Tuesday, December 4, 2007

When do we do those "other" things?

In Berkeley, I was very involved in many community organizations. I spent a lot of time working with my church and working with Habitat for Humanity. At one point, I had 9 weekly obligations to groups of people. I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of this but also felt that my life was very rich. I spent time leading youth group, time leading a women's group, time knitting, time with elders, time working with Habitat for Humanity. These organizations helped me define myself. It was and is a big part of who I am. I was able to live out my life's values in meaningful ways.

Motherhood, I fear, has changed that.

I remember asking my good friend Andy, after she had her daughter, "When do we get to do other things?" She responded that it would take years. Maybe when they were grown. That we just need to focus on them right now. And later, we'd do the "other things."

This answer didn't sit well with me. And it still doesn't. I really wrestle with it. I agree that we need to focus on kids now. Currently, I work a 40 hour week and rush home, every day, to spend time with my daughter and husband. THAT is important to me. I don't want to go to "Committee" meetings if it means less time with my family. That isn't a trade I'd like to make.


But the reality is that I still miss that life. I don't like that my current life is so...insular. So self focused. There are still young kids that could use an adult in their lives, there are still many families who need housing. None of that has changed. And yet, I can't find a way to live out that part of my life. I have tried to find a faith community. I have even taken the Habitat for Humanity training here in NJ. But I can't seem to dive in. It is a matter of time. Logistics. Guilt.

And so I basically work and then play at home. I don't do church, I don't knit. I don't build homes or create opportunities for women (of all ages) to connect.

I have seen women solely defined by their children and their children's accomplishments. And I can see how this can happen! Children are so life consuming. They are wonderful! They provide so much joy! But how does one be a "good mom" while holding that in tension with wanting to be a "good woman" and focusing both on herself and the broader world?

I guess there are two tensions here that I wrestle with. One is finding time to take care of ME. (Which is a different post). The other, is really finding time to take care of my corner of the world.

Some would argue that our children are our greatest gifts to the broader society. I can certainly see that point of view. That by doing well by them, listening to them, encouraging them, caring for them, playing with them, we are doing our part to change the world we live in. And maybe that is where I need to "be" for a while. But I can see that by focusing so much on "my family", I could forget how to "do" the other things. Or that I won't see value in them. And since doing those other things is really taking care of myself at the same time, I worry that I will lose part of "me" in post-poning it "until she is grown."

In time, perhaps Seren can join me on a building site. Or, if she wants, we can tutor kids together. But in the meantime, I struggle with how to hold my commitments to my family with my commitments to my social justice self. I think being someone who focuses on social justice issues will make me a better mother in the long run. But for now, I still see it as a tension and a struggle. Either one or the other. Afterall, there are only so many hours in the day.


I just want to be a tree-hugger again. :)


LauraC said...

I am right there with you. I'd love to go back to my tree-hugging days but something else would need to give.

I had been struggling with this issue a long time until I was recently reading the book "Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness." It pointed out that the first 10 years are the really big ones in terms of parent involvement. By the time they hit middle school, they have homework, sports practice, and their own interests.

Anyway when I started thinking about 10 years... well it's been 10 years since I graduated college and that FLEW by. I imagine the first 10 years with Nate and Alex are going to fly by, so I will try to enjoy them as much as I possibly can.

I have the next 40 years after that to fight for justice!

Sometimes it's hard to let go of the notion that we're not enough if we're not doing it all.

Beth said...

I have always had grand ideas about "making a difference," but found it difficult to implement my intentions before I had a child. Now? I have to be okay with just doing what I can to get through the days and not lose my head. But I think as kids get older, there are things we will be able to do as a family that will help make a difference. And for now, donating money is usually a good way to help! (Not that I have much of that, either!) I think the key is to take really small steps, and remember the ways that you are making a difference. I'm sure you and Laura have much smaller environmental footprints that I do! Something I can work on now! Thanks for another fabulous post. (I'm embarrassed that I spew forth random thoughts while you're thinking about how to change the world! Lol.)

Laura S said...

I agree, it is so tough. I still am able to do a little bit at church, but anything else is just a no go! I am also only work 24 hours a week so I can still be involved other places. I will try to instill in Joshua as much as possible each of our responsibility in making the world better and doing things with him as he grows. For now, I think it is important to try to be fully present when we do get to spend time with our kiddos!