Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Being a Young Mom

I read so many blog posts by young moms and their struggles with parenting and doing it right and dealing with the monotony of it and the tedious tasks and adjusting to their so very unglamorous lifestyle compared to the glorious dreams they'd envisioned  (I  HEART spellcheck!!!! - already it's saved me much embarrassment)

Anyway - those are just blogposts by moms with healthy children - and then I read blogposts by moms with the same struggles and God has chosen for them children with severe health issues and disabilities or special needs or whatever is the right word to call all of that.  I read a lot of those yesterday and just lowered my head and repented of the times I chafed under the exhaustion and endlessness of raising my four very healthy, beautiful, intelligent daughters whom I absolutely adored and loved, and still do.

Again, those blogposts by the tired moms who have healthy and not so healthy children are also women who live in a middle to upper class world, mostly U.S. Citizens, some Canadians, maybe from England, mostly United States - no 3rd world bloggers who use the blogging world as an outlet for their creativity.

That's a whole other story or subject.

Today I'm on the subject of being a young mom with young children and feeling exhausted.  Hmmmm.  Is that a new concept or phenomenon born out of the late 20th century and early 21st century?  I don't know.  I think my mother was tired, very tired, and she found community in her neighbors down the street and across town.  Not diminishing her task nor her labor, and I believe she and her friends sat in groups, face to face, while we kids played, and they vented to each other.  The ladies were shoulder to shoulder, I watched them, as they raised all of us - I didn't understand their adult needs and frustrations, but I watched a different lifestyle compared to the next and the next generation.  I've read a post in which Laura Beth did say that the blogging world is a way to find community in 2011.  It is.  I love it.  But I prefer people in person....sitting across the table from me, or on my couch.

Mom became a mom in 1949 - post war - things were definitely changing from prewar and from before the depression.  I have heard stories about the depression, about the war - I've heard Mother wonder about her parents' parenting tasks.  I've heard stories about putting wood in the stove to cook, pumping water, outhouses, chipping ice off the block of ice for meals.  Mother hated that task as a child.

Mother's housekeeping tasks were washing the clothes, cloth diapers, hanging clothes on the line, hand washing dishes, hand drying dishes, making beds without fitted sheets (in the early years), sprinkling clothes and keeping them in the refrigerator to stay moist for ironing, ironing (she ironed pillowcases!) preparing the meals, folding clothes, and of course the sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dusting.  I remember milk being delivered to our doorstep and leaving the empty glass bottles for them to pick up at next delivery.   We didn't live in the country - no farming or large animals or chickens - so we didn't milk or gather eggs.  My life felt really contemporary.  It did.  Almost a bit upscale - but I don't really think it was - it just felt that way a bit. Oh - Mother also made all of our clothes.  I think - I don't remember buying many clothes.  I'm sure we did - but my idea of shopping for clothes was going to select fabric and flipping through pattern books.  Mother didn't regularly have "help" but she did periodically.  I remember different ladies who would help out from time to time and I've seen old pictures and heard old stories of ladies who helped my grandmothers also.  I clearly remember one named Willie, who was the cook and cleaning lady for my dad's mother.  I enjoyed being around her and getting her generous hugs and greetings on our visits to Troy, AL.

Those are my seven lead paragraphs, which open up what I'll do next - just list some of my young mom stories - things I've heard today's young moms talk about.

1.  diapers.  I  changed diapers for 10 years, at times two different children in diapers.  But then I realized, that sounds like when we say we had someone in college for 11 years.  I suppose it only makes sense that we do things around here in 10 and 11 year increments.
2. 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988 are when my babies were born.
3. No tragedies to date - but I heard the doctor tell me, when Ann was born, when I asked him if there would be any brain damage from the "cord accident", he told me, "It's too early to tell".  And when Laura Beth was between 1 and 2 the doctor didn't hesitate to have her tested for Cystic Fibrosis when I made the appointment to tell him her symptoms.  I remember waiting for those test results.  She didn't have it.
4.  Recently I was asked what I was doing and how I was responding when my first two, 18 months apart, were finally 1 year and 2 1/2 years.  I thought, hmmmm, "Oh, I know, that's when I went into severe depression and was traveling to Birmingham to see a psychiatrist."  I did.  It's true.  There were no sympathetic ears that I knew of anywhere around, for a mom who was severely depressed, and so Charlie found someone in Birmingham for me to see.  Well - Charlie was sympathetic - but he was alone in it with me, as the husband of the depressed mom.  Medication was not handed out in those days very rapidly.  It never was discussed, medication, not for me.  The psychiatrist was not my solution - but it turned out to be a married couple who were counselors.  Depression had been a frequent visitor to me in the past and they helped me so that I never had to be crippled by it again - I had been battling with it on and off since my junior year in college - it would visit and go away and revisit - and I never knew when it would show up and I never knew why it left.  This last time with it in 1983 dealt a more severe blow than the other times and Charlie was there to look for help for me.
5. I recall one night in particular hanging over the tub bathing children for the ka zillioneth time, back aching, real callouses on my knees, and realizing how long it would be before I didn't have to do this anymore - I had a moment of claustrophobia of sorts - not a panic attack - but it took some mental discipline to get my mind off of that thought.
6.  The first two babies were the hardest.  18 months apart and I wasn't "broken in" as a mom.  This shock to my system of the sleeplessness of it, the endlessness of it, the tedious nature of it,  and being tired - well - it was a new concept to me - I had been single and without babies for 28 and 29 years.
7.  I was very very very very lonely - for the first 5 years of living here - I found no kindred spirits - everyone was very kind to me.  I was involved in my church and even a club in the town - but I hadn't found anyone yet whom I could just spontaneously call - vent and share - in just a few minutes - and get off the phone - noone to call to say I was coming over or would they come over and it all feel very natural.  Ann and Laura Beth were my close companions - from birth to 5 years for Ann and birth to 3 1/2 for Laura Beth.  Of course there was Charlie - but no female connects.  We had married in 79 and moved to Scottsboro in 1980 - so from August 1980 thru Fall and Winter of 1985 were the loneliest years I had ever experienced and I haven't experience that since then.    It felt as if I had moved into a different culture and couldn't find my niche.
8.  The lonely period?  I didn't think it was anyone's fault - not mine nor the fault of women around me - I felt like it was a period God was allowing - it was His sovereignty - he provides and he orchestrates and he knows people.  He puts husbands and wives together and he puts friends together.  He just wasn't doing it yet - I didn't know why and I certainly asked him a LOT - but it was five years in the "doing".  And then, BOOM, first 1 dear dear dear friend and then a second, and then a third and then a fourth - and in between those other friends as well - but I'm talking about those that get way down deep into your heart - into that closest spot and they know you and you know them and it's almost like family.  Well, it is like family.  We all had so much fun and those were the best years but 3 of them had to move away.  We're still like family and we still call and it is still the same - but they don't live here.  But my 4th friend - she stayed around and we saw each other through all our stages of children - through teen years and through college and marriage.  That's like cement - She gave me a birthday card recently and it had two little girls on the front and they were playing in the mud.  I opened it and it read, "We've shared a lot of dirt - Happy Birthday to a good friend".  That's what friends do - they share a lot of dirt and it just makes them even better friends for all the grace and mercy involved.

Good grief - that's 8 stories, examples of my life as a mom - but it's making for a very long post.

Maybe this can be part one and I'll think of so many more.  Anybody care, anyway?  I'll just pretend you do and I'll continue to write.  

so - next post - more stories of when I was a beginner mom and very tired.


Laura Beth said...

I'm reading! Part 2 please. I'm not a young mom, but I'm a young wife in a brand new town still finding those "forever friends" like you talk about. And I hope to be a young mom in the near future.

Kate Rhodes said...

thanks for this, mom... i really, really liked this post.