Please remember that your baby is a tiny human being who depends on you to show him that the world is a kind and loving place where his needs matter.
Please remember that thousands of generations of babies around the world have been raised without cribs, baby monitors, pacifiers, and other products of consumer culture–but instead with a sling and a mother’s breast.
Please remember that currently, our country has among the highest rates of depression and suicide in the world. We are not a happy people. Let us learn from those who are. It all starts with how we welcome our new ones into the world.
Tonight my heart goes out to the babies who do not have their needs met because the sun is down.
Last week I kept up on housework and laundry, made three meals a day plus snacks, did a big grocery trip with the children, took the girls on two outings, took Mia to acting and choir, and took care of another child for one day. I wrote out the meal plan for the week ahead, started a batch of sourdough starter, and made a batch of yogurt and kefir.
Anna did not take a nap this week on my clock, despite waking up too early and getting to bed too late. I went to work three evenings this week, came home from work and put the girls to bed and then caught up on housework. My New Year’s resolution of nurturing myself each day manifested itself in little ways: a bath one evening, reading a little here and there, and running errands by myself. Although grateful for those little luxuries, I want more.
Having meals and a neat house and children who were mostly happy was very nice. But I am now completely and utterly exhausted. I feel unappreciated and empty. I have given all that I have and am left yearning for something more–something that makes me feel special and appreciated and beautiful and worthy. Being a homemaker has got to be one of the most underappreciated jobs there is; it is a job that never ends, doesn’t pay, and whose daily work can be undone in a matter of moments.
This week I went above and beyond. Most weeks I don’t. I like the results of going above and beyond, except for the emotional deprivation that accompanies it. It is my dilemma.
When I was 9 years old, I moved to the United States with my family from Denmark. I spoke broken English with a thick accent, wore bright green rubber boots every day, and didn’t know the meaning of the word “fart.”
Another girl had just moved to my school and she sat in the same reading class as mine. She used a pencil that had been sharpened so many times that it was very short, and I was worried about why she did not have a long pencil. She also had the sweetest smile and kindest face. She gave me her phone number, I called her, and we had a playdate that involved Barbies and a mini trampoline.
That was how I met Jolene, who has been my devoted friend for almost 25 years. I owe our keeping-in-touch to her; each time I have moved to a new place without notifying her, she has found me. At times I am quite sure I have not deserved her devotion and care, but she has given it to me even then. She’s called me and written me and has recognized every single one of the 24 birthdays I have had since 1988.
Today is Jolene’s birthday. I appreciate and admire her. She has a strength and persistence that is contagious. She makes me want to be a better person. She is radiant and beautiful and I love her. I am grateful she is in my life.
I am exposed to about 9 hours of CNN per week; my lovely elderly lady likes to have it on when we are together. I respect her interests, but lately it has been much too much. With all of the Newt and Mitt and Obama arguing and discussing, I think I actually dislike politics and am not sure I even want to vote again. The whole thing is so intense and negative and biased and annoying.
I am also on Facebook overdrive once again. Too much information, too much wasted time, too much of a lure for something that adds nothing to my happiness. I have too many people on there and think about them too much. I want to think more about me and my little family and how I want to spend my time.
I want to close in for a while, live a secluded and quiet life as much as I can until I feel balanced again. So I deactivated my Facebook account and will bring a photo album or two to my next shift at work–in hope that this may instigate a turned-off television.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of the past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
I saw this quote on the wall at the office of our cranial-sacral therapist, Angel. I think I will post it on my own wall so I can read it every day.
That I saw this quote at Angel’s office is rather fitting; she is one of the people I am grateful for every day. I met her three years ago, weeks away from giving birth to Anna. She helped me with pelvic pain, getting Anna into proper position for the birth, and helped me connect with my baby. She helped me build my confidence and believed along with me that I would have an easy and uncomplicated birth. She told me before Anna was born that Anna was detail-oriented and cooperative. Those words stayed with me; I wanted to see if they would hold true. They have.
Anna has seen Angel every few months since she was 3 days old. Angel can connect with her in a way nobody else can. She knows if her ear canals are inflammed and can help heal them; she has helped with latching problems and with teething. She helped Anna get her coordination back after she had an semi-serious accident; she tells me of natural treatments to use when we are sick. She fully supports and embraces the way we parent and raise our children, right down to the unschooling, and she is an incredible source of information on these topics. Angel can read Anna’s emotional and physical states and can help her resolve any tension or conflict, and give me advice on how I can help her at home. Anna trusts Angel with her whole heart–a trust that was built before they even met. After a treatment with Angel, Anna is calm and content.
Mia sees Angel regularly, too, and I see her from time to time. We love her as much as Anna does.
As of late, life has handed me many lessons about standing up for myself.
Historically, this is not my strong suit. I have tended to give in, to put the desires of others ahead of my own. I have been a pressure cooker, building up steam and exploded when the steam broke through. When I have stood up, it has been in a damaging sort of way.
Life hands us the same lessons over and over until we learn them. I am getting tired of this lesson so I will try to learn it well this time. I will stand up for myself as necessary, but in a dignified sort of way. In a way that preserves bridges.
I did it with the orthodontist, even though at first I wanted to burn that bridge. But I didn’t. Instead I wrote a thank-you note for giving me the help I wanted when I asked for it, and kindly but firmly turned down her many offers for alternative treatments. Now our relationship is over, but on good terms. It feels good.
Tonight I stand at a similar crossroads: I can choose to stand up for myself with dignity or I can burn a bridge in the passion of a moment. Alan and I chose to discontinue our sessions with a play therapist we were seeing for Mia to help her with some anxiety issues. Although we do like play therapy, the therapist herself left much to be desired. It was stressful. So much that it gave me two days of a massive headache and a stiff neck.
Instead of responding to her email in which she asks why we ended our sessions, I am keeping quiet. I am letting myself simmer down. I will look to my wise people for advice. Maybe I will respond, maybe not.
Whatever I do, I am glad I stood up for myself. And I plan to leave the bridge intact.
Today we had a birthday party for my biggest girl: the girl who made me a mother for the first time, the girl who unlocked a passion I never knew I had. I love being her mother.
During Mia’s party, Anna asked for a nap. As I nursed her to sleep in the big bed I heard laughter and chatting in the next room. Time stopped. Here in my house, at the same time, were so many people that I love. The are alive and healthy and here, ranging in ages that span nearly a century. I wanted to hold my breath; I wanted it to last. But life moves, and so it is. We cannot hold it back.
I love my people. They give my life its sweetness. They made today a lovely and memorable day.