Saturday, April 5, 2008

The art of being

If people are usually defined by what they do, then motherhood has taught me the art of being. In this context, I refer to 'being' in opposition to achieving. I thought I could dash out this post, but I've had to stop writing twice because booga bear is wide awake and complaining about it. He's currently sitting on his dad's lap having a snack, an hour and a half past his bedtime, so my thwarted attempts to finish this post fit nicely with what I'm trying to write about: slowing down my expectations.

It seems that people assign value to others by quantifying that individuals' level of output. Doctor? Saves lives=valuable. Plumber? Fixes pipes=average. Elderly lady next door? Watches a lot of QVC and goes for a walk twice a week=insignificant. I've been reading quite a bit about the loss of recess time in US schools because a lot of parents (and administrators) seem obsessed with giving their kids as much structured academic time as possible in order to ensure their child's future success. 90% of fetuses diagnosed with down syndrome are aborted- I would presume largely because people are afraid of the things these children would not be able to do.

Full time motherhood certainly slows down output, unless we're talking the number of lunches made, clothes washed, and books read. So many times throughout the day, my son interrupts my plans. He points out his stuffy nose that needs to be wiped yet again, he brings me his shoe that has fallen off, it's time for him to sit on the potty just as I'm sitting down to dinner. It goes on all day. And it's not miserable, but it is an adjustment of expectations. I'm happy to do a lot of it, but it's not remarkable what I do with my time. Beyond the health of my child and I and the bond we share, there's not a lot of "achievement" going on in my house.

I've written before about how I've spend a lot of time worrying that my life didn't have enough purpose. I always equated purpose with meaningful activity, and maybe for others what matters is their bank account's accrual from each month's paycheck, or how many days off they have to travel. But motherhood has taught me that it's okay to slow down, or at least to slow down my expectations of what I should be accomplishing with my life. (Because as any parent knows, kids do not bring about the life of leisure). I can just live and be myself and take care of my family, and God is not any less happy with me than if I were deeply involved in some grandiose cause. Although it can be hard to separate the two, my value does not come from what I do or achieve in life. If God had set up things that way, then people disabled in any way would be worth so much less than the ones who have nothing to overcome. So for now, I'm just going to keep working on being. There's a lot to learn.


Ryan said...

Well said. Good topic. This is one reason I've come to appreciate what the monastic tradition can teach us.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you...
- 1 Thes 4:11

jogger mom said...

I'd like to learn more about monastic tradition, I thought about it while I was writing this post, I think society at large is confused as to why living a life largely devoted to prayer and not much else (at least on the surface?) could possibly be the best way for any person to live. I guess I struggle with that conundrum as well, because there has always been so much emphasis on 'building the kingdom' with physical action in the Christian circles I've run in. But really, what happens without prayer and purely on our own effort? Not much. In a way, 'the quiet life' is really a recognition of who we are as humans--limited.