Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Self-absorbed

Yesterday, we had an especially busy day around here. As usual, I got up before sunrise, to get all the morning chores out of the way before it's too hot. Then I spent the best part of the day visiting with my friend Avigayil, whom I hadn't seen in way too long, and two of her children. I tell you, it takes some courage and determination to make your way here! ;-) 

My husband came home early and then we were busy until evening with things that needed doing. And were we tired! The girls were asleep by 7:30 PM; as for me, I was in bed by 9 PM, although I didn't actually get to sleep until a little later. 

Today, I got to think about an email from a reader I received not long ago. In it, I was accused of being too self-absorbed in my own life and concerns, and in putting too little of myself into benefitting others outside my home. To this, I can reply that it was always traditional for women with young children to put most of their energy into their family life, and when this balanced and natural pattern broke it wrecked real havoc in our society. 

It is true that these days, I have little time, energy or inclination to be very much "out and about". I am occupied caring for my husband, children and home, and during most of my days I rarely have a moment to spare. Cramming in more activities on a regular basis would result in a rush incompatible with raising little children the way we envision it. Also, there are only so many intense relationships I can cultivate at this time of my life, and most of them are right here in my home. I am drawn to the quiet and peaceful, and feel we all need the leisure of living slowly and simply. I am also available, when need arises, in our little community - for example when a child needs to be watched, or there is a new mother who needs hot cooked meals. 

I feel that the pressure on mothers of young children to do more than they should be naturally expected to, is destructive to everyone. Homes are abandoned; lives that could have been peaceful, become stressed. And I'm not talking only of mothers going out to paid jobs. These days, even when a mother chooses to stay home with her children, it is difficult to resist the pull of too many activities and people who assume she must have a lot of extra time on her hands because she is a stay-at-home Mom. Also there is the tremendous piling up of extra-curricular activities on younger and younger children - baby swimming, baby yoga, and many other things that can be good and worthwhile, but which result in the wife mother being out and about more hours in the day than she can reasonably spare. I know this isn't for me. 

I lived a very different life when I was single, and perhaps things will change again once my children are grown; I can see myself with more time on my hands. I might dedicate it, perhaps, to keeping in closer touch with friends and extended family; to help out mothers with younger children, and to develop various skills I would love to try. For now, however, I am content as I am; perhaps my job isn't glamorous, and it won't get me a standing ovation from all who know me - but what I do must be done, and it is important, and that is what matters. 

17 comments:

Rose said...

You are one of the least self-absorbed people I know Anna. You are outward looking, to your G-d, your family and your world -- that is not self absorption. You are the mother of very young children so naturally they are your priority. In time you will spread your wings to other things of your choice but that season is not now.

Miss W said...

Dear Anna,
I enjoy reading about your life and visit your blog regulary. What I particularly enjoy about it, is that you have clear goals and priorities. You know what is important in life. My life could not be more different to yours. Yet I find I can learn most from women with different viewpoints as it forces me to evaluate whether the life I have chosen for myself is actually the right one for me. The important thing is to keep one's eyes open and not to judge.
Wishing you a wonderful day.

Anonymous said...

You are spending your time, at this season of your life, investing in your marriage and your children. I believe when our Heavenly Father blesses you with children, He wants you to make them you and your husband's first priority, after your marriage. (And of course a strong, healthy marriage is the first way to minister to your children!)
You are investing in the life of the next generation. Everything that your precious daughters (and any other children that the Heavenly Father blesses you with) put their hands to will be part of the fruits of your labors now. There is nothing you can do that is more outwardly! You are changing the next generation with your careful and thoughtful parenting.
I have been reading your blog since right around Shira's birth. I always find it thought-provoking and encouraging. I think you are doing an amazing job being the wife and mother He has called you to be.
Love,
Karen

Anonymous said...

I can completely relate to this post. I have twins that will be 3 at the beginning of oct and a 14 mth old. I was a nurse before I had my babies and am so thankful that I'm not having to juggle working outside the home with managing a young family. I, like you, tend to like a peaceful unhurried lifestyle without all of the running here and there. My children are all boys and their energy level keeps me hopping at home anyway without having to add running around into the mix! If I have more than one extra thing on our weekly schedule besides church, I start feeling overwhelmed like I'm over scheduled. Jill

Mrs. Mordecai said...

It makes me laugh to think of a mother who devotes her whole time to taking care of her children and husband as self-absorbed. I would call it family-focused. I can't imagine anything more important and more selfless than the loving care you give your children.

Leah Brand-Burks said...

If the person wanted to get your friends riled up about defending you, they sure did that! But really, I think someone who accuses a person of that has some insecurities they need to deal with, instead of just projecting it onto the owner of a lovely blog. :-) Keep doing what you're doing-it is exactly what you are supposed to be doing. :-)

Humble wife said...

I am a mom of older children...well actually only one under 18 and yet your post applies to me as well. In order for me to be the wife and mother I am to be I must maintain a focus on my home.

Sometimes people will ask me what I am going to do when the last child moves off, and I say well this. My life is fulfilled as a wife and mother. I am thankful I am able to be home with my children, in spite of how I was raised. I grew up when women were told we could do it all-work, play, and of course family. I truly only wanted to be what I am today.

As the children get older it is easier to balance things so I will concede you will have more available time, but I say to you, stand firm in your family as they are a blessing.

Jennifer

Heather said...

I think it is very sad to hear people say such things. They have been alluded to around me since I had my first babe 4 years ago. I am sometimes hard on myself for not being able to *do more* but at the same time, I know that if I did try to put myself out there, my family would suffer. I definitely feel that these early years of child-rearing are difficult and stressful. Why would I try and give a part of myself to the outside of my family just to put on appearances. I am raising babies, and managing a home, and that is what is important to me now. If others think that I am self-absorbed - so be it. What does it say about someone who is able to make so many judgments about someone else. I think you are doing a great job, and very inspirational to other young mothers!

harper said...

My understanding of traditional roles is that unmarried teens and young adults are often encouraged to spend their time, energy, and talents in benefiting people in their community. Not only does this establish their connection to their community, but it also provides opportunities for the opposite sex to become aware of them in terms of skills and behaviors that are very important to building a family.

Once a couple is married, they need to focus on their own family and maintaining existing communal connections. They might also be recipients, of help from young singles, as the wife has small children or if the husband needs help accomplishing his "honey-do" list.

Once a wife has children who are a little older (either old enough to watch younger siblings or old enough to participate alongside Mom), that wife can start contributing more substantially to her community again.

However, a mother of young children can contribute to those in need in a number of ways that do not take her out of the home. My choice has been to crochet blankets for the homeless and for newborns of mothers in need. This may not be a social connection, but it does keep me in the habit of helping those who are less fortunate than I.

Otter Mom said...

I agree, the person who thinks that you are self-absorbed has a problem. They may be envious, insecure, all sorts of things. And they are also wrong. What you are doing is very important and you shouldn't listen to them.

Rose G said...

I was raised by a mother who always had time to take a casserole to a friend but didn't think to leave one in the oven for our family at home. It alwasy felt like we weren't as important as everyone else out there.
Please, for the sake of your family, be "self-absorbed."

Kate said...

Couldn't agree more with all the comments expressed in your defense.

Liora S. said...

Hmmm, that seems a little bit short sighted and judgmental on the person who sent you that mean spirited letter. As a Jew, I believe that we are each responsible for contributing to the world and making the world a better place in some way, shape, or form. First and foremost, we need to start with our own families, which should ALWAYS be the #1 priority. It is w that one's own family be the top priority. Too many people in the Jewish community are so busy doing things for others that they neglect their own kids because what is in your own backyard is often all too easy to over look. Now, that being said, I think it IS possible to look after your own family and to benefit your community at large. I am in a career which is a helping profession, so I contribute that way. For some of my friends who are homemakers, they contribute by making a larger batch of whatever they are making for their own family to deliver to another woman who just gave birth. Other homemakers volunteer a couple days a week during their children's school hours at different charities such as the Red Cross, Federation, or a slew of other places, or even within their children's classrooms (teachers often need parent chaperones for field trips, for example). There are MANY ways to contribute to society that do not involve being in a career but contribute to society through charities, hosting college students at a Shabbos table for kiruv purposes, visiting a sick person in a hospital or an elderly person who is lonely, running clothes drives for homeless shelters, sewing blankets, etc. The key is to pick something from the heart and to commit oneself to doing it.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Liora, of course it's wonderful to serve others in the ways you've mentioned, and in other ways - IF the mother truly has spare time, and she doesn't stretch herself too thin. What I'm against is the notion that we MUST be doing something, anything, whatever it is, outside the home, and that something should be the highlight of our lives, instead of the tremendously important job we do in the home.

Mrs. VH said...

I agree with Mrs. Mordecai. One of the lessons God is teaching me as a young mother is to be LESS self-absorbed and young children are the tools He is using to help accomplish that! It's hard to be self-absorbed when you have little ones who constantly need you. But that's a good thing and I'm grateful for this training.

Laura Jeanne said...

Hello Anna. I found your blog through Cynthia's Fascinating Womanhood blog. I just wanted to tell you that I agree with this post entirely - especially the part about mothers leaving the home wreaking havoc on society.

A strong society is built on a base of strong family homes. And our society has lost that for the most part.

I am trying harder these days to make our home a comfortable, welcoming place for my family, and for anyone who might visit us. This is certainly a full time job when I have 4 children to clean up after. I can't see how I could possibly take part outside activities and still keep the home together.

Any time I do spend the day out (for appointments or shopping) I feel tired and overwhelmed when I come home and the housework still needs to be done.

So, I always prefer just to stay at home when I can and go about my daily tasks.

I like your blog and I will be reading it from now on!

Princess Lea said...

I am happy to read about a mother who finds her role as a STAM fulfilling. That is harder to find nowadays, when women are expected to earn, bring home, and cook the bacon (so to speak) even with an employed husband.

It is my dream to be a STAM, and I am aware of the few pitfalls, but at the end of the day one has to do what is best for oneself, and then one's family. The rest of the world has to wait until one has taken care of one's own responsibilities. Keep on doing that mommying that you do so well.