Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The truth about motherhood

My blog writing has been slacking these past few weeks. There are few moments in my life where I'm not mulling something over in my mind, so my blog absence has not been the result of a slow season of thoughts. Nonetheless, I have struggled to find the energy (or desire) to communicate much of what I have been internally (and introspectively) contending with over the past month or so. Every now and then I seem to enter into a sort of self-retreating mode where I pull back from all that I have ventured into. The change in pace and creation of space seems to allow for a greater awareness of all of my goings and doings.

As mothers, or as a human beings for that matter, I'm discovering that our lives can often seem to carry on in existence outside of ourselves. I realize that's a difficult description to chew on...so let me try to explain further. I'm no longer a mother of babies or toddlers. I'm now a full-blown mother (which makes me feel rather old despite my mere 29 years of existence) of two school-aged children and one almost 4 year old. It is a different stage. It's not any more or less demanding than the early years of motherhood (though I had always imagined it getting easier once kids were all out of diapers and sleeping through the night). It's just different - the struggles are different. The joys are different. The conversations are different. The schedule is different. The accomplishments are different.

When my girls were younger I found motherhood to be a fascinating experience. In my arms I could hold these little bundles of life and dream of what the future held for each of them. There were plenty of moments where the reality of their existence seemed too good to be true. How could it be that out of the union of my life and Brian's life these precious girls miraculously came into existence. Don't worry, I took sex ed like the rest of the world, so I know the anatomy and biology involved - but those detailed facts of life were never able to contain or explain the deep love that captured (and in some sense enslaved) my heart the moment I met each one of them face to face. But any mother knows that such foundational feelings of awe are necessary in order to survive the mundane reality of the day-to-day duties of caring for infants. Days and nights are filled with nursing, burping, wiping, rocking, swinging, dressing, wiping, bathing, praying, cleaning, loving, stimulating, wiping, capturing, sharing, tickling, and wiping some more. So much of your time is invested in simply providing for the needs of the child and though they are a miraculous extension of you in this world, your own identity can at times be hard to find amidst all of the motherly duties.

Infants require much time, attention and care. As they grow they begin to need more and more of you. As little toddlers ready and willing to explore the world, they still need much of your care, but they are also in need of a guide for all of their explorations. The key is to become an expert guide - one who can find a way to make the toddler feel as though they are independently scouting out new discoveries, when in reality you are introducing them to the world you believe they're ready for. The demand upon your life shifts at this stage. You are now called to experience the world through the fresh eyes of your own child.

I'm learning that as they grow, we are called to grow as well. Life as a mother in this stage still consists of the mundane reality of providing meals, doing laundry and helping with hygiene. It also requires experiencing the world through their eyes (of which you are able to see how your influence has already shaped the lens in which they look through). But now, the most challenging task thus far for me in motherhood, I am having to face myself through the eyes of my children.

As a mother, my own life can tend to feel as though it has escaped me and landed in the lives of these little blonde beauties. When they were babies, my physical existence seemed to revolve around their basic needs. As toddlers, they required my physical existence and at least a portion of my mental existence. And now they are requiring all of me. I don't think I was ready for this requirement until now. All though it can often feel like my life is not my own any longer, I am deeply aware of the paradoxical truth that it is because of them that my life is now more fully mine than it ever has been before. They call me to physical and mental presence each and every day. But most importantly, they call me to face myself honestly in every decision I make.


The Tigerts said...

thanks shauna-- for the glimpses of what is to come. we need to talk soon!

:::No Longer Mute said...

hooray! i've been waiting and waiting for you to write.

i went to chatfield today, like we did this time last year, and thought of you and your kids. i was wishing you could be here so we could be doing these things together. i'm still glad we can share these times of parenthood with each other - the learning, changing and growing - even though we're miles away...but some days, i just wish it were only one mile - and you could come to the park, to the lake, to the pool - with us, and you and i could talk in person about how our children "raise" us to become the persons we need to be...all while we watch faith, bailey, krisalyn, lucy and peter filling their buckets with water and making sand castles. oh, how i wish...

noelle said...

As a mama to 2 tweens, it is also amazing to me how my morals and values are reevaluated at this stage. Who they choose as friends and what they choose to do with their time and money shows how we have taught these babies and toddlers and young school age kids.

I agree that we begin to really see who we are in our children. The values that I didn't know were really there become evident when I see them acted out in my children. The value of giving all that we have in my 4 yo wanting to share every baking endeavor with our widower neighbor. The value of nuturing as my 11 yo son tends to his 2 yo brother's tears. The value of family when they all ask to just sit around and watch a show with "all of us".

Motherhood is so transforming. It is also so routine. We choose which of these we focus on.