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Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Secret Confession

Last week, my neighbor, Nassim, came to visit. She is a middle-aged Indian lady with six children of her own. Her oldest is twenty-one and her youngest is three. She loves visiting Noelle and when she does, she comes with a bundle of mothering tips.

"When you hold your baby, hold her like this," she says leaning Noelle's upper body back on her palm and cradling Noelle's small neck between her fingers.

"If she is spitting up alot, you go to the fridge and eat something cold for breakfast."

"To get her to sleep, you rub her head like this," she motions pulling her fingers gently across Noelle's crown.

I enjoy these visits. Even though I'm not sure about the accuracy of some of Nassim's advice, I can't help but believe her. After watching her raise three of her youngest, two of which were twins, she has earned a certain amount of credibility.

Last week, our conversation turned toward sleep and nap times and how she managed to get her twins to sleep.

"Oh, it was terrible," she said. "I would feed one and she would go to sleep and then the other one would start to cry. Sometimes, I didn't sleep at all."

A wave of exhaustion hit me, as I remembered my own sleepless night the day before. And that was with just one baby.

"Nassim," I said, "How did you do it?"

She stopped for a moment, Noelle reclining on her knee, and then answered thoughtfully. "This is what we do. It's our responsibility."

Nassim's response touched a deep chord. When she said these words, I realized suddenly that I was one of those women who values her productivity more than her role as a mother, that there is a part of me that resists the responsibility of motherhood. I want to be a successful writer. I want to have a career. I want to contribute something to the world at large and the idea of being a mom, staying awake at night, mastering breastfeeding and nap times, and spending hours changing diaper explosions doesn't plug those gaps for me.

I admit this as a short coming. I'm not comfortable with it. I want to see my responsibilities as a mother as equally fulfilling as my responsibilities as a career woman who helps pay the bills. I know, even as I'm writing this that raising my daughter is going to be immeasurably more rewarding than anything I write and get paid for, but still there is something broken inside of me. And whatever is broken has switched the circuits on my sense of significance.

For that reason, I'm stopping to acknowledge my own dysfunction, that rascally tendency to measure my success by what I produce, not by the love, sweat and tears of raising my daughter. In doing this, I hope to curb the brokenness that would whittle away my joy as a mother.


Blogger Paula, Bobby, Rebekah, and Sarah said...

I know how you are feeling, except the opposite. I have been bringing home most of the money for us to live on for the last 3 years while Bobby goes to seminary and works evenings. I like teaching choir, but my middle school students are causing me so much heartache this year that all I want to do is be home with my girls, almost 3.5 and almost 1, because I never have. The only thing that keeps me going from day to day is knowing that this is not for forever. Bobby is going to be finished with school soon, and I will have the chance to stay home with my girls. Know that you will not have every day with Noelle forever, she will grow up fast, and then you will be able o pursue your writing even more. Don't feel like a horrible mom because you want to be more than a mom. You will be an even better mom because of that creative side. Keep pushing on!! It gets easier!!

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always appreciate your vulnerability and honesty. thanks for sharing. :)
brooke kind

11:27 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

I understand that feeling, and I don't even have kids yet! It's wierd to wrestle with that even now. Keep blogging as you helps the rest of us a step behind in the life stages :)

9:29 PM  
Blogger iwuqueen said...

I now have a one-month-old daughter at home and can understand your feelings. Motherhood, while wonderful, is full of bumps and twists that no one tells us about beforehand. I knew life would change dramatically, but once a baby arrives, that reality hits you like a sledgehammer. Sleepless nights are the worst of it, I think. Good luck!

Rachael (Kelly) Johnston

10:13 AM  
Blogger heather d. said...

great post. Thanks for being real.

5:52 PM  

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