Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Motherhood

     Well, This has been a strange week.  I've had every intention of writing and have just not found the time.  I had planned on trying to honor my wife with a post on Mothers Day, but I'm fairly certain that she appreciates me participating with parenting more than just writing about it.  Some strange force is at work in my body as well.  I think it's called age.  Whatever it is, over the last few nights I have been totally exhausted by the time the kids get in bed.  Generally I avoid sleep as much as possible.  I know it's not the healthy thing to do.  I just feel like so much time is wasted lying in bed asleep.  I have a lot of more enjoyable ways than sleeping to waste 30% of my life.  I generally try and coast by on 5 hours or so of sleep a night and then every few weeks get 9 or 10 hours and that sort of resets everything.  The last few days I've been needing  8+ hours.  It really is frustrating, because I just can't function after about 9:30.  That is normally when I am just getting started.  Consequently, things like writing have been neglected.

     Now that I have a few moments, I wanted to reflect a little on Motherhood.  I don't often appreciate all that my wife deals with in her role as a mother.  I think I sometimes get jealous of the amount attention she gives the kids.  Sometimes I fear that we focus so much on the kids that we unintentionally neglect our relationship.  It's hard to keep things in balance.  I watched my parents walk the same tightrope.  I'm amazed that they came through as well as they did.

     I wanted to post on Mother's Day, because I truly believe it is an important day.  We celebrate Fathers Day, and that's nice, but most dad's really don't expect much from father's day.  It's nice for us, but we really don't get all that into it.  I'm sure it's partly due to the difference in the sexes.  I love being a dad.  I am close to my kids, but I will never have the sense of a bond with them that Karlye has.  They were a part of her once.  She felt them grow inside her.  She felt their first fluttering movements within her.  She carried them each for nine months and then went through an excruciating ordeal to bring them into this world.  That changes a woman.  As a man, I can't begin to understand the bond between a mother and her children.  Mothers have earned their day through physical and emotional sacrifice.

     Men are separated from the whole experience of pregnancy and birth.  It is a mystery that we can never fully grasp. Because of this, we are often confused and frustrated by what we see in the way our wives relate to our children.  I have had moments that have been truly precious in which I have a baby fall asleep in my arms.   I still don't really enjoy rocking a baby to sleep at night when I could be doing something else.  Karlye loves those moments.  I think she is most at peace with a a baby snuggled up to her breast.

     Even when the kids have pushed her to her limit, she still is their most ardent defender.  Many dads have probably experienced a situation in which they are totally baffled by their wife. It is the end of the day and mom is worn out.  She has been surrounded by crying and complaining children all day with no adult conversation.  She is frustrated and tired and pushed her to her limit.  Dad walks in, he has been at work.  He had forgotten that he even had children until he pulled in the driveway and found a collection of Big Wheels in his normal parking space.  He goes inside ready to wind down, relax, maybe, if everything goes well, spend some romantic quiet time with his wife.  That all changes as he steps across the threshold.
     "You need to deal with your son.  I've had about all I can take from him.  He has kicked a hole in the wall, clogged all 3 toilets, spilled a gallon of milk on the carpet, and told me that I am the meanest person that ever lived.  I'm done."
     Now a truly amazing dad and husband would probably tell his bride to go sit down and rest while he straightens up the kitchen and gets dinner finished and on the table.  He might then go down to his son's room and have a good long chat with the child about respecting mom and treating her the way she deserves.  He would do it firmly but with love and his son would then apologize and begin treating his mother with the respect she deserves.
     I typically don't live up to that ideal.  I most likely would pretend I didn't really hear her and hope somehow that I might still be allowed to go sit and relax for a while.  This never works and eventually I am persuaded to take action.  I now am mad at the child more for the inconvenience that he is causing me than for anything he may have done to his mother.  I  head back to teach the little creep a thing or two.
     At this point there will be an immediate change in a mother's position toward the child.  She moves from prosecuting attorney to public defender in a heart beat.  That child may have driven her to the edge of insanity, but at the slightest perceived threat she will become the mamma grizzly defending her cub. I have become the bad guy for coming down too harshly.  I am threatening her baby.
     It is a situation that frustrates and confuses me, unless I stop and look at it from her perspective.  This kid, no matter how horrible he has been acting, is a part of her.  She is right too.  I generally am not acting in love at this point.  God has given her a special insight that I don't have.  It is good to have that as a counterpoint to my sense of justice.  If only I could remember that at the time, instead of taking it personally.

     There is also a common bond between two mothers from the shared experience of giving birth.  Put two men in a room and they will try to talk about sports, or work or something that they can find as a common ground.  Most likely they will not discuss their children.  Moms start with motherhood and children and expound from there.

     We took the kids to a nature center last weekend.  I brought Elijah and Grace into a room set up for preschoolers.  There was a woman and her baby in the room with us.  I nodded at her in acknowledgement, and then proceeded to focus on my kids completely forgetting that she was there.  After a while Karlye came in and I left with the older kids to look around some. After 20 minutes or so, I wandered back into the room to see what the wife was up to.  I found her engaged in conversation with the other woman.  I sauntered up to see if she what she was discussing.  As I approached I heard, "..and he never experienced any nipple confusion."
      I did an about face and left the room as quickly as possible.  I don't know that I have ever been engaged in a conversation with a total stranger about nipple confusion and had no intention of doing so at that moment.  That is a conversation far outside of my comfort zone.  These to women were engaged in mom talk.  Two mothers can discuss personal anatomy, bodily fluids, excrement and a whole host of other uncomfortable topics without even a hint of social awkwardness. These two women were fully engaged and I knew that they would be there for quite a bit longer.  The other woman's husband was also hovering about, afraid of getting close enough to overhear their conversation.  We exchanged a knowing glance and then both wandered off.  I think our wives must have shared their life stories in their 45 minute chat.

     I'm glad my wife is the way she is.  She loves being a mom.  It is her life.  She lets her motherhood define her.  Too many women are afraid to do so these days.  Karlye is a wonderful and talented person.  She was great at being a nurse and I know she could accomplish anything she set her mind to.  She has chosen to focus on raising 5 children. Because of this, she has sacrificed the accolades that come with what the world considers a real profession.  She can't leave her job at the end of the day.  She spends hours doing laundry, cleaning, and cooking for people who not only take it for granted, but most of the time complain about the way she does it.  Unfortunately, I am far too often one of those people.

     I could never do what Karlye does.  She can keep track of all 5 kids and has an intuitive sense that tells her when something is not right.  She keeps them fed, knows what their homework is, knows when their ball practice is, works in their classrooms, knows where their clothes go and manages to not only dress them in a socially acceptable fashion, but most of the time has them all color coordinated.  She is an expert on safety and has all the guidelines for car seats committed to memory.  She alone keeps our house from descending into utter chaos. I don't know what we would do without her.

     I hope that I can learn to be a better support to her.  I try, but I let her down far too often.  I hope she knows that despite our squabbles and the monotony of our daily struggles, I really don't take her for granted.  Of course, it is easy to write about being a good husband and it is a whole different thing to be one.  I'm not a perfect husband, but she makes me want to keep trying. Karlye has said at times that I could be just as happy if I was alone.  While I do enjoy getting away from the craziness of our life when I can,  I would be nothing without her and our litter of urchins in my life.  Our life together is anything but perfect.  It's crazy flurry of madness most of the time.  It's a roller-coaster to be sure, but with her by my side and this brood of kids wrapped tight in our arms, it the most amazing and fun ride imaginable.  I would not have it any other way.

     So Karlye, I hope you had a great Mothers Day and may it continue every day of your life.