Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Late Night Perspective

Back at the beginning of this week a had a couple of days that were kind of hard for me... for no particular reason. I've just been tired and meanwhile Jackson is his normal busy-happily-destructive self, my laundry-to-fold pile is about 5 feet wide and 2 feet high (I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm really not exaggerating), Jared and Camryn have been pestering me to play a board game with them for about four days straight (and I still haven't gotten around to it) and Dave pulled an all-nighter a few nights ago finishing up a big presentation for work.

On Tuesday I was feeling depressed. I got on facebook and ended up chatting with an old college friend of mine that I haven't seen in years. It was interesting because in the course of the conversation we found out that we were struggling with the same thing, but for different reasons. Both of us were depressed and felt like we were failing miserably at life. My friend is still single and working and had just broken up with her long-time serious boyfriend. She was so frustrated because she honestly thought she was going to marry this guy and here she is in her 30's with no family, no children and now no boyfriend. She said she just "felt like a failure." Which was exactly how I felt, but for a totally different reason.

I am in a totally different situation: I have been married for almost 9 years, I have 3 small children and a home, but still "feel like a failure" because I feel like it is impossible to even remotely keep up with my idea of what a "good mom" or "good housekeeper" should be and have children living in my house simultaneously. If I do the dishes, then I feel guilty because I didn't get the laundry done. If I spend time with the kids I feel guilty that the house didn't get cleaned. If I clean the house or make meals, I feel guilty that I didn't spend more time with the kids.

On Monday, I made a really nice dinner: my mom's favorite chicken recipe with "Yummy Rice" and a pan of delicious sauteed vegetables. I even had a friend and her kids over to share it with and we held Family Home Evening with our kids. But instead of saying, "Congratulations, Karen, on a job well-done and time well-spent," I thought, "I'm so glad nobody can see my 5 foot pile of laundry to fold upstairs. They would be horrified. Look at the huge pile of dirty dishes from this meal in my sink. Any reasonable housekeeper would wash them right after dinner. I'm so lazy and such a slob. And do you have any idea how long it's been since Jared has had a bath?" Small wonder that I woke up on Tuesday feeling depressed.

In the course of chatting with my friend on Tuesday I felt much better and I realized a couple of things:
1) I have a lot to be grateful for. Even though my kids sometimes challenge me to my utmost, I love them and am so grateful to be their mom. Even though I miss Dave when he has to work a lot, I am so lucky to be married to such a wonderful person and doubly lucky that we are in a position where I can stay at home with the kids.
2) The grass is always greener on the other side. I admit I've had days where I think "Oh to be single or childless... oh, the freedom, the unattached freedom! I can only dream of how nice and how easy it must be..." But there was my single friend wishing she could only be married and have a family... to have someone to love you and to share your life with.... It's easy to see the plusses of whatever you don't have, but to not see the downsides that come with it.
3) No matter what situation we have in life, there will be challenges. Nobody gets a free and easy ride, no matter how much it may look like it.
4) When my friend started calling herself a failure, I was horrified and immediately interjected that she is an amazing person, a great friend, a beautiful, talented woman who has done good things with her life and opportunities. It suddenly struck me that we don't think twice about saying negative things to ourselves or about ourselves that we would be horrified or angry if anyone else said to someone we cared about. And often we refuse to give ourselves credit for the good things that we do in a way that would be extraordinarily rude to even the most casual of friends. Why do we do that?
5) I really believe that adversary tries to make us feel worthless and like nothing we do is good enough. So there you have my midnight philosophical ramblings.

I decided to try to appreciate my situation more and, based on my friend's advice, take some time periodically to myself. I think it's easy with kids to feel like you can't take time for yourself until everything else is finished (which is never). On Tuesday night, I went to my choir rehearsal and enjoyed the beautiful sunset on the drive there. I enjoyed the chance to make music and do something for myself instead of bemoaning how much I was spending on a babysitter to do something so frivolous.

Wednesday was a great day, beautiful and sunny. I took the kids for an impromptu ice cream cone at McDonald's and to the park. By dinner, however, I was starting to lose my "enjoy the moment" attitude and fall back into criticizing my attempts at making dinner ("Can you really call bacon, sweet potato fries and overcooked peas a dinner? What kind of mismatching excuse for a meal is that?") I guess learning to be kind to yourself is an ongoing process. [I also learned that serving bacon will guarantee that your kids think it is a great dinner regardless of how gross everything else is.]

So here is my "give myself validation" moment for today: I folded my 5 foot laundry pile and got the kids to put away their laundry. I washed, folded and PUT AWAY 6 additional loads of laundry (be impressed!). I made potstickers for dinner and served them with brown rice and a vegetable... before 7 pm (not by much, but hey, it still counts). Jackson dumped half a box of cereal on the floor and I did not get mad or flustered. (Not to say that I didn't get mad or flustered at any other thing that he did today, but hey, at least it's one!) I did not get mad or huffy that Dave had to go back into work tonight (and is still there...) and took work calls most of the time that he was home. I snuggled with Jackson while I fed him his bottle and enjoyed the chance to just hold him. I did some research on the internet for some fun local trips we can do for spring break next week. I cut Jared's hair and gave him a bath. I did NOT do the dishes and they are still sitting in a huge pile in my sink and on my counters-- but that does not negate everything else I did today. [Repeat to self 10 times. Yes, I can do this.]


Lara said...

This is just EXACTLY how I've been feeling. I really needed to read your thoughts. It does help me feel like I'm not alone in my issues, and it helps me see what I can do to get myself out of the funk I've been in for so long.

I hope you guys had a wonderful time at Wicked!

Jacki said...

I heard lots of people raving about wicked- hope you had fun!
I think its so easy to say negative things to myself- it seems I'm constantly thinking that I'm not good enough at something- or that there's always more that I should be doing... but I've decided that's stinkin thinkin! I catch myself and then laugh after saying stinkin thinkin. I do it to my kids too. I just want to be happy- I have so many resaons to be happy!

Jodee said...

All I have to say is that in another 30 years, you won't look back and wish you had done the dishes or laundry more often. You will look back and be grateful that you chose to spend more time with your kids. You are doing just fine! I don't think there is a mom out there that doesn't struggle with those decisions. At least you are striving to improve.

Greek Goddess said...

Karen, you're wonderful. I hope we can chat soon. I have a lot of thoughts about this post. How did you like Wicked?