27 April, 2010

Challenge and Joy

Last Mother’s day I spent with friends as my daughter ran her first big 5K race on a gorgeous May day.  We laughed, played, and shared her accomplishments.  We were two moms with two daughters celebrating the day.  It was the first day that I did not receive recognition from my daughter’s father as he asked his wife for permission to call and it was not given – or so I was told.  And it didn’t matter; or did it?

While I have heard parents talk about the lack of time and energy they have or the busy schedules and lives of their kids – I find myself more aware of the lack of appreciation for the work that I do and a lack of acknowledgement for the environment in which I raise my daughter.  There are days when the lack of external acknowledgement starts to get to me (and I wasn’t prepared for that)  but for the most part… I am confident that I am doing the best that I can.  My daughter leaves me looking like a great parent!  I am sure that I am not alone in feeling that  lack of appreciation from time to time – and I know that there are parents who find this stressful.  There are other parents who find parenting, itself, stressful with all the work, the getting kids from here to there, the homework, the house, the spouse, the job – the idea that not only is parenting a thankless job but there aren’t enough hours in the day!

I have learned to find the “thank yous” in the smallest things, and I have learned to remove much of the other busy stuff from my life allowing me time to find the little “thank yous” inside me and through the delight I find in spending time with my daughter.

I have friends who are “ready” to be parents.  They have all the “things” that they need.  They set aside the time and choose points in their careers etc when kids can and do happen.  They find the day care years before or secure nannies or go into their marriages with the understanding that this or that parent will stay home – potentially never to work again.  

I wasn’t one of those parents.

Pregnancy caught me completely off guard.  

Pregnancy came at the beginning of my career.  

And while some people elect to be single parents, it was nothing that I had considered for myself at that point in my life.  

But there I found myself – 29, changing professional dreams, single without emotional or physical support from her dad.  And… I embraced the change in the best ways that I could at the time.  As most parents do, I am still embracing the changes as my daughter matures and enters the different phases of life, relationships, and education.    

Parenting isn’t easy.  I went into it with more uncertainty than I have entered anything in my life.  Moving to Prague (though I don’t speak Czech) was easy compared to the responsibility of being the primary caregiver for a child and having the responsibility of providing that new life with all the physical needs and also the emotional foundations and compassion and appreciation.  Not to mention the challenges of letting go and allowing that life to be all that it is meant to be and follow its own path.  

With all that challenge and beyond all that challenge came joy.  

I recently read Trouble with Motherhood which talks about the busy lives of moms, the stress of raising kids and their schedules, and the need to play.  Do mothers (parents) find joy in the time they spend with their kids?  Why are people without kids suggested to be happier than those of us with kids?

I am a firm believer in the idea that we all need time to ourselves – married or not, parents or not, adult or not.  We all need down time to do our things whether it is getting our nails done or running in the rain or reading a book.  Personal time is important for my happiness.  

However, I find joy in my role as mom – but not just in the role itself but in spending time with my daughter.  

It isn’t a chore.  It isn’t a stress (there are moments but aren’t there moments of some sort of discord in any relationship?).  Spending time with my daughter is something that I often can’t capture in words.  She introduces me to a different world and a different way of thinking.  She finds beauty in the world that I might overlook.  Just this past weekend she had me scurrying downstairs to see the first rose of the season!

Just as I believe in the importance of personal time, I find that spending time with my daughter brings me joy.  Her laugh, thoughts, energy, conversation, developing sense of humor…her outlook on life and all that she has to share with the world…

As adults, we often don’t play, and when we do, we play with other adults.  How often do we throw caution to the wind and join our kids in races down the street or explorations of nature or creative story telling – turning our time with them into a source of happiness?

Often I hear parents talk about their kids as if they are less because they are not adults.  How much are they missing as kids offer a chance to look at the world upside down and in shades of differing colors.  Kids see things that adults don’t or no longer allow themselves to see.  

This Mother’s Day, like last, I will celebrate it with my daughter.  We might have a little challenge here and there, and we will share a lot of laughter and good conversation and silence.  

For me, the Trouble with Motherhood is likely that I find joy in my personal time and time spent with my daughter such that the house isn’t always tidy and my professional dreams changed, and I have to share the stash of chocolate!


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nothing profound said...

It's hard to remain confident and enthusiastic without some form of external recognition for one's efforts and achievements. but so often in life that's exactly what one must do. You sound like a wonderful parent, so keep enjoying your daughter and yourself and do find some room in the day for some solitude.

Sorrow said...

I have no stick to measure my success and failures as a parent,
and I love both of my children passionately.
Mothers day is always burnt buttered toast and runny eggs in bed, with flowers picked from my flower beds and laughter and hugs in my bed.
And i would not have it any other way.
That is the appreciation I crave.

jchristin said...

Wow. Insightful post.
I love my role as Mother. God blessed me with two Angels to guide to adulthood. I love the time we spend together, I love how they enrich my life on many levels, I even love the challenges of mothering because working through these unique opportunities makes me well rounded, a "better" version of myself.
The other day I was thinking "what are my roles in life"? Mothering was one. I took it a step further and realized that I actually enjoy being a mother to childlike souls. I parent form my heart, my heart fills with joy; I've learned to live from my heart, my heart fills with joy--all of this I may share with the inner child in all.
As far as external rewards, sometimes there is abundance, sometimes a reward is not visible at all. However, for me, the reward is in the sharing. To share I've opened my heart, I've learned, grown, healed, something..and this "something" is the best reward. I also recognize lots of what I share is absorbed by my children or those in my life, to be used later; I may touch lives and never know...but what I take away from each encounter is priceless.
(BTW I have a new blog unfoldingyourpathtojoy.wordpress.com-it just won't let me comment on your page with that name:) )

Sara said...

I loved reading this story. It delighted me that you have done what you've done with such pleasure and acceptance. I imagine it is/was hard at times, especially when you are on your own as a parent. Yet, somehow you seem to be the kind of person who thrives at overcoming challenges:~)

I smiled through the part of your post where you talked about parents who "prepared" to have their kids.

Is anyone really ready to be a parent? Even if a person or a couple thought they had every thing planned down to last detail, children will pop those balloons faster than a pin. You have to be flexible to be a parent:~)

I agree with you about how children open your eyes to looking at the world in an entirely different way.

There's magic in children that parents really need to stop and see. It is harder today to do this...life pulls on parents a lot more now.

Your story reminds me of how much I love being a mom. I now watch my now ADULT children weave their way into life. It's more a backseat role, but I still treasure it.

Thanks for sharing this post:~)

dadshouse said...

I sometimes feel what you're describing - that I'd like some external acknowledgement of all I do as a parent. But that's just me attaching my happiness to something out of my control.

Parenting is all about giving. Giving love without any conditions that it come back. Sounds like you already know that and live that. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to resonate on that giving frequency, and immerse ourselves in the love we are creating.

Wilma Ham said...

Children are an enormous resource if we let them as you point out. How delightful to show you a rose, children are not (yet) too busy to observe and notice and so good on you to let her show you. I loved how my children allowed me to play, as they did so did I.
Outside recognition, acknowledgment, yes it can be a love language that will fill your own love tank and yes, we can look for it in unexpected places and in little gestures. I too loved how my two daughters enjoyed making mother's day special.
xo Wilma