Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Losing myself

For a few days, I have experienced unexpected internet-deprivation, due to a dysfunctional laptop. You won't believe how many projects get pulled out when you don't have the distraction of a computer! Anyway, now I'm back, and in a flurry of preparing for the High Holidays.

I thought I would share with you part of an email I received from a reader named Elizabeth. I am, of course, posting it with her permission.

"After reading some posts from your blog, and some other blogs and websites you link to, I just can't help thinking about this... I currently have two little children, and I can tell you I feel like I'm losing myself. I know I'm their mother and that it's a tremendously important job, but it has no individuality. Not for them - my children are wonderful individuals - for me. I just do what every Mom does. I clean, I dress, I bathe, I wipe noses, I do projects with them, I discipline them... each and every one of their waking hours. What about me? 

I have considerable talents (I don't want to sound boastful, but I really believe I do) for other things, but I can't do any of them - even a job done from home would be too demanding, with my children at home. I am not a feminist; on the contrary, I also relish my abilities to be a very clean, organized woman; a good cook; a good gardener - but these abilities don't come into view either, because I don't have time to clean or cook or garden properly!

It's just a stage, I gathered from some of your post. But you know what the problem is? If following the ideology you and some other bloggers promote, it is a LONG stage. The period of raising little children is very intense and draining. If I follow the standard two-children route, as common today, this stage lasts, in all, perhaps 5 years?.. But If I keep having children from my early twenties and until my fertility is done, this stage will last more like 25 years! I might be 45 years old and still breastfeeding, changing diapers, and preparing baby food, and the best part of my life will be done! 

Is it really justified to demand that from every woman, in any circumstances?"

Here is part of what I wrote back:

Dear Elizabeth,

As I'm not a mother of a large family, but of only two children, like you, perhaps I'm not the right person to answer this, but I will try to do my best to sum up some thoughts I have on the subject. First, I am far from disregarding any fears or frustrations you have; raising children and homemaking is a demanding job, and sometimes it does seem as though we disappear between the pots and loads of laundry and diapers and broken crayons. I do feel, at times, that I'm losing myself, too; but I've learned that it's OK to lose, in some measure, the old me - the young, single me, who used to have all her time to herself, and only her own needs to consider. 

I do find it necessary and refreshing to do things that are unrelated to my primary duties as wife and mother; to remind myself that I'm not just Mom. Writing is my main outlet, but there are also crafts, reading, talking to friends, researching topics I am interested in, learning languages. With some creativity, it is possible to do things during times when children are asleep, or play quietly by your side, that will leave you refreshed and satisfied. Of course it's easier if some of your interests overlap with your duties of a wife and mother - for instance, gourmet cooking, home decoration, knitting or sewing. 

I'm not sure how old you are, but if you are near my age, I can imagine 45 looks like a long way to go, and it is - but it's not usually the end of one's life! At 45, a woman still should have many years of vigorous health ahead of her... and I can tell you that I've talked to experienced mothers of many children, and they told me that no years were as difficult as those with "just" one or two little ones at home. Apparently, the challenge does not grow in direct ratio to family size. There are other factors to consider: you become more experienced and apt in homemaking, your older children can now lend a helping hand, etc. I "only" have two, but I can tell I find it easier to be with two children at home, than just one, because they play together. 

Finally, I don't think it's about "demanding" from a woman that she should raise a large family of children, or deciding it's something each and every one should do. It is a private matter, which is between you, your husband and the Almighty. We can all have our convictions, but no one should pry into your personal affairs.

I hope this was of some help! 


Miriam said...

I really do agree with the idea that it is hardest with 'just' two little children. It is.

My mother used to say: When you are youg, you don't know how fun it is to be old. (sometimes she said it with a little irony in her voice...) But really, when younger, your perspective for life is quite low. And it rises along with years. I think it can also be called growing...

It is very important not to lose oneself. That is one of every mother's job. Nobody is going to do it for you... And please, do have grace on yourself - a mother is important, yes, and your children will grow because of you, and despite of you, too.

Humble wife said...

As a woman that is 45, I do see a wonderful life ahead of me. When my four children(6 years apart in age) were small, I had similar feelings. Your advice is exactly what I did. I pursued learning while at home and made my very own course schedules to keep me on track(I then homeschooled the children and continued this for 19 years) I also crocheted for the home, made blankets, painted decor, cooked, baked, and played with the children. But I did do something that I think made all of this possible~you see I included the children. I did not lower my expectations for myself, but I raised the standard of what I was doing with the children. We all learned cooking, baking, painting, crafting, reading, studying etc. I put a pin up board in front of the potty so the kids could sit and learn a new thing each week...and I learned too.

The world has a stereotype of what a woman at home is...and much of this includes the feeling of loosing self. I will tell you that I became who I am because I was a stay at home...I was not giving up my brain, my youth, my life. I accentuated lives because of my roll. My home was not perfectly clean, and the fridge was the art gallery for the weekly projects, the laundry was not ever 100% done, but the children learned how to become the people G-d expects us to raise.

As a woman that is 45 I know am not raising youngsters, but now can share with young mothers that are home. Had I been in the workforce for 24 yearsyadvice would have been perhaps that a homemakers roll is not rising the woman up to her fullest potential. But because I stayed home, I can share how incredible a woman can become because she has the home to blossom in as my advice is now looking to my life is this~stay home. Don't expect a show room home but maintain a living room for visits and friends. Raise the next generation with honor knowing that you have been blessed to do so...