Tuesday, July 7, 2015

the "virtue" of showing up

I don't know whether it's the fatigue brought on so many aspects of motherhood, or the fact that I am a woman whose attitude is all-too dictated by my various hormonal states, but some days-- not all the days, but some of them-- can feel so crushing.

It's no one thing, and it doesn't even have to be anything that is legitimately, inherently difficult: pouring a bowl of cereal, reading a short story book, answering my phone, SMILING, doesn't matter-- some days each and everything thing that I am asked to do feels like a 1000 pound weight on my back and takes every ounce of energy for me to do.

And on those days while I go through the motions of this vocation, straining so hard to just do the simplest things, the guilt begins to build up about the fact that I am not being cheerful, that I don't seem like I want to be doing this, that my gratitude is not palpable. I really wrestle with that guilt and then it starts to compound how hard everything already feels. And why? Why do I feel guilty? I am here, I am doing what I am asked to do, I am showing up.

The problem is that "just showing up" has gotten a really bad rap. We're told as mothers that we should "thriving!" that we should be "all in, all the time!", and yes, I totally agree that we should strive for those things-- strive to thrive, strive to be all in. However, in the mean time, while we mothers of many little ones trudge through these trenches, there will be days that will feel totally crushing, and all that we will be able to do is show up and do what we're asked to do-- and there is nothing about this that should be guilt inducing, it is absolutely OK to just show up.

To be clear-- I am not talking here about doing things with anger or with a bitter or resentful attitude, which would be actually sinful, but simply not being a ball of cheer and not being-- or even trying to fake being-- into it. This job is the hardest there is, and yet no matter how much I tell myself that, or how much other people tell me that, I still let guilt over not doing it perfectly dominate so many of my days.

Pressure abounds in every direction to put a cheerful face on everything, I have resolved to do it myself: to make this motherhood thing not look as incredibly difficult as it is, and I think that this is the ideal, this is what I hope will be the rule and not the exception for me one day. But for right now these incredibly difficult days come more frequently than the easy ones, and on the really rough ones, just showing up is actually me fulfilling the duties of  my vocation as best I can.

On the really hard days, everything in my being wants to check out, call in sick, to not show up at all. So not only should I not feel guilty for only showing up, I should feel triumphant about it. I am here! I am doing it! Yes I am pouring the bowl of cereal as if my arm is made of steel and the box is a 50 pound weight, and yes, my face may look like someone just ran over my kitten, but I am pouring it. I am changing the diapers, I am wiping the bottoms, I am even reading the story book, albeit with a voice akin to Ben Stein in the eye drop commercials, but I am reading it.

During this season of my life, even the "easy" days are full of very trying moments, and no day is without it's fair share of opportunities to be heroic in virtue. But maybe showing up is its own "virtue" during this season, maybe it doesn't need to be a smile while changing a diaper, or doing all the funny voices in the story that express my gratitude for these many blessings, maybe some days just showing up and doing those things is enough.




12 comments :

  1. A resounding, "Yes" to all of this. I definitely feel this with the day-to-day of staying home, even though there's nowhere else I want to be. But, so help me, I WAS Ben Stein for story time last night, and felt like I had nothing left, nay, didn't want to give anymore. The struggle is real.

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  2. My husband and I got married on 7/7/07. In recognition of today being our anniversary, our daughters took turns throwing up seven times last night. Yes to the just showing up. We've watched movies guilt free all day (thanks to that post of yours from just a while ago. I thought of you as I turned on the next movie).

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  3. Oh, Ana, such memories- so deja vu. I always knew moms who, I felt, had the perpetual smile on their faces, and I marveled that they were able to take so much in stride, with such outward glee. Then I realized, that for whatever reason; perhaps to keep me humble and striving, that God did not create me in that same mold. Showing up is SO under rated. You're doing a great job.

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  4. I often think about how motherhood kinda shoves selflessness in your face. This is a good thing. Essential even. You know what they say: Some are born virtuous. Some achieve virtue. And some have virtue placed wriggling and cheesy on their bellies after careening out of their lady parts...or something like that.

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  5. I had a moment of revelation a few weeks ago as I was mad at my kids because they were not have good attitudes and I thought to myself - hey, how can they have a good attitude if my attitude/outlook on this whole day/parenting/life thing stinks. It put some things into perspective for me that my response to the little things can effect the way the little ones respond to me and each other.

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  6. Here's to showing up! With homeschooling, every single minute of all the days. :)

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  7. I'm pretty sure I said this on your last post, but seriously! With the writing of all the things in my brain space and so beautifully! Loved this.

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  8. Absolutely!! I never understood why we're supposed to make this mothering thing look like it's easy. I love my babies (not so baby anymore!) with all my heart and I wouldn't trade the days for anything. But it's HARD. Some days way harder than others. So showing up is awesome. There is no job on the planet where someone is happy ALL the time. Ever. This is no different.

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  9. Right there with you! Especially with PPD.

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  10. Definitely just showing up today. In a sports bra and see through stained Kirkland tank top, no less. Hopefully they remember the glamor of my, um, presence, to them.

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  11. Amen, sister. Again, spot on with the post. Spot ON!

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  12. I've never commented on your blog before but just wanted to say how much I appreciated this post (and appreciate the "realness" in general on your blog. I have four kids, too, with a much bigger age spread (mine are 15,12,7, and 3) and often these days am very much in the "just showing up" mode. My youngest has always been a very high-need child, I am older now than I was when I started having babies, and while I don't have the demands of home schooling, I spend a lot of time driving kids to school and activities. I am so thankful to be able to be home with my kids, am happy to have four kids, but the fatigue and the never-ending cycle of dishes, cooking, laundry, attempting to pick up, dealing with the unpredictablility of the little one, can be so draining. And then sometimes I look at blogs and every other mom seems to manage everything so much better. So it's comforting to hear from another mom expressing some of the same things I'm feeling.

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