Homemaker’s Syndrome

“Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you: NOTHING.” I remember saying this when I was a young girl. (If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might recall my relating this in another article, earlier this year.) Many people’s eyes widen in disbelief when I relate this story to them, but I quickly reassure them – and you – that those simple words didn’t mean that I thought she was a nobody, that I didn’t respect her or that I wanted to grow up just to stay home and watch television and eat candies all day. I was expressing the desires of my heart: not be be a career woman, but to be a MOM, just like her. I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to do that! I’d wanted more kids than just one, but I’m blessed to have the one I’ve got and to have been able – ‘allowed’ – to stay home with him throughout his childhood and now into his teenage years. I joke these days about the fact that I’m a stay-at-home mom but that my charge is in school! I still relish being a home-maker, filling my days with a variety of activities from taking care of my family to volunteering my time in different ways, among other odds-and-ends endeavours. I feel ‘retired’ before my time, and I’m loving it.

Not having a career or even a defined regular routine, however, sets me up for deep frustration and discouragement sometimes: I call it ‘Homemaker’s Syndrome’. I do so much and yet feel like I accomplish so little. I fill my days with busy-ness and yet have ‘nothing’ to show for it. Reflecting on my daily life, I know, intellectually, that I provide invaluable service, but it doesn’t feel like it, in my heart. Those times are so demoralising.

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Enough or Too Much

I used to feel–and sort of unconsciously believe–that to be a successful parent was to be so in tune, so attentive, so on top of the perfect planning and management that my kids would never get too upset, too hungry, too tired, too frustrated, too overwhelmed on any level.  That if I was a good parent I would be able to prevent massive fights, blow ups, or any other kind of meltdown by anticipating each child’s needs managing it for them before any falling apart happened.  So any big emotions that were overwhelming were my fault.  I thought that any difficult dynamics that escalated to the point of bad behaviour were because I had been selfish and not met that child’s needs appropriately in time (maybe I kept reading the end of the chapter of a book instead of getting snacks served up).  It’s not that they weren’t supposed to experience negative emotions but more (as I, then mistakenly held it) that they shouldn’t ever be in a position of TOO much.  Or not enough either.  And it was my job to prevent anything that went too far off either end of the spectrum.

One of the problems with this outlook was that I was constantly failing, and that is exhausting.  More troubling was that I had a sense that my failure was because I was selfishly putting my own needs first, that I was stubbornly unwilling to exert just a little more energy and a little more focus, but that I could fix things if only I could push myself a little harder.  Circularly my failure to prevent the distress for my kids and my feeling that I could have if only I’d given my time and energy more freely (and somehow had no needs of my own) added fuel to the fire of negative self perception. And it allowed us to develop unhelpful boundaries.  In a sense I was enabling their behaviour in that I wasn’t helping them to develop the skills they needed to self assess what was happening within and around them, and allow them to better manage the same situation when it arose another time.  

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Unraveling Pregnancy Loss

The day after losing my unborn child, I started knitting a scarf. It was for my three year old son and he had selected a pumpkin spice orange yarn–the kind of orange that warms you up when you look at it. He had picked this yarn out well over a year ago, but I had barely started knitting before the project got lost in the shuffle of holiday hubbub. But now, in my helplessness and grief after delivering a baby long before he was ready, I felt a sudden urge to make something–something I knew I could finish. I desperately needed to feel productive while spending most of my time in bed and on the couch so my body could heal. 

I had selected the number of stitches determining the width of the scarf long ago, and as I started to knit, I could see that the scarf would engulf my little guy’s neck and probably his face too. Not only that, but it was so wide that I might not have enough yarn to make it long enough to wrap around his neck securely. But I was stubborn. I kept going. There’d be enough yarn, I kept telling myself, as the soft orange creation got longer and longer. 

But not long enough. 

I had nearly used up my one and only skein of this cozy orange yarn when I tossed the knitting needles aside in frustration. I had indeed made the scarf too wide. I didn’t have enough yarn to finish. I would have to undo a day’s worth of knitting and start over. Tears of failure spilled out in bitter heaves. Why had I so foolishly convinced myself that this would work out? Of course my frustration wasn’t really about the scarf. 

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Unconditional Positive Regard

“Those who are guided by kindness hardly even notice evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person. When they do find anything bad or false they put a good interpretation on it.” Arcana Coelestia 1079

I just love it when ‘natural world’ learnings align with spiritual teachings. I’m training to become a mediator and years ago was a trainer of a personal development course focussed on ‘empathic listening’. There are a number of tools from these that have resonated for me as ‘real world’ applications of spiritual concepts. And in the current global climate there seems to be such a need for applicable conflict resolution tools, if not for out-n-out conflict, certainly for internal dissonance. 

I have a pet theory or ‘mantra’ about life that says “whatever we do on this earth – whatever careers we do, achievements we reach, challenges we face, details and issues we get fixated on – it doesn’t really ‘matter’; it’s ALL just what ‘keeps us busy’ while we learn how to treat people”. That’s an oversimplification of life of course, but it can help to create clarity and focus. 

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