Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wistful Moms

Last week two blogging friends (thank you, Cathy and Sarah) of mine sent me their thoughts on the seasons of motherhood and aptly quoted Ecclesiastes. Some might argue this was only coincidence. But to me this was God’s way of making me listen to him. See, I can be a bit dense and I don’t always “get” what he’s trying to tell me, so sometimes he has to use some in-your-face techniques.

The day before I’d been feeling down. I confessed to my husband that for the first time in my mothering life I’d been feeling wistful. “I’ve just found myself really missing being able to sleep more and having more time to pray and write and do other things. Being a mom is just so consuming,” I told him.

“I think what you’re feeling is probably completely normal,” he reassured me.

My husband is usually right, but I wasn't completely convinced. Then I read this post from Cathy – a veteran mom who knows a thing or two that I don’t and I realized she was a bit wistful, too, but for different reasons. She’s not pining for sleep right now or sick and tired of wearing bulky nursing bras. No, all her children are out of diapers. In fact, she’s preparing to see not one, but two daughters, get married this summer. Her babies are officially leaving the nest while mine haven’t even sprouted the beginnings of any wings yet.

Okay, so my rational mastermind of a husband was right again. It seems a certain level of nostalgia and wistfulness is normal for all moms – no matter what “season” of motherhood we’re in. And, provided it never becomes a source of discontentment or regret, I think being a wee bit wistful is okay.

Fortunately, even in my most difficult mothering moments, I’ve never felt anything close to regret. Well, that's not completely true. I've certainly felt pangs of regret for my failings as a mom and a human, but not ever, ever for becoming a mom in the first place. Sure, I’ve sometimes found myself wishing I could get through writing one essay without 15 interruptions. There are nights when I have to summon up all my strength to get out of bed to give a thirsty child a sip of water. There are days that begin at a time that I still considered part of the night in my pre-mom days. But these small sacrifices come with the territory of being a mom of young children and for more seasoned moms, I can bet these are some of the very things they're probably missing.

There is a time for diaper changes, potty training, patty-caking and night-waking. It’s that time for me – my time to plant, my time to build, my time to embrace.

But one day it will be my time to uproot the plant I spent so many years nurturing, a time to rend the umbilical cord once and for all, my time to be silent and to write all I want and then find myself yearning for all of those interruptions, those, “Mommy, I need yous,” and the ever-present background noise of my children’s voices. There will come a time for me to be far from the embrace of my babies who will no longer be babies anymore at all. Isn’t that the great mystery of motherhood – how the days can seem so long but the years fly by?

Honestly, I’m not so sure I even really know what it means to be truly wistful. What I sometimes miss these days are things I can someday have back. They’re even things I sometimes get now like on this past Sunday when I was able to take an afternoon doze and actually fall asleep for an hour. But nursing a baby when the rest of the house is quiet, watching Madeline’s excitement when she has accomplished some small feat like putting her clothes on all by herself (“I did it, Mommy! I did it!”), or having the power to stop all tears with only my touch or the soft brush of my lips on a boo-boo – those aren’t things I can completely go back to, not even if I’m blessed with grandchildren. So I’ll sleep and write when I can, but when I can’t, I’ll know I’m doing something far more important. This is my time to keep my babies, the very things that do not keep for very long at all.

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

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