Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Thriving

I recently read a blog post in which the author, a young mom, described a conversation she had with her husband while they were scheduling their week.  "What can I do to help you?"  he asked, and she said, "Well, to be sane I need...."  and she listed a few things.  But then her husband said, "April, I don't want you to just be sane, I want you to thrive." 

Super sweet, right?  

But that got the squeaky little wheel in my brain a-turning.  Thrive, eh?  Thrive?  Could I possibly thrive? What do I need to thrive?  So I made a list, because I love lists and they make me feel safe.   

My Thrive List
-Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep most nights, plus one good nap a week.
-Love
-Time to think
-Meditation
-Writing Time
-Music Time
-Reading Time
-Vigorous Exercise at least three times a week
-20-30 minute walks most days a week
-Solitude
-Friends
-Family
-Poetry
-Freedom from whining
-The right to say ‘no’ without guilt or badgering.  
-A clean house
And then I sighed.  Like I'd get all of that.  I've got children.  And a job.  And a house.  And a church.  I don't have time for solitude and poetry and saying no! 

But then I started thinking that maybe I should make the time. 

My coworker girls and I recently went to see The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron.  It was a typically ooey gooey chicky flicky romance, and quite enjoyable (except for an overly long sex scene that made me start to feel like a creepy voyeur), but there was one line in the film that struck me: 

"Sacrificing everything for your children isn't selfless.  It's stupid."   

(To add context:  This was said by the feisty grandmother of the main female character, Beth, who had just ended her relationship with this very sexy, broody-but-tender soldier man named Logan (Zac Effron) because her ex-husband was threatening to take away her child if she continued seeing him.)

But anyway, the grandma said this and I was like, "Whaaaaa....?"

And while I was still saying "Whaaaa....?", Beth reacted just the way I would have.  She threw something and shouted, "I'm doing the best I can!"

And I was like, "Yeah!  Leave her alone!"

(WARNING: SPOILER ALERT)

But then Beth decides to stand up to her stupid ex-husband and then sexually assaults Zac Effron in a shower and, well, you know-- romantic things like kitchen dancing and sun-drenched boat rowing ensued, and everyone lived happily ever after, especially after Beth's worthless ex-husband ends up drowning despite Logan's heroic attempts to save him. 

(Nicholas Sparks?  How did you get so in touch with your feminine side?)   

But long after the movie ended, I was still thinking about that line.  "Sacrificing everything for your children isn't selfless.  It's stupid."  Is is really stupid to sacrifice everything for your kids? I wondered.  Isn't that what we mothers are supposed to do?  

Well, yes.  And no.

There are things we as mothers are supposed to do-- love and discipline our children, provide them with healthy meals and warm beds, read them stories, support them in their interests, comfort them when they're scared and sad, teach them how to take care of themselves and be good people and work hard.  But that doesn't mean that we stop being people in our own right, that we are supposed to sacrifice everything we are and all our time and all our interests and desires in the name of fulfilling their every whim.

There is a BALANCE.  A happy medium.  And I've never been good at balance and happy mediums.  But after years of going and going and going and not properly nurturing myself I have found that I have reached the bottom of my well.  I have drawn all the water and am now scraping around in the mud, trying to find something good to give to someone.  The words spent and exhausted and depleted have taken on all new meaning for me.  I find myself grasping desperately at the resources of time and sleep.  Worse, I sometimes find myself resenting other peoples' happiness.  And that is something I do not like one bit.  I want to celebrate others' joy, not slink around all darkly whenever something good happens to someone else.

So I've been trying to figure out the minimum that I need to do to fulfill my role as a mother.  As a person who likes to go above and beyond, this has been difficult.     But when I think of the things I want to give my children, long term, three core words come to mind:

JOY
LOVE
RESPONSIBILITY

It is my job to do my best to give them these gifts.  But it is also my job to make sure that I have them as well, partially because of the truism that you can't give your children something you don't have-- and also because of the simple fact that I am a person too.  I am also someone's child.  And I know that those someones (and Someones) want me to be joyful and loving and loved and responsible.

So instead of giving every scrap of spare energy to my family, I've decided to set some minimum standards and aim for those instead.  Obviously I need to make sure the children are getting adequate sleep, are provided with regular healthy meals each day, are picking up after themselves, understand their consistently enforced limits, and are practicing good hygiene.    

In addition to that, I feel like I should do the following:

Most Days:
-Wake up and have breakfast with the kids
-Read stories
-Have family scripture study and family prayer
-Have family skills training (teaching the children a social skill or coping skill)
-Family Dinner
-Bedtime Routine

Weekly:
-Play with the kids for 1-2 hours
-Family Home Evening, including a fun activity
-One-on-one time with one boy (while Abe spends time with the other boy).

 Twice a year:
-Family vacations

This doesn't mean we can't do more things together (for example, the kids usually "help" me cook), but it also means I don't have to feel guilty saying "no" if I've met the minimum standards and they want me to do something I don't want to do.  It means I can slip away one night a month to spend time with the girls.  It means I can take a day off a couple times a month just to be alone.  Or write. Or read poetry.  Or play the piano.  Or go shopping.  Or visit with a friend. It means I can sit and read while my kids whine about being bored (in another room, of course, because I don't want to hear it.) 

This is my version of confronting the ex-husband and attacking Zac Effron in a shower.  Not quite as steamy, but I'm happy about it anyway.  

1 comment:

Lara said...

I saw a thingy on Pinterest - it was a Mom's rules. One of them was that she stops working as a Mom at 8 p.m. I found it very interesting. If a child wants a story and to be tucked into bed, it must happen before 8 p.m. If the husband wants the wife to help with bathing and bedtime, it must happen before 8 p.m. I'm not sure I can embrace it, but it is an intriguing idea all the same.

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