Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Christmas Gift to You, Mudders.---A Reminder to Move.

I'll start with one of my favorite quotes on motherhood penned by Robert James Waller in his stunning book Bridges of Madison County.  "When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you're expected move again only you don't remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself."

Bear with me...I'll get to the quote...

My friend leads a full life.  She is one of those moms that I envy.  The role of mother seems to fit her like a glove.  (With the help of her husband) she seems to always make the correct choices for her family and it shows.  Her kids are consistently on the honor roll. They are polite and kind--you know--right out of Leave It To Beaver or Little House on the Prairie, the kind of kids every mom dreams that her own children will turn out to be. This friend, let's call her Superwoman, has a large posse of women that she calls her own.  She has received laudation after laudation in her career.  Her cooking rivals Rachel Ray.  She is the quintessential sports mother cheering for her daughter and son at their year round sporting events.  Superwoman even chairs charity events while taking classes to get her counseling license.  All of this she does at the perfect temperature never burning out or freezing up.

That is why I was so surprised when during a phone call last week she happened to mention that with all that she does, (as fulfilling as it may be) she just needed something for herself.    As I listened intently (something I try hard to do because along with EVERYTHING else she is good at, she is also an extraordinary ear when you need to sound off.) she began to muse about activities and skills she wanted to acquire just because...well...just because she WANTED to.  I did and said all the things that a friend of 36 years would and should do and say, agreeing with her that cooking classes would  be a perfect avenue for her to follow, (eating her meals is one of life's pleasures.)  But what I didn't do, what I couldn't say to her (after all the phone conversation wasn't about me) is that at the other end of the phone I was choking back tears.

It was an interesting phenomenon and one I had to analyze.  At first I couldn't quite put my finger on the reason for my tears.  But as I stood outside myself and observed with the clarity of a scientist I realized that there were many reasons for the drops on my cheeks and the quiver in my chin, the biggest one being that despite having it so together, this mom, this mom who happened to be one of my best friends experienced the same longing for independence or MOMENTS of independence as I did.  This yearning to be me without the mom label has plagued me with guilt and therefore the urge has been pushed aside more often then indulged.  Yet here was my definition of a truly salt of the earth mother wanting the same thing, and well...that made my yearning for fulfillment outside of being a mom legitimate.

We try hard, don't we Mudders?  We toil away to be the hub of a wheel holding tightly to the many spokes of motherhood.  We remain in one place while school work, and meals, doctor's appointments, the rolling eyes of a teen, the tantrum of a toddler, our careers, and our husbands spin around us using our stationary status as support.  Sometimes the spinning makes us dizzy.  Sometimes the wheel squeaks and needs grease.  Sometimes the pull of so many spokes weighs us down and our strength wanes. But we smile even though we're sad so our children aren't scared.  We learn to listen intently even though the pressures of our role may be screaming in our ears.  We get used to blank stares when we request help and stomach the fact that ultimately who we are is invisible to our children who look at us (especially when they are older) as mere cash machines, taxi drivers and good old fashioned nags.  Through it all, we stay steady, unmoveable so our children and loved ones can move.

Which of course brings me to the quote with which I began this post.  Although I read the book several times, it was when Meryl Streep playing the role of Francesca,  uttered the quote so passionately to her lover, Robert, in the movie of the same name, did I weep with  fervent agreement.  If we are not careful Mudders, if we remain the steady hub of a steel wheel, we will forget what moves us...what moved us BEFORE we were mothers.  If our role as "mama" encompasses entirely our very being then who will we be when our children leave and our role is diminished?  What does it teach our children if we don't think of ourselves every once in awhile?   As Francesca says so adeptly in Bridges, when we are able to move again, to shed the hub status, we won't remember what moved us if we lose ourselves in this complicated albeit wonderful parenting process.  After all how long has it been since you've thought about what moves you Mudders?  How long has it been since any one asked?

Well Mudders, I'm asking.  What moves you?  What are your life dreams besides the well being of your children?  This holiday season give yourself a truly priceless gift will you?  Not only do I want you to think about the answers to these questions, I want you to find a way in the next year to begin to fulfill some of those dreams and wishes.  Let us not get so bogged down in our life of detail that we are unable to move.

20 comments:

  1. That was beautifully written. I am going to have to think about your question because, it seems, I have forgotten what moves me. Thank you for the wake up call. Happy Holidays!

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  2. Wow Logan, you did it again. You are so in my head and in sinc with my life. As my boys get older and almost off to college I am so grateful that Don and I said, "Let's go for one more!" Not just because we got Caelyn but because now in my life I think what will I do when the boys are gone. My answer is, "Thank God we have Caelyn." Now I am thinking what will I do when she gets older and is too cool for her mom. A friend of mine just recently posted on FB that she needs to find a life since her eldest just left for college and her other son is a Junior. How quickly we forget who we are and when we do stop to think about it how guilty we feel. I mean we are moms not people. At least that is how I often feel. I am not Anne, I am the mom of Curtis, Connor and Caelyn or Don's wife. Logan, to answer your question I also am going to have to think. Not really sure. I mean I am not who I was before. I am no longer a swimsuit model or a lifeguard. I am something completely different. Not sure what/who but I am going to spend some time thinking about it and hopefully I will figure it out. Thanks Logan! :)
    Anne

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  3. I am absolutely awed and humbled by this article. A true gift from the heart. I thank you from the bottom of mine.

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  4. Crying now b/c even after asking what I could want for myself I continue to want for my son....my girl will be just fine! Sam will need a bit more. A bit more understanding, a bit more help and a bit more compassion to make it through....Guess that is what will make me SO happy, when I cannot control the climate anymore, which seems to be coming sooner than later.

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  5. Amazing post! I got so caught up that I forgot to say...

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  6. Chris and I like to like by the familiar flight adage that "you must put your own oxygen mask on first before you can assist others." We can't be gifts to our children without knowing who we are as individuals -- and a as a couple -- first. That being said, it's easy to forget in the midst of life's chaos, isn't it? My wish for you, my friend, is a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season... complete with some little pockets of time just for you. Thanks for sharing your beautiful words with us. XOXO

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  7. Beautiful writing and beautifully put.....once again. It is all so true. I have to say that now that my kids are grown, that I have become someone that I never thought I would and it's all because of the path my life took being a mother. Because my eldest was such a challenge & I looked (and found) help in so many places & in so many people that I now feel most complete and fulfilled when I help others in need......whether it be a shoulder to cry on, decorating for a party, helping to remodel a sister-in-law's kitchen or stripping another sister-in-law's grandmother's antique rocking chair for her soon-to-be born & very unexpected 3rd child. ;) It also has taken me many years to realize that I have a creative side that makes me very happy. You will find what you are looking for, young mothers & you will also find that you will love middle age!!!! It can be very satisfying reconnecting with old friends & remembering what made you friends in the first place..........you have so much in common! Traveling & going where you want, when you want without worrying about babysitters or when you must return.....the advantages are endless. You will always, however, look back at these days and remember the good times & know that they were some of the most wonderful times of your lives.

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  8. Thank you for the Christmas "gift" Logan. Loved the story and your writing is always so well done. What moves me is that my children and so unselfish and care about others and and I am "moved" by what they do. I think I need to be a little more like them....

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  9. Do you think this applies to fathers too? If fathers are different, is it because they can truly leave family behind for hours at a time, in their own minds (I've read that there is some evidence for this)? Or because mothers typically do most of the work?

    When I have children, I want my wife to be fulfilled. How much can a husband do to facilitate this? If a husband gives his wife a whole day, or a weekend, or one night a week off, will she take it? If she does, can she leave mothering at home and, say, learn to cook Thai food?

    JimDavies
    jimdavies.blogspot.com

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  10. Oh my. I know those chin quivers and tears. So do many other mothers. Why have we been so quite about all of this for so long? How does *that* behoove us?

    You've earned a new subscriber with this post.

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  11. I never knew what I wanted to do or be until I was a mother. I had my 1st at 19 and it made me feel complete (which was surprising because I was never that girl who dreamed of being a mom. It just happened). Now that I am in my mid 30's I am starting to wonder what else would make me happy and what other dreams I want to make happen. And I don't know what they are. But I do know that I need something that is mine. You hit the nail on the head with that quote & I think each of us moms has this issue. Thanks for this piece. You're awesome!

    Margaret (@goodbadfamily)

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  12. Very well written Logan. I know many women today forget to stop and remember what moves them.
    For some reason I naturally avoided this dilemma. I love my work so I had no choice but to find a way to have my needs met. I wear my Mom/wife hat when necessary and my Diane Kroe/designer hat when I'm working. Sometimes I wear both at the same time.
    It took some effort but I created a life where I could do both. Being a mom moves me as much as my work (travel and fashion). I just had to design a business that would accommodate both. I think I would go mad if I had to give up one or the other. This keeps me balanced.
    My children see their Mom's accomplishments and it has a good effect on them. My 15 yr old son is taking business courses at school and enjoys helping me with marketing ideas. My 7 yr old daughter has her own mannequin in my studio and loves to create her own fashion designs. She loves to help me when I'm drafting a pattern by marking the arrows and notches. This is our special time together.
    My husband is supportive (most of the time) and I try to include him on my trips so we can have some alone time. With the economy right now his work has been a bit slow so I can plan a few extra shows and make up the difference. The children see this and I think it empowers them to know that Mom and Dad are a team and yet we are also individuals who's needs are both being met equally.
    I think the world is changing around us and our children's generation will be much different than ours. I know young women today are not as willing to put their dreams on hold.
    The wheel wont move without balance and momentum. So Mudders out there please find your BALANCE, find what MOVES you so you can keep strong the hub of the wheel and keep it turning.
    xoxoxo

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  13. Oh I so profoundly agree with the need, the requirement even, to stay in touch (or get back in touch) with what moves us.

    Having grown up with a mom who reminded her children frequently what she gave up for us, I determined not to repeat that particular path. So when my youngest was a young teenager, I returned to school and graduated with a degree. Right now I'm in graduate school. When thats done I'm going to medical school.

    Amazingly, my kids are super proud of me and love bragging to their friends. I have discovered that I am a more rich, balanced, empowering role model for my children now. Rather than diminishing how available I am to them, all this "stuff" I'm doing because it moves me AS A PERSON has enhanced my ability to be an effective hub of the family wheel.

    I encourage any mother to please hang on to (or rediscover) your dreams, what moves you, what you wish you had another lifetime to pursue. Then do it!

    ~RJ

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  14. I had my first at 19, so I don't even have a clue as to what moves me. I have six more years before I really have to wonder what to do with myself. Hopefully by then my writing career and everything that I've been working on has kicked in. This was definitely a great piece to read.

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  15. I think this is a great post. What I (and a lot of moms) say, "If mom isn't happy, nobody is happy!" You need to get out and do things for yourself. I love my kids, but it wasn't until I found a love for triathlons and drinking wine with my girlfriends that I finally felt like myself again. I have also been wanting to start my business since my daughter was born (6 years ago). My hubby just surprised me with a Macbook and I cried and cried because I could finally get started on my business (video stuff). Our kids will be happier if we find a balance in our own lives.
    Heather
    www.thingsthatkeepmesane.com

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  16. Self Portrait of a Banana

    I am a miracle, a child of God
    I am a woman
    I am a daughter
    I am a mother
    I am a sister
    I am a niece
    I am a granddaughter
    I am a cousin
    I am an aunty
    I am an ex-wife (oh well)
    I am an ex-girlfriend (stopped counting)
    I am an ex-fianc√© (wasn’t in the cards)
    I am my own hero
    I am someone else’s hero
    I am a BFF
    I am a friend
    I am the light in someone’s storm
    I am a nurse
    I am a Soldier
    I am an Officer
    I am a writer (self-proclaimed)
    I am a student
    I am a teacher
    Best of all, I am me, a banana!

    We are who we want to be. I married at 20 and my son is now 19, even if I remembered who I was at 20, I am certain that I am far beyond that. It is quite by accident that I have so many hats but, it started when I caught my husband looking up and down one of my co-workers. I light came on and said "it is time for you to find a job/career that will support you and your son." I started and finished nursing school, joined the Army, and proceeded with the inevitable divorce.

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  17. I'm glad I took the time to read this entry today. I've been dwelling on this same topic for a few weeks now. While my life does have stress daily, I realize I'm far more 'centered' than many moms in today's hectic world. I get to work from home, my bills are paid by a hard working husband, my eldest is honor roll and my youngest is smart as a whip. So why am I feeling so...stagnant? Each time I think it I feel guilty. I should be grateful for my life, right? I should be 100% happy. But, honestly, I'm outside myself right now. Because, while being a mother & wife is an honor and a joy, it's become my all. It's as if I pulled 'Me' off like a heavy coat and hung it in the closet - forgotten. I'm going to work that. A little bit at a time. I hope other mothers come to this entry and draw the same inspiration as I did. Thank you.

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  18. Nicely written! Until I lived it, I could never have described how much being a "mother" consumers our lives, but you did a great job. But honestly, of all the things I think I'd like to be doing, I can't imagine anything as fulfilling as this job I have. The hours are long and the pay sucks, but it's interesting and different everyday.

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  19. This is a great post. What moves me is something I find myself struggling more and more with as my children get older and more independent. Blogging has certainly helped to move me in a direction I never thought possible. Thanks for sharing. Diane

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  20. Thank you once again for your honesty. I married young and was a teenage mother. I now have 3 kiddos and I will be married 13 years this July. I have had many "breakdowns" thinking "is this it?". Being a mother from such a young age, it seems like that's all I know. I've told many people that the only thing I am good at is..nursing babies. Sad, huh? I know I'm good at other things but sometimes that's how I feel.
    I think it's harder when your kids are smaller and you are utterly consumed with their breathing, their sleeping and even their poop. As mine get older, I love the fact that I can see all that I've taught them.
    I long to travel, to see the world through the eyes of an empowered woman, rather than a tourist-y mommy.
    Sometime, I will do that. But not now. I give myself time to myself. I've allowed my husband to understand the real me and not just the me I was trying to be for the 1st 10 years of our marriage. As a young mom and wife I was determined to show the world....and my family that I could do it.
    I am less focused on myself as a mother as I am on my family as one now.
    Very healthy place.

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