Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guilt Management in Motherhood

  I have the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Jen Hatmaker's newest book, Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life (out August 8, 2017). I read it quickly and have since been pondering some of the thoughts in various chapters. One particular quote resonated with me and has had me wrestling internally, especially lately.

  In a chapter titled "Moms, We’re Fine" Jen writes:
Motherhood often feels like a game of guilt management; sometimes the guilt is overwhelming and debilitating, sometimes just a low simmer, but it always feels right there.
  I am in the trenches of motherhood, parenting a 4- and 7-year-old. I do feel that there’s always some aspect that is nagging at me trying to fill me with guilt over something I’m not doing or am doing incorrectly. Right now my guilt centers around playing with my children. The feeling of being obligated to play with them constantly presses on me. I read somewhere that I am not supposed to be their constant source of entertainment, that they need to learn how to deal with boredom on their own and I do agree with that concept. Because I don’t work outside the home I believe that part of my job is to interact purposefully and intentionally with my children regularly (and I bet a lot of working moms feel that they should spend some, most or all of their non-work time connecting with their kids as well). But what exactly does that mean and look like? And what is the right balance?

Yes there are things I need to get done but how much time should I allot for chores, play, etc and what types of play count? Is it fine to say, “I will do X, Y or Z  with you but not T?” [T for me being imaginary play. I will read books, play board and card games, build Legos, practice sports, and hide and seek. Playing good guys versus bad guys with the Lego men every day (and having to be the good guys ALL THE TIME) wears me out. "Mommy, pretend the bad guys are going to steal the good guys' hide out."]

How do I say "no" to this face?!
My husband and I have tried to recall our childhoods and don’t have memories of our parents playing toys with us. I remember playing Barbies and dolls on my own for hours. I remember playing Micromachines and Pogs with my brother. I remember days of running around outside with neighbors. I remember seeing my parents doing yardwork and housework. I remember mowing the lawn with my dad on our riding mower, playing basketball as a family, family movie nights in the basement. I remember fun birthday parties. I remember my parents coming to my sporting events, school performances and award ceremonies. I just don’t remember ever playing Barbies or “let’s pretend” with them. I still have positive memories and feelings of my parents and childhood. I felt loved and supported.

Or "no" to this one?!
So is this guilt something I perceive to be a lack from what I think other mothers are probably doing? Is it a lie from Satan? Do I feel this pressure to constantly engage from social media images? I have no idea. What I do know is that I feel tremendous guilt if I respond “No” or “Not right now” when my son asks me in his sweet little 4-year-old voice, “Mommy, will you play with me?” It’s a dagger to the heart to hear that request. That request makes me feel like I’m failing because the lie in my head tells me that he shouldn’t have to ask but that I should initiate. I know (from experience) that kids will take as much time with you as they can get. I cannot completely satisfy their desire for a playmate at all times. Nor should I. Like I mentioned above, it is good for them to learn how to manage their boredom and learn how to entertain themselves (preferably without electronics). They have plenty of books and toys and even a dedicated playroom where they are free to do whatever their heart desires. But all of this knowledge still doesn’t quell the guilt.

I should probably be covering this part of my life in prayer. Prayer for peace, for confidence and reassurance that I am parenting well and that my kids do feel loved and supported. Prayer for wisdom to know when and how to engage. Prayer against guilt when I don’t spend every moment of my child’s day playing, but instead take care of some of my responsibilities.

This is my current struggle. Anyone else here in this trench with me? Anyone have any encouragement or advice for this season of life? I could really use a “me too” today.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday, Lent & Preparing for Easter

   It's Ash Wednesday, which signals thee beginning of Lent and the process of preparing ourselves for Easter where we will celebrate Christ's sacrifice for us by submitting to die on our behalf and his subsequent resurrection three days later! 

   Growing up my family attended Methodist churches until I was in high school. We participated in fasting for forty days over Lent in imitation of Christ's forty days of fasting in the desert in preparation for his ministry. I have one distinct memory from when I was in second grade and gave up chocolate milk for Lent (my drink of choice at school).

   I don't have any other strong recollections until I was in college. In my junior year I recommitted myself to Jesus (I was baptized at the end of my junior year of high school but I spent the first few years of college floundering). That spring I was leading a women's small group and suggested that we all participate in Lent by fasting from something and helping each other stay accountable.

   I think most years since then I have either fasted from something or added a practice to draw me closer to God even though I have attended non-denominational churches (which generally don't talk about fasting during Lent).

   In the last couple of years I have really begin to miss the traditions of Advent at Christmas and Lent at Easter that I grew up with. My husband also grew up Methodist so we have continued to practice them at home together.

   Some years it has been a real challenge, especially the years I have fasted from dessert (I haven't done that in a while because my daughter's birthday always falls during Lent and that seems cruel). I love chocolate and sweets! But it has really helped me to be reminded regularly of Jesus and what he did for me.

   This year I struggled a bit to figure out what to fast from. I have been feeling a little pudgy but Lent is not about losing weight so I didn't want to stray from its purpose in remembering my need for Jesus. I ended up choosing both a fast and an added practice. I am fasting from all beverages except water. My added practice is to meditate on (and hopefully memorize) a Bible verse each day. 

   I also found a local Methodist church where I could receive ashes as I begin this season of Lent. It felt a little foreign as it's been so long but I am glad I did it.

   Do you fast from something at Lent? If so, what has been your most challenging fast? Do you fast from the same thing every year? If not, do you have a different way you like to prepare for Easter?