Julie Lyles Carr: Ask Octamom

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ask Octamom

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I gave a big ol' internet holler a couple of weeks ago to moms and asked them to send me questions about parenting issues and mothering in this brave new world. For some upcoming writing projects, I really want to hear the heartbeat of today's moms.

Now let's get all the disclaimers out of the way: I in no way, no how, consider myself to be some kind of perfect parent, descending the mountain to bestow glowing enlightenment. But I have been at this mommy game for a couple of decades now and can see what has worked for us...and what hasn't. And while we now officially have one adult child and others closing in fast on her heels, we also still have tweens and grade schoolers and twin toddlers.

We're still in the thick of this parenting thing.

Many of you sent me great questions, spanning the spectrum from practical parenting survival to concerns about character and morality in raising today's kids. Keep those questions coming: you inspire me to think deeper and consider mommyhood from new angles.

Natonthewall sent me the above question, asking about tough seasons and transitions with our crew.  Parenting does have its dance, times where our steps seem to flow with the music, our moves keeping easy time to the cadence of the beat of our days.

And then there are those times where I feel like I'm back at an eighth grade dance, standing against the wall, awkward, trying to look all casual but fully aware that everything feels out of sync.

Mommyhood Mojo

I often hear people talk about the challenge of transitioning from one child to two children or from two to three.  1 of 8 and 2 of 8 are three-and-a-half years apart.  While it took me a bit to get back into the baby groove, replete with car seat and diaper bag and all the rest, going from one child to two was not a shock to our family system.  Neither was the transition to three and then four children.

At first.

But when our fourth child started to toddle around, I found myself emotionally hyperventilating.  I was in my very early thirties and the responsibility of being the mommy for these four small children sort of 'caught up' with me.  I was absolutely crazy about my kids, blessed and delighted.  But I also experienced a strong sense of realizing that I had spent the chunk of time many women use for building a career to be home.  I found myself asking, "Is this who I intended to be?  How will I found outlet and expression for the voice I have inside me?  Is there more to me than 'just' being a mom?"

Having finished college while in the hey-day of the 80's yuppy culture, choosing full-time motherhood along with its attendant frugal lifestyle was not seen by some in my world as the best choice, particularly when I walked away from a career in media.  When I made the decision after having 1 of 8 to be home, I made it in full confidence, the Joan of Arc of young moms, slaying dragons of doubters and naysayers.

But eight years later, I was questioning myself.  And it was starting to eat at the joy in our home.

It was a couple of key seasoned moms in my life who reminded me how to breathe again.  To see motherhood as a calling and a mission, no 'just a mom' fall back.  To remember that some of the most profound tasks we accomplish in this life are not the ones in public view, but are the ones of diligence and service, heart and home.  It was a subtle shift in thinking, but a critical one.  I was falling into the worldly trap of associating important jobs with ones of prestige and public and monetary harvest.  And whether I had continued to work in a more public forum, or whether I stayed tucked away with my brood in a quiet suburb of our city, I had been given a holy calling and a particular mission.

To mother these precious individuals.  And it was not their job to be my total fulfillment and my identity.  And it was not a job's job to be my total fulfillment and identity either.

But it is my job to bring my best to whatever has been laid in my hand to do.  And part of my best is bringing big cups of joy and heart to the table of my life.  And it's also my job to do consistent heart checks on myself, to make sure I'm keeping myself emotionally healthy and nourished.  I need to be the Boss of Me, not putting the responsibility of my demeanor and outlook on Mike or the kids or my work.

Not that I always manage to do that.  I still have some emotional ADD from time to time.

I don't think it's a bad thing in our mommy-ing careers to take assessment, to look back over the path and consider the factors that have brought us to this time and season.  I don't think it's selfish to have the occasional day of overwhelm and emotion.  Parenting requires buckets of God's grace.  It's those questions and those times that give us great information on what's working and what's not.

And then the time for introspection and question, analysis and dissection needs to wrap.  Because there are potties to clean and mouths to feed.

I've got a couple more challenging seasons I'll be addressing tomorrow and Friday.  Be sure to tune in!

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