Last week I read the Glennon Melton article that has been circulating around, and I'm so glad I did. I laughed and "Can I get an Amen'ed" the whole way through it. (If you haven't read it yet, it's called Don't Carpe Deim, and you should check it out. It's a quick, insightful read.) Here's a little excerpt:
Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I'm not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong.
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I've heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they've heard there's magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments....They try because even though it's hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers -- "ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU'LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN'T!" TRUST US!! IT'LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!" -- those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain...
I've said before that people who say "Oh, I wish mine were still that age!" must have blocked 98% of their memories of what it is like to actually live with a three-year-old.
At any rate, the more I read responses to this article (positive and negative), the more I got to thinking:
I am so absolutely for honesty regarding parenting. I am anti-any sort of writing, speaking, or teaching that communicates that mothers should find wonder and fulfillment and a fount of everlasting joy in planning dinners and doing dishes. Because that kind of teaching devastates women who don't. It piles guilt and shame and frustration onto the shoulders of wives and mothers who think,
"I bet my husband wishes he had married someone more domestic. I must not be a 'natural' mother. I guess I'll never be a 'Proverbs 31' woman."
I am friends with some precious, precious women who really sincerely love baking their own bread, gardening, and cloth-diapering. And that's great; but I don't - and I don't think I'm broken or jaded because of it. I am no less of a wife or mother because I don't revel in homemaking. You know what I revel in? Jesus. My husband. My kids. Writing. Ministry. That's what I revel in. Homemaking, for me, is a means to an end, and to be honest, most days it doesn't bring me much joy.
My best friend, Megan, loves to cook; she is a gifted cook. She has binders full of recipes, beautiful kitchen appliances, and a blog that I steal ideas from often. She is warm and hospitable and she bakes things for people. She is a gracious hostess and a master meal-planner-grocery-shopper. When I'm discouraged, I feel envious of Megan - of the fact that after working all day she can come home and do all those domestic-y things so joyfully - I wish I could be that for my family.
But I am not Megan.
And that's okay.
It's taken me a while to be able to say that. To peel off the layers of conservative Christian guilt. To get the La Leche breastfeeding zealots out of my head. To turn down the volume on books and blogs and comments and turn up the volume on "what Jesus tells Kate on a daily basis." And what Jesus tells me is that there is more to homemaking than cooking and cleaning - this should be obvious, but let's follow this line of thinking for a minute. If there is more to homemaking than cooking and cleaning (much more), then it is possible to be unenthusiastic about cooking and cleaning and still be successful at homemaking.
- I love cleaning (almost as much as my kids love un-cleaning).
- I'm great at organizing.
- I'm a peacemaker. I am even-tempered, and I forgive easily (by the grace of God). I manage household relationships well.
- I love being support staff for my husband. I write, design, print, copy, promote. I lead small groups, counsel girls, and entertain A LOT of teenagers at my house. I plan for them, bake for them, drive them around, pray for them.
- I handle our kids - all the time. I play with them, read to them, and spend the greater part of my day teaching them - they get the best of me.
- I am learning braille.
- I hate cooking. And dishes. I hate any any food-related task, besides eating. I like that okay. We've struck a delicate balance of me cooking, Dan cooking, freezer meals, and eating out. It works for us.
- I use disposable diapers and store-bought baby food and formula.
- I dislike managing money. Dan pays the bills.
- I cannot sew even a little bit.
- I do not clip coupons.
- I do not home school. I don't ever want to.
When I talk about parenting here, I want to tell the truth. I want to talk about the good parts without sounding fake. I want to talk about the hard parts without complaining.
I want to be able to say, "This afternoon I sat on the couch for an hour and a half and read a novel while eating ice cream!" without having to defend myself, lest someone think me lazy.
I want to be able to say, "I want to duct tape Madeline's mouth shut!" without having to include a footnote about how I would never actually harm a child.
So here is my plea to mothers and to women everywhere. It is a plea for honesty and acceptance. It is a plea for a healthy identity and sense of self. It is a plea to end defensiveness, guardedness and guilt, and to embrace encouragement and grace in their place.
Women - learn to be okay with who you are. Own it. Refuse to fake it. Refuse to gloss over the rough parts of your life so that people will think you have it all together. Reject the supposition that people are supposed to have it all together. When you play perfect it only perpetuates the stereotype - the myth - of womanhood. It perpetuates the ridiculous expectations that make you feel like you have to fake it in the first place.
And not all lies are "pretending-to-be-perfect" lies. Some lies are "painting-an-overly-gloomy-scenario-in-an-attempt-to-garner-appreciation-or-pity" lies. It's called attention-seeking behavior and it's no prettier in grown-ups than it is in children. It's okay to love your job. It's okay to enjoy yourself. Being frustrated all the time doesn't make you more noble than anyone else. So please, don't fake happy, but don't play the martyr either. Just as there is no shame in not having it all together, neither is there any shame in being awesome. If you are so domestic that you make Martha Stewart look like a cave man - own it, dude.
Elisabeth Elliot wrote, "I have learned, but slowly I'm afraid, what it is to be in love with my destiny." Oh that we could all learn to love our destinies! To live with grace: unashamed of the good and bad alike.
And moms, can we please call a cease-fire and accept the fact that we are on. the same. team?
Stay-at-home moms, stop trying to convince everyone that your job is legit. Anyone with half a brain knows that it is. It's a non-stop, thankless string of days repeating everything you say 17 times and cleaning human feces out of your carpet - and you can't call in sick. We understand that you've given up accolades, affirmation and adult interaction and are emotionally starved for any kind of validation. We understand that you can work your arse off for a week and have literally nothing to show for it: no project, no PowerPoint, no paycheck, and we understand how futile that can feel. We are with you. We are for you.
Working moms, stop trying to one-up stay-at-home moms by saying things like, "I do everything a stay-at-home mom does, and I have a job." We know that you are exhausted and that you feel like you're doing it all by yourself. We get that you would give anything to be able to come home and not have to keep going. We get that when you're at work, you feel like you should be with your kids, and when you're with your kids, you feel like you should really be getting some work done. We know how disheartening it is to think you can't do either thing well because you can't give up the other. We are with you. We are for you.
One is not harder than the other. One is not better than the other. So can we stop the vicious, cyclical guilt-tripping and all the attention-seeking behavior? It's really quite ugly.
I think that we do immeasurable damage to our hearts and our souls when we invest so much time time trying to be heard and so little time practicing contentment and love.
Can we spend less time trying to convince ourselves that men "really do like curves" and more time learning to feel comfortable in our own skin?
Can we spend less time resenting all the lucky breaks that "successful" women receive and more time investing our own lives well?
If women would stop setting each other up for failure, we could put an end to all this defensiveness and insecurity, which gives women everywhere a bad rap. Women are not insecure, overly emotional, defensive control-freaks. We are not manipulative or mousy or weak.
Or at least, we don't have to be.
This is one of the reasons that being a Christian is so liberating. I do not have to defend myself. I am enough. Jesus says so.
He says I can rest in Him.
He says I am not alone.
He says I was created just-so and that it's okay to be me. I don't have to be anyone else.
He says that if nobody else sees all the work I do, if no one else knows how hard it is or how often I hurt - He knows.
Ultimate comfort, ultimate validation, ultimate peace.
What I really mean to say is this: tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.
Nobody wins when we don't.
"No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love." [Ephesians 4:14-15, The Message]