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Entries in Mothering (10)


Five questions from an older mother

The other day, I saw a link that said, "7 Questions to Ask an Older Mother." Being an older mother myself, I wanted to hear those questions. Some were questions I've been asked by younger mothers. The post led me to ponder questions I wish I had asked as a younger mother. 

How hard will it be when they start driving?

Having our children learn to drive is something so common that we don't often stop to think of the power they wield when they get behind the wheel. My husband is in the auto insurance industry. Some of the statistics are not comforting. I'm better now, but in those early years, not so much.

How do I handle having a daughter living on her own?

Some of us assume that our daughters will find Prince Charming by the age of 25 and will not have to deal with issues of walking home from work in the dark, or riding the bus at night, with no one waiting for them at home except a cat. Thankfully, my daughter is aware of the vulnerability a single woman has, and is careful, but she is still a single woman living on her own.

How do I handle when my adult children struggle with trials, but don't want to open up to me?

When our kids are young, they bring every little problem to us. We may assume that our kids will always want to share each and every struggle with us. Some of them, especially young men, don't. And it doesn't mean we were bad parents. It means they are young adults with matters they may want to keep private. My older son went through a very serious break up at the end of his time in Bible school. He did not want to talk about it, but I knew he was struggling. I had to sit back. It was really hard.

How can I cope with feeling rejected when my children make decisions I don't like?

Our adult children will make decisions we don't like. And that doesn't mean they are bad decisions. We may think bad decisions are ones that are clearly sinful or foolish. Sometimes, they are not those kinds, but we don't like them. How does a Reformed Baptist mother feel when her child starts attending a Pentecostal church? We have to remember not everything is about us, and not take those decisions as a reflection of our parenting. 

I taught my children the gospel, but they seem to be rejecting it. Where did I go wrong?

I can answer that question now, but it's a question I asked inwardly during some moments during the late teens and early young adult years. I had no older woman to help during those years. There is a sense of shame attached to having wandering kids, and I'd heard enough occasions of women judging other people's kids that I knew enough to be quiet. Thank the Lord, my husband and I had each other.

Maybe you've wondered these things. Maybe you've never given them a second thought. I know I didn't. But I wish I had been better prepared to deal with them. The time to prepare is before our kids leave, not after. The transition from having kids at home to being just the two of us is much harder than I imagined it would be. If I had any advice to offer a younger mother, it would be this: don't hover. The process of release needs to be gradual. And don't be afraid to let them make mistakes.

God loves our children more than we ever could. That is a wonderful truth to hang on to when we let our children out into the world. We may even question why God is allowing something in their lives. This is where knowing God is so crucial. And that is another piece of advice I'd offer a young mother: don't neglect your own relationship with God. Don't let the details of life interfere with it. You'll need that trust and faith in God.


When the mom blogs aren't for you

Young moms are so fortunate today to have many ways to connect with other like-minded moms. There are many good resources encouraging moms not just in the day to day details of motherhood, but in growing in Christ and expressing their own theological ponderings. When I was a young mom, I was blessed to have opportunities for fellowship and prayer, but any really deep theological reflection was rather a solitary pursuit. I am so thankful for the voices out there which remind us of the important calling of motherhood. I made my children my priority when they were at home, and I don't regret it one bit.

But what happens when motherhood changes? Because it does change. Our children leave, sometimes to very far places. I have a friend whose son is in Asia serving as a missionary. That's far. When I feel like I miss my kids, I try to remember how little she gets to see her son and her gradchildren. And aside from the physical distance, there comes a time when we simply do not know everything going on in our kids' lives. My children have friends whom I don't know. They have things in their lives of which I am simply not a part, and that's the way it's meant to be. I'm still their mother, but motherhood now is less about teaching and more about sitting back and letting them go, knowing when to speak and when not to.

The transition from having kids at home to having them gone is difficult, whether a woman works outside the home or not. The focus of her life changes a great deal. Suddenly, there is no one coming home at 3:00, no one to wait up for to meet his curfew. It's easy to feel like one is less than a mother because her kids are gone. And don't even get me started on the temptation to read "gospel-centred mothering" posts, which make us older mothers feel like we didn't really know what we were doing. It's tempting to compare ourselves to younger mothers who sound like they have it all together, whereas, in our day, with our landlines and coffee clatches, we were fairly ignorant.

I have been in that position, where I have read the posts of younger moms and found myself feeling like a failure. The solution was easy enough: stop reading them and focus on other things. I have started to give myself over more to my studies. I finally have enough silent hours in the day to pursue seminary education. I can work all day without interruption if I want (something I plan to do once this post is finished). I can hang out in the library without feeling like I need to rush home for someone. It's a wonderful time. The best week I've had recently was when I was in school from 9:00-4:00 for five days in a row. It was great. And I was able to do that without worrying about what was going on at home.

I have also found joy in encouraging young moms. In addition to teaching the Bible, I just like to hang out with them and lend a hand with their kids when they need it. Recently, I had a blast with three young kids while their parents did some work in their home. We went on the swings and the slide. We ran through the baseball park, pretended we were lions in the batting cage, and went on an imaginary quest through the park. I was wearing my Fitbit that day, and I burned 1100 calories during that visit. I'm not doing a lot of conscious "mentoring," or anything ultra spiritual. I'm just being there.

The important thing is to find something and give ourselves to it. Perhaps that is grandchildren, and that's wonderful. I hope that happens for me, but there is also a real possibility that grandchildren may live far away. People are having children later, and what's a woman going to do? Stand around and wait? Just as there is more to womanhood than children, there is more to older womanhood than grandchildren. We have opportunities to reach out in so many ways, whether it's mentoring a young mom, or how about a woman with no children? Or a single woman? I often think those women are an untapped area of ministry. Whatever it is, we just need to ask God to give us something to do. He will do it. And when we are stewards of what he gives us, we not only have full days, but we grow as well.


Musings of a stay-at-home mother

It's about to begin: the "stuff" that accompanies the kids coming home for the holidays. While I miss my children and love when they come home, I've become very used to a tidy house. Soon there will be more shoes, coats, laptops, phones, and with my sons coming, musical instruments and recording equipment. I will not complain. I will pick up whatever I have to, and enlist help when needed. I'm just glad they're coming.

I have thought a lot lately about stay-at-home motherhood, and not just because of the holidays arriving. I've thought about it as discussion about the matter was inspired by a blog post Tim Challies had a while back. I have very definite thoughts about this matter. I've been home since 1989. I didn't plan it this way. When I decided to stay at home with my daughter, I had plans to return to work, but it just never happened. After child number 3, I had a notion it was rather permanent. Homeschooling made that a certainty. I feel fortunate to have been able to be here. I know many women who would like to but can't. I also know many women who can, but don't, and that's fine, too. I don't think being a stay at home mother is any more holy than any other God-given vocation. Motherhood is a gift and calling from God, but I don't believe being a stay-at-home mother is more virtuous.

I also don't think it's "Plan B" when better things don't work out. I don't think it's any more sacrificial a choice than a woman who works full-time. Working women make sacrifices. Parenting, period, requires sacrifice. If I begin to think about sacrifices I've made in order to be at home with my children then all of a sudden, I'm keeping score, and I don't think that has any place in a sincere vocation. If I start thinking, "Look at all of the sacrifices I've made to be at home," that can be the start of feeling entitled, and that begets bitterness. I don't want that.

One thing that bothers me the most about this debate is the tendency to view our choice as the right one and someone else's as the wrong one. If a woman wants to work, I have no reason to question her choices. Nor is it gracious of me to make her feel bad because she works. Similarly, I don't like it when other women assume that I am either lazy, unambitious, or stupid because I choose to remain at home. We all need to stop making assumptions about one another, comparing ourselves to one another. 

Every choice we make comes from a particular context. I had some really bad experiences being a child who had a working mother. It wasn't her fault, but there are some really negative things I have in my memory. That shaped the way I felt about my own motherhood; that, and what God gave me and how he directed me. It is the same for anyone else. I think we all ought to spend more time focusing on our vocations instead of everyone else's.

That one kind of motherhood is the "default," and any diversion from that is abnormal is a notion that needs to go away. If God gives us children, our priority ought to be raising them and daily caring for them. What that looks like practically will differ from family to family. I wonder if our tendency to compare ourselves and laud our own choices over those of others doesn't reveal insecurity. And often, insecurity and pride are two sides of the same coin. 

I've been fortunate to be home all of these years. I'm thankful that as my kids trickle home this week that I don't have to juggle a job while preparing for the chaos. This has worked for us these 26 years. And it has worked the best when my eyes have been off the choices of others and more focused on my own.


Moms, please don't stop using paper

I've been doing some reading about Nellie McClung. I've been doing it for a while. I just finished another biography. This, after having read her two volume autobiography and a collection of her essays regarding her thoughts on the role of women. 

One of the things I enjoyed very much about the most recent biography was that the authors had delved into the private papers of McClung and were able to quote things she had written down in sources that were not public. This gives insight into her that published works don't have. To find these snippets of her own words is a treasure.

Women of the past tended not to write things down. Those who did were in the minority. There was in most cases a time issue, and for some an ability issue, and for some a cost issue. There was no Office Depot back then. I'm thankful for the ones who did manage to keep a record.

I wish that my female ancestors had kept journals. I am interested particularly in my father's mother, who I think passed on to me my love of handiwork and baking. Last week, as I removed a beautifully formed loaf of honey wheat bread, I remembered how good her bread was. I was only 7 when she died, but I do remember watching her cut the unsliced bread perfectly. That's one thing I didn't get from her: my loaf always ends up with a big fat chunk at the end which is too thick to eat and too thin to slice. I wish she had kept journals. She was mothering back then even if she didn't keep a record.

Today, women can avail themselves of the internet to share their stories. There are so many places to find such reading material. I hope women still keep journals. There is something much more precious about a woman's stories, on smooth white paper, in her own handwriting. The finished product becomes a beautiful artifact. In the pages of a journal, we can be more honest, at least ideally that is how it works. Online, many people are discrete, but occasionaly not. I'm often a little taken aback and sometimes put off by too much honesty. The reason Nellie McClung had private papers in addition to hundreds of articles she had published was because she knew some things were better left private. Sometimes, I look back at what I have published on my blog and thought, "I should have waited until I was older to write that." 

Nellie McClung's oldest son went away to war in 1914. He was gone for four years. When he returned, he was changed. Nellie wrote very sensitively about this:

I knew there was a wound in his heart - a sore place. That hurt look in his clear blue eyes tore at my heart strings and I did not know what to do. When a boy who has never had a gun in his hands, never desired anything but the good of his fellow men, is sent out to kill other boys like himself, even at the call of his country, something snaps in him, something which may not mend.

A wound in a young heart is like the wound in a young tree. It does not grow out. It grows in.

If this was today, that beautiful piece of prose would have been well read online. As it is, it is tucked away in a battered volume I had to buy second hand because it's out of print. I am so glad Nellie chose to keep a journal so she could write this book. Moms have been doing the mom thing for hundreds of years, no matter how quietly they do it. When we get a glimpse into it, I think we are the ones who benefit.


Aren't all mothers, "mommy bloggers" in some sense?

This is a random, unprocessed thought for a Monday. I have a lot of things to do today, so I'm going to be irresponsible and just spew it out, although I've thought of it often over the almost ten years I've been blogging.

To be a "mommy blogger" is often seen as a disparaging term. There can occasionally be a bit of a look down the nose at a woman who takes pride in her family and writes about it. It can be communicated that only the women who write about current events, politics, doctrine and (cringe) pop culture are "serious." When I was a younger mother, there was a lot of discussion about that. Heaven forbid some poor lady would be accused of mommy blogging.

I have been considered a "mommy blogger." I'm not famous, nor am I married to someone famous. I don't have a "platform" to boast over. Even worse, I'm a mommy blogger who (*whisper*) doesn't have any kids at home. I can't even blog about the things I'm learning through mommy-ing.

I cannot help but wonder if all mothers aren't in some sense mommy bloggers. I can only speak for myself, but being a mother changed me. A lot. In huge portions. Major. You get the idea.

What I thought about life, sacrifice, humility, myself, the world all came to a watershed  the moment I held that first of three babies in my arms. A natural, serious protective instinct grew in me that still lives. You cross one of my babies, and I may get in a snit.

The big ethical issues I thought I had a handle on as a young woman were looked at through a different set of eyes once I became a mother, and once I had children who were as old as I was when I became a mother myself, I thought again.

Even if you lost a child early, you don't stop being a mother. It's like walking through a door where it shuts behind you immediately, and while you can see through a window the life you led before, you can't stop where you're headed, and you don't really want to, if truth be told. Motherhood has been a ground for sanctification that has changed me the most, even more than being married, I think. It has reduced me to my weakest places and lifted me up to the most beautiful heights. 

Would not almost everything I blog about be affected by who I am? A mother? 

I don't know, maybe I'm being too idealistic. Maybe you hear violins playing in the background and these words sound sugary and lame. 

Whether I write about what I'm learning in Scripture, or my mostly faltering observations about culture and life, my identity as a mother has been a filter through which my eyes have viewed things, for better or worse. I am not able to compartmentalize my life into little boxes; they all intersect at some point. Maybe that's a fault.

As a Christian woman, it is my belief that motherhood is a gift from God. It is something to be valued highly. I am not ashamed to say that it has affected who I am. I am not ashamed to say that I'm thankful to be someone's mother. I am first and foremost a Christian, but motherhood is not something to be pushed down as an incidental.

I wonder what will happen if I get to a grandmother.