I place all my time and thought and energy into parenting, what am I going to do when my children leave home? Will I still have a good relationship with my husband? Will I still have girlfriends to play Bunco and go shopping with?
My dear, sweet friend: I desire the relationship as strongly as you do, and I value you even more than you know for fighting to keep it current and authentic. You are the touchstone that helps me remember who I am as a person and not as a parent. Because sometimes, it’s hard to remember.
So be patient with me as I learn how to balance these parts of myself. Stay with me on the phone as I take a break to put my toddler in time out. If I am ten (or fifteen) minutes late for coffee because I had to clean up a diaper disaster, don’t think that you’re not important to me. Hold me accountable to reading a new book or getting exercise. See what God is doing in my life, or if I’m taking time to pray. Keep asking the hard questions and challenging me to reach outside of my current world – I promise I’ll respond and thank you for it. And our friendship will be all the stronger for having weathered this season of life.
A Mom of Two Kids Under Age Three
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