Well, Happy New Year! With the resurfacing of my old milkshake post came the reminder to me that I had promised a little more on the topic. Well, here I am, a whole year later, trying to do just that.
It does seem that every mother has energy, joy, and fulfillment sometimes, but consistently having these things can challenge us beyond what we feel is a reasonable amount. Joy all day? Every day? Even if Daddy is out of town, or when the whole family has the stomach flu, or when the pre-dinner warp spasm is upon the children? How can we maintain a cheerful, calm, happy, giving attitude when we certainly don’t feel like it? Well, here are a few thoughts, incomplete though they be, that may help us get a little perspective.
1) Perspective is the key word. I mean big-picture, honest, for-reals perspective. Things can get smoshy and desperate and smelly and tense in our homes in very little time, because we keep people there. But the reality is, no matter how terrible it is, it isn’t terrible. Not in the cosmic scheme of life. Watch a little cell phone video made by people on high ground who watched their world float away in the tsunami in Japan. Think of your grievances about your day, were you to be airing them to a person who suffered through something of this magnitude. Remove yourself from your fussing at the coffee shop to a nice caring friend and think of talking to someone like Corrie Ten Boom or Elizabeth Elliot about this problem. “AND THEN,” you say with dramatic tones, “THEY GOT NAIL POLISH ON THE CARPET!” Get outside yourself for a minute and see what is really happening. You have miles and miles of a list of things to be actively grateful for (no matter how difficult your situation is), and you should try to keep it in mind when you start wanting to tally up the troubles you suffer.
2) The milkshake analogy is just descriptive of a feeling, but it isn’t how the thing works. A friend of my sister’s once sorrowfully told her husband that her well had run dry. His very wise response was to say, “But it isn’t a well, it is a river.” In actual point of fact, my energy and joy is not something that I drum up somewhere alone. It has tributaries. Contributors. Often times the takers are also the givers. This is especially true of your husband and children. When you give freely, you receive fully. Stingy out gets stingy in. An example of this would be holding yourself back from your husband simply because you feel tired, stingy, selfish, or generally put upon. Not only have you cut off a way that you could give to him, but you have cut off a cycle that gives to you as well. Nothing, when it comes to people, is entirely simple. When you need, give. When you are tired, look for ways to lift the burden of others.
Another example of this would be the mess in your house (I trust that you have one). When I focus on the mess, I am aggravated by the things that do not matter at the expense of the people who do. When I consciously refuse to be upset by the side product, I am free to enjoy the people who are messing it up. Giving my own work freely does not just make me a martyr.
Let’s say the twins come up the stairs in wild dress- up ensembles. Chloe has a purse full of playmobile people, and Titus is pulling a blanket loaded with duplos. I know what this means to the playroom, and I know what it means to the place they are seeing as a destination. It means an imposition on me. But if I freely give, I am also free to get a good laugh out of them. I enjoy what they are doing because I took my own little issues out of the picture. They delight me. They delight me even when they are bombing the house out, if I am looking at them and not at myself. So try to see moments that feel like a take-take-take as more of a give-and-receive, give-and-receive cycle.
3) Let’s talk more about messy houses, because I can’t stop. Imagine you spent the day rearranging and cleaning up the living space in your home. You have flowers and clean curtains and fresh throw pillows and maybe a candle. You are pleased. The right lights are on. Things are good. And then, like the wolf on the fold, the people in your life descend upon your work. They peel off socks and put their feet on the coffee table. They come from afar bringing baskets of craftiness to spread out upon the couch. They pop popcorn and carelessly munch. Someone goes so far as to get out the puzzles. In such a moment, it would be easy (don’t ask me how I know) to become shrill. It is easy to see each chin-glancing popcorn shrapnel as an insult. “Don’t you value the work I do?!” “Don’t you care how long this took me?!” “Why can’t you just not do this??” Even if you don’t say it, you may feel a little despair, a little resentment, and a little “why do I even try?”.
But the truth is, we need a new perspective. It is moments like this that should give us a lot of job satisfaction. These people are enjoying you. They are enjoying your work. But, like a great dinner all laid out on the table, you don’t enjoy it without touching it. A chef would not look at dishes coming back to the kitchen untouched as a sign of success. It would not mean great things about your work. Yet this is what we want from the work we do in our homes.
I’m sure most of you have noticed the magnetic power of what you clean. Clean the bookshelf up, and everyone wants to read. Organize the little toys, and everyone wants to play with the things they have been callously walking on for days. This is a sign that you are succeeding, that your people love your work. Think of it like food, because that is how it is getting used.