No more wasting time.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

My baby watches me all the time. Constantly. In my finest moments, and in my weakest. She watches, because instinctively she knows that's how she'll learn.

She copies everything we do. She knows that the big button in the middle of the xBox controller turns it on and off. She knows that you strum a ukelele and you bang a drum. She knows that the light in the bathroom goes on and off if you pull the cord. She knows that food lives in the fridge, that the blusher brush goes with the blusher, and that phones are for holding up to your ear and talking into. She knows that giving us kisses might get her out of trouble (! must remember to nip that one in the bud). She knows more, basically, than I give her credit for.

She learns from watching me (except the kissing thing. She came up with that one all by herself).

She watches. And watches. And watches.

She watches me on days when I feel not so good about myself.

Watches her mother shrink back in social situations because I feel inferior without a degree or a career.

Watches her mother fall silent because she feels that her week wasn't exciting enough to talk about.

Watches her mother complain about the sofas that need updating or the holidays we aren't going on.

Watches her mother look critically at herself in the mirror because her clothes aren't nice enough and she doesn't look quite right.

We all have days like this, right? Days where we just look at ourselves and think: meh. I can't be perfect 100% of the time. I can't control my emotions 100% of the time. And to do that would be false. To do that would be to say, Don't feel anything, don't let anything show. Which is not a healthy message to send anyway.

But sometimes it gets on top of me. Sometimes I look at other mothers juggling everything beautifully and I wonder what they think of me, just being at home with my one baby, not doing much else. Especially when it's hard. Especially when the baby won't sleep and I've got bags under my eyes and my house is a tip and I'm tired. I feel I have no right to be tired. Sometimes this feeling of inferiority opens up wide and spills out into my life, my thoughts, my actions, my words.

***

And then.

Something will happen.

I tickle her (nappy changing distraction technique) and she giggles. Afterwards, she climbs up me, not really for a cuddle, not for kisses, just to be close. She says 'Mama' in this kind of full, round-cheeked way. 'Mama.' Like her mouth is full. She says it again and again, feet climbing up my thighs like she can't stay still, 'Mama. Mama. Mammmm-ma.'

Or, I'll be pushing the buggy through the park like I do every day, trying to get her to go to sleep or rushing to get to the shops, and I'll just stop and look at the view. Just for a sec. I'll feel the cool air on my face. And I'll smile, that I get the chance to stop and look at this.

Or I'll be trying to do my Bible study homework. Knee-deep in study, trying to get my head out of my own life and into the divine, she'll come crawling over, treading on my book, trying to grab my pen, trying to get my attention, gabbling away in a sing-song voice. Look at me. And I'll stop and look at her and sing a song or do whatever it is she wants me to do, and then she'll wander off and I'll think, as far as distractions go, that's a good one.

Or I'll be cleaning up after lunch, wiping down her high chair tray absent-mindedly, filing away paperwork, or making a phone call, and suddenly I'll notice that she's doing the same. She's grabbing a wetwipe and wiping the tray, she's playing with my discarded papers, holding them way above her head to look at them, she's grabbing the remote control and holding it up by her ear and saying something really quietly.

I think, I love this life. Thank you God, that I get to live this life, that I get to spend this much time with her.

***

I have a flashback.

I'm sitting in the car with Chris on the way to the hospital, and I'm screaming in pain. I'm about six months pregnant and I have a searing pain low in my belly, stronger than anything I have ever felt before. It went from manageable to throwing up within about twenty minutes. I'm shaking, gripping onto my seat as Chris drives (trying not to panic) and I'm willing him to go faster, please get us there quickly. I tap my belly a few times. Baby doesn't respond. Fear floods through me and I can feel it pumping through my veins, a fear I haven't felt before: I am afraid for the life of my unborn child. What if I'm going into labour? What if I'm losing her?

We get to the hospital. I am separated from Chris in a little cubicle. Suddenly the baby leaps into action. I can see her, squirming around in my belly, poking her hands and feet out. Relief comes. The doctors realise I am not in immediate danger of giving birth. They leave me for a while. I relax.

The pain starts to subside, and it turns out to be something entirely unrelated to the baby, and pretty easy to fix. The doctors decide against putting me on a drip and send me home with antibiotics.

I got in the house that night and praised God for the safety of my child, for the hospital, for not having to actually stay in the hospital, for everything. Because in that moment where I thought something might be wrong with my child, I could see the bottom start to drop out of my life. Hopes and dreams are attached to this little squirming person in my belly. And I never knew how much I loved her already until I thought I might lose her.

***

And it startles me, how much time I waste in comparison when I should be praising God for my circumstances, my health, my family.

The truth is, I don't think Mummy Wars really exist outside of journalism. I don't think that real life people are actually that worked up about staying at home vs having a career, or anything like that. I think most parents - most people - are just trying to get on as best they can. We all search for things to define us. And really, it's a mixture of things, isn't it? What defines us is not money. Or status. Or power. Or possessions. Or holidays. Or clothes.

It's not even careers, or talents, or interests.

It's not even family, or children, or friends, or relationship status.

It's a mixture of everything, isn't it? A mix of it all. And everyone's got stuff they feel inferior about. Right?

I think that there's a power in the world that would happily see us wasting our time in constant competition and comparison. I think that there's someone out there that would happily see women tearing each other down for their life choices, or judging each other based on how many qualifications they have, or what profession they are in. It is a massive waste of time. A waste of energy. A waste of thought. A waste of resources. The burden that women are under - and place themselves under - to be everything, to do everything, to look good all the time - is massive. I got that impression from one parenting magazine, which read, if I'm honest, a bit like a Mummy version of Cosmo, a collection of conflicting articles that pile on the pressure:

If you are a mother, you must also have a meaningful career or be going into education. But don't neglect your kids! Don't let them watch too much TV! Make sure your house looks nice! Are you keeping your relationship alive with your husband? Are you still sexy? Make sure you look good all the time, like these celebrity mothers do. And make sure you have something else to do outside your kids. A hobby, or an interest, or something. In case you 'lose your identity'. 

Parenthood does funny things to your identity, it's true. Because being a parent is all about service. All about giving. You give and you give and part of you always goes into your kids, more than DNA, but just ... everything. Life, energy, personality, time, everything. You know? Day in and day out, you give yourself to your children, and they don't always thank you for it. (Some of you are thinking: they never thank me for it.) But you do it. And yet, even though that should be a raw deal, it kind of isn't. It makes you feel fulfilled even though you are perhaps in some ways less of 'you' than you were before. You are something new.

And that is a massive, massive privilege.

It is something to praise God for.

***

Years ago I remember turning to my pastor for help. I went through a rough time as a teenager, and it's something I have taken years to come to terms with. I finally felt that I was in a place to open up about it. To perhaps help others who were going through the same thing.

One thing I was worried about, though, was being defined by that bad thing. I said something along the lines of 'I don't want people to think of me as a victim and nothing else. I don't want to be defined by what happened. I don't want my life to be all about that one thing.'

He just looked at me and said 'Megan, that thing doesn't define you. What defines you is Jesus. That thing was just a catalyst into finding who defines you now and will define you forever.'

Yes and amen to that. Jesus is who defines me. And if I felt that it was the right time to tell the whole story of how that came about, I would do. (It might take a few posts, mind).

I refuse to be a casualty of the 'Mummy wars'. I refuse to participate in this culture of constant comparison. I refuse to rank myself against other women, sizing myself up by career, by looks, by the size of my brain. I don't want any part of it. I don't want to waste my time with it. Not when I am so richly blessed. It is ignorant of me to fixate on myself being 'less than' instead of focusing on the tasks that I have been given. That I am more than capable of.

This is what I want my daughter to see, and therefore, this is who I have to be:

I want my daughter to see me radiant in the love of Someone much bigger than myself. I want my daughter to see me confident in my decisions. I want my daughter to see me making wise, considered choices. I want my daughter to see me doing what I feel in my heart is best - even when it's hard. Even when it goes against the grain.

I want my daughter to see me joyful. Not giving time to the things in the world that would grind us down. But laughing, singing, praising, playing, loving. And counting my blessings.

Always counting my blessings.

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