The Pursuit of Happiness?

I seem to find advice on how to be happy everywhere I turn.  Magazines have entire monthly columns dedicated to attaining it and numerous blogs tout the pursuit of it.

For me, the pressure to be happy can be crushing and there are times, more than I would care to admit, that “be happy” is just one more line item for supermom to check off.  There it looms on the list: above “nutritious short order cook” and below “sultry sexpot”.

Being a mother has proved to be my life riddle.  One that I am struggling to figure out.

How is it that I feel so utterly lonely but at the same time crave solitude?

Why do I want time apart from my kids but once I am alone, I count the hours to when they return?

At the end of the day, I beat myself up and wonder what is that I accomplished today?  What use did I make of my two university degrees?

At the end of the day, I am amazed by the magnitude of what I have contributed to our society: three small boys, who are learning to be thoughtful, compassionate members of the community.

There are days when I am deliriously happy and days that I feel as though I am clawing my way out of a black hole.

Today I didn’t feel happiness.  I felt claustrophobic, torn apart, pushed beyond the limit of exhaustion.  As I write this, the boys are tucked into bed and not a minute too soon.  My patience now sags like a hyper extended elastic band.

Hard days come with the mothering territory and when I feel less than sure, it’s not to the experts that I turn.  I seek solace from those elbow to elbow with me in the trenches and Glennon Melton’s Don’t Carpe Diem tops my list.

Am I happy every day?  No.  Am I happy most days?  Yes, and that’s good enough for me.

Life’s not a glossy magazine, folks.  If it were, I’d have better hair.

 

photo credit: http://www.symbolset.org

The Business of Mothering?

Oh, Ms. Vanderkam.  I don’t know what to say.  This message to parents about wasting time is as obnoxious as they come.

Ms. Vanderkam, the mother of a two-year-old son, has written a book about how parents can better spend their 168 hours of the week.  According to her, many parents use their time ineffectively and don’t plan enough thereby gobbling up precious hours.

Don’t worry, Ms. Vanderkam provides parents with lots of ways that they can better manage their time.  Among her suggestions:

–       Plan out your meals for the week so as not to waste time making several trips to the grocery store

–       Buy birthday presents in bulk (i.e. ten of the same thing for your child to take to parties)

–       One parent can prepare and cook the dinner while the other parent tidies up and deals with the dishes

–       Outsource!

What simply makes my blood boil is that people like Ms. Vanderkam seem to have it all figured out for the rest of us.  She has taken the hours of the week and divided them up for work, exercise, cleaning, mothering.  Following her simple suggestions should mean that we could all stop hyperventilating about how much we have to do in such a short time.

In all fairness, I have not read her book – just some interviews – but from what I have learned about her method through her interviews, it’s meant for people with very flexible work schedules, 2 parent households and those with disposable income.

I am the first to recognize that I am so very lucky to have a wonderful support system to help me shuttle my three kids (that I had, by choice, in four years) to various appointments (for which there are many), activities (for which there are even more) and school.  I am so very lucky to be able to afford to go to the grocery store a few times a week for fresh, nutritious food.  I am so very lucky to have the help that I do.

Sure, there are days that I think I could have managed things better.  I could have planned it better.  I could have arranged it differently.

Such is life as a mother.

I am constantly battling the clock – trying to be more efficient, get the boys out the door on time, carve out “me time”, “our time”, laundry time, cooking time, play time, laughing time, silly time . . .

But the reality is that being a mother (single, working or stay at home) does not allow for you to chop up your week and divvy up tasks, allotting hours.

Mothering is not a business.

Our children are our best teachers.  Plans are simply that – plans.  Being a mother calls for flexibility. Understanding.  Patience.  So. Much. Patience.

Mothering can make the minutes feel as though they are hours and years feel like seconds.

Many days it means being so depleted of energy at the end of a long day, all that’s physically possible is to watch mindless TV, read a book, or creep Facebook.

Don’t kid yourself, Ms Vanderkam.  Even when it appears us mothers are wasting away our time cruising the Internet instead of planning out next week’s meals, we are actually engaging in an internal battle with ourselves because we are so riddled with guilt about all that we are not doing.

We are racked with worry.

And we are tired.

We are so tired of women like you pointing a finger.

I have to give kudos to Glennon Melton author of Don’t Carpe Diem, who so perfectly summed up my exact feelings of motherhood.  Glennon’s honesty about the ambivalence towards motherhood is refreshing, heart warming and so real.  There’s a reason that her post went viral on the Internet and that’s because it resonated with mothers.

I love the idea of Glennon’s Kairos time.   And I do exactly as she suggests, even if the moment is fleeting.  I have extended it to include my boys.

Each day we say what we’re thankful for and what our favourite part of the day was.  I enjoy this time because it illustrates to me how meaningful all of the monotonous time-consuming tasks of a day can be.  When my older son tells me about how he thought of the perfect birthday present for a friend or when my middle son cheers with his hands above his head that he’s done it!  He’s made his bed all by himself!!!  I think to myself, that they are learning to be thoughtful, compassionate, independent people.

And that takes work.  And that takes juggling.  And that takes sacrifice.  And it never goes according to how I planned my week.