Sunday, September 27, 2009
Sometimes, I wonder just how my grandmothers did it. Just how did they raise three children each, keep a home, manage their crops and cook everything FROM SCRATCH? I wouldn't say either had overly involved husbands. They were typical husbands of that era – caring but pretty much uninvolved with the daily operations of things. They went to work, came home, ate dinner, hugged the kids and read the newspaper.
This leads me to wonder why women of today complain as we do. Single mothers excluded, those of us with husbands willing to pitch in in the smallest way should be rejoicing, shouldn't we? Or maybe I have that wrong. Perhaps, this is the way it was meant to be all along. Either way, I can arguably say that as the basic running of a home goes, today's mother has it way easier than my grandparents did.
For instance, take my paternal grandmother. She's a one-woman freak of nature. At 86 years old, she still mows her property (over 100 acres), skins deer, goes fishing and tends her own fully functioning garden. She also still cooks a full Christmas dinner for her large family FROM SCRATCH. My other grandmother has a garden you wouldn't believe, which she still, at 85, maintains without help. Since my grandfather's passing over 10 years ago, she does get some help with the mowing, but maintains her home herself and has helped raise her nearest grandchildren, all while remaining very active in her church.
My paternal grandmother not only took care of her land, family, home and husband, but she also worked as a cook in the nearby elementary school when she was a young mother.
Then, I look at my own mother. She married my father at age 19, had her first child very early and quickly became a housewife. Never attending college, living in her own apartment or holding a job, she wasn't sure what to do after she left her abusive husband to raise two children on her own. She finished her associate's degree while attending night classes and sometimes worked three jobs to keep a roof over our heads. It wasn't easy. It wasn't always fun. But she did it, all while cooking dinner and keeping house for us ungrateful children.
So, when I begin to moan and grouse about my husband working in San Antonio, having to do all this grunt work with no one to assist me, I have to look at the women who came before me. Those earlier generations of strong women who did what they had to do to keep their lives going, keep their children happy and their husbands optimistic. Did I happen to mention that my father's mother didn't have a washer and dryer until many years into her marriage?
How, then, can I complain as I Swiffer my wood floors or take a load out of the dryer to fold them (for the hundredth time) when my grandmothers had few, if any, of those luxuries? What exactly is my beef?
There are times, I wish I could go back in time and watch them in action, see how they handled their struggles. I'll bet my electric vacuum cleaner that they did so with much more grace than I can muster on most occasions. I'm making a vow to myself to conjure up their wisdom, their guidance and their experiences whenever I feel low. Thankfully I can do that just by picking up a telephone, another luxury that wasn't theirs for many decades.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I wanted to cry all day today. But, the tears just wouldn't come. After waking up my sluggish 5-year-old, I fought with him for over an hour about everything, essentially making me a drill sergeant, thus launching my sour mood and feelings of utter failure as a mother. I walked around with this heaviness all day, questioning myself and my choice to stay home with my children.
As I've stated before, I get no greater delight than that which comes from the laughter of my young ones. I'm every day aware that this time, while occasionally challenging, is all too fleeting. Still, there are days when the prevailing question is "Why do I bother?"
I should mention that some of my feelings are left over from last night's dinner, which I loved, but J.T. hated (which he announced before even taking a bite). That caused another argument, only exacerbated when Dan came home and decided to eat cereal instead of the dinner I had slaved over for an hour with him in mind.
Since Dan has been working in San Antonio, his commutes require him to leave by 4:30 a.m., and he sometimes doesn't return home until after the boys are in bed. Over time, this has worn on both of us, and I'm afraid my nerves are a bit exposed.
So, persisted the question. Why do I bother? Why cook dinners that go uneaten ... vacuum floors that only become soiled five minutes later ... make beds only to have them jumped on ... clean toilets ... mop floors (especially with a toddler at home) ... dust ... shower? It seems no one really notices or appreciates my best efforts anyway. I could cook a four-course dinner and would have no one to share it with. I would be a bigger hit in my household if I served Spaghettios every night. And that's not gonna happen.
I asked my mother-in-law why I did the things I did. I told her about my overall feelings of sadness and irritation. She simply said that this was how I was defining myself in this particular season of my life. After thinking about it, I believe she is right. My mother had a slightly different take on the matter. She suggested I was doing these things more for myself than my spouse or children.
Maybe staying home was a selfish choice. But, one I made with my children in mind. Of course, it was what I wanted. They really didn't particularly care one way or another at the time. But I like to think that down the road they will. I like to hope, at least, that, while the clean folded clothes in their drawers go unappreciated now, one day they will look back and be thankful I was here every single day for whatever they needed whenever they needed it.
I pray that although my dinners go largely uneaten, the few bites they take will help enhance their appreciation for food that doesn't come out of a can.
Growing up, I remember that my grandmother always had homemade chocolate chip cookies in the cookie jar whenever we came for a visit. She probably didn't know that those cookies were going to be etched in my memory, but they are. To this day, when I recall my fondest childhood memories, that cookie jar is among them, sitting idly on the sidelines taking in the action, but very much central to the comfort recalled of those days.
Maybe my small gestures of cleaning, cooking and caring for my children will somehow find their ways into my children's mental cedar chest of memories. As a mother, that's what I am holding out for. That, and a really good massage hopefully some day soon!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
There are things about this motherhood gig I do not, nor will I ever, understand. For instance, why is it that children refuse to go to bed on time, yet also refuse to let you sleep in the next morning? It is as if they have some stockpile of energy they plug into at every possible interval. But, do we parents get even a hit of this elusive magic potion? No. Take, for instance, my oldest. A new kindergartner, he is eager to start each day (at least until it is actually time for him to drag his tired carcass from beneath his sheets).
Each night, it's the same routine. Shower, brush teeth, read books, bed. Then in 10 minute intervals for the following hour, he putters down the hall for another hug, another question, another complaint, another demand. Which usually means he hits the actual sack around 8:30 instead of 7:30 as intended. That makes it all the more boggling that I felt his morning breath on my face at 4 a.m., startling me awake as he, whispering, asked, "Mommy, when am I getting up?"
HUH? An hour after sending him back to bed, his voice came moaning across the hall again. "Mommy? Mommy!? MOMMY!!!??" I stumbled into his room, stepping on legos in the process, only to find he wanted me to cover him up with the blanket lying right next to him. Instead of asking why he wasn't covering himself up, I sleepily covered him, kissed him, cursed the legos under my breath and stumbled back to bed.
So, that's how it all began. Throughout the day I fielded phone calls from clients and child care providers, held my screaming child while he received three booster shots and wrestled with my 5 year old over what socks he was going to wear to school.
Today has been a unique day, not to mention the half-naked child I chased through the house in the course of potty training. He thought it was fun. All I could think about was the potential for mess and disaster should he suddenly get the "inkling for tinkling."
Sad to say, the highlight of my no-shower no-workout little-rest day was the fact that Beau did, indeed, pee pee in the potty. What does that say about my life?
Oh, well. At least for now, the two cherubs are sleeping in their beds, resting up for another day of interesting challenges (mostly for Mommy). I keep reminding myself that one day I will laugh about all of this. I will. But not tonight. Tonight I will sit my unexercised unwashed and unrested bottom on my double chair and watch mindless television. And I will love every selfish minute of it. That is, until J.T. comes in and asks for water. Again.