23 March 2018

Being a mother is not a job

Shonda Rhimes, in her book, A Year of Yes, does an amazing job of describing how being a mother is not a job. More importantly, she highlights how each of us needs to figure out how to parent in our own way (in a way that fits us and our situation) and that we can't do it alone (she acknowledges how important her nanny and family are to her situation):
Being a mother isn't a job. It's who someone is. It's who I am. 
You can quit a job. I can't quit being a mother. I'm a mother forever. Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation. Being a mother redefines us, reinvents us, destroys and rebuilds us. Being a mother brings us face-to-face with ourselves as children, with our mothers as human beings, with our darkest fears of who we really are. Being a mother requires us to get it together or risk messing up another person forever. Being a mother yanks our hearts out of our bodies and attaches them to our tiny humans and sends them out into the world, forever hostages.
If all of that happened at work, I'd have quit fifty times already. Because there isn't enough money in the world. . .  Do not diminish it by calling it a job.  
And please, don't ever try to tell me it's the most important job I'll ever have as a way of trying to convince me to stay at home with my children all day. . . The most important job to a woman who has rent, has a car note, has utility bills and needs groceries is one that pays her money to keep her family alive. 
Let's stop trying to make ourselves indulge in the crappy mythological lady-cult that makes being a mother seem like work. Staying at home with your children is an incredible choice to make. And it's awesome and admirable if you make it [but] being a mother still happens if you don't stay home with your kids. . . 
Working or staying home, one is still a mother. One is not better than the other. Both choices are worthy of the same amount of respect. Motherhood remains equally, painfully death defying and difficult either way." ― Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, 107-8.
The truths mentioned above are things I didn't know or realize before having children. My respect for parents - and the challenges and judgment they face - has increased significantly since having a child. 

12 March 2018

Vacation is for us

We dropped Lydia off at daycare this morning. She was thrilled to be back with the other 'littles' and playing with the wonderful toys that they have there. I'm sure it was much better than the 10+ hours that she had to spend in the car to get back and forth to our vacation in Niagara Falls.

But, as Matthijs so aptly put it, vacation is for us - and not her. Vacation is for us to have moments of rest and joy and wonder at the world around us (so that we can better participate in regular life, including the parenting part). At the same time, it makes it a better vacation if she's enjoying things - as her laughter and joy overflows to us.

A barn owl at the butterfly conservatory
That lovely bald head of hers makes a great landing place

Enjoying the butterfly conservatory

Not really that interested in the falls...
Lydia can share the joy of pulling off her socks anywhere - no need for her to have the Falls in the background :)

15 February 2018

Remember you are dust

During the Ash Wednesday liturgy of the church, the priest (pastor) places ashes on your forehead while saying, "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return."

This year those words had more meaning. Because the priest also placed the ashes on Lydia's head. She didn't seem particularly impressed, as she turned her head away after the priest had made only half of the cross. Why did she need to be reminded that she was dust?

The ashes on Lydia's forehead felt more like a reminder to me than to her. She, like of all us, will some day return to dust. My hope and prayer is that she will be with us, sharing her joy, for many years to come, but as the recent school shooting in Florida reminded us, so much can go wrong. I see this especially in the picture of a woman, with an ash cross on her forehead, mourning and comforting another. The brokenness of the world, and the suffering of these parents, fills me with sadness.

13 February 2018

Not the story I wanted to tell

After Lydia was born, people asked me whether I'd had a c-section. The question annoyed me, but I couldn't figure out precisely why. Reflecting again on the birth stories that are told in Giving Birth with Confidence, it dawned on me that I disliked the question because it felt like I was being pushed to tell her birth story in a certain way. I didn't want her arrival to be whether or not I'd been strong enough (or whatever enough) to have a vaginal birth - or about what medical interventions might have happened.

My response to their question was simply that Lydia had come out. Because that was the story I wanted to tell - the debut of this small person whose arrival we'd been anticipating for months. I wanted to tell her name - and the wonder of knowing that this exact name fit her. I wanted to acknowledge that her arrival made me anxious: On the inside she was easy to take care of - and I knew that, if necessary, at her birth the doctors would intervene to pull her out of me - but that soon we would leave the hospital and be responsible for this small, helpless person. And I wanted to speak of how, through God's grace, Lydia and I persevered to figure out the breastfeeding thing (and I wanted to laugh and smile about the absurdity and stubbornness involved in making practically every nurse who entered our room help me figure out how to breastfeed). But sadly enough, I didn't know how to tell that story, so I didn't tell any story.

23 January 2018

Women's March 2018

I only caught the tail end of the women's march in Lansing this year. Between the little getting in an afternoon nap and me recuperating from a twisted ankle and a busy Sunday morning, we weren't very quick in getting out to the protest.

But, because I am female (and so is the little), it seemed important to go. As a pastor I feel like I ought to show up as such events as a way of showing that God (and even the institutional church) cares deeply about women and the things that matter to them/us. And I figured we'd bring joy to others simply by being present, as I took Lydia out in the little car that my sister lent us.

What struck me at the march was the sheer range of ages and types of people present: it wasn't just people like me. It was teenagers, families, older women. People with children and people who had no desire to have children. People who responded enthusiastically to my child and people who responded much more enthusiastically to the dog walking by. I felt joy in coming together with all these people and being reminded of the solidarity that I share with so many others in wanting good for the world.

02 January 2018

A child's protest

On the last Sunday of Advent we attended a church where the children would help move an advent calendar to the correct date. As the last Sunday of Advent was also Christmas Eve and many people were planning to go to church that evening and/or the next day, the church service was sparsely attended.

The pastor began the children's message by saying that even though it was tradition for the children to help advance the advent calendar, as this Sunday there were not present any children. . . Precisely at this moment she was interrupted by a fairly loud noise from Lydia, almost as if Lydia understood and wanted to protest being ignored. The pastor laughed with the rest of us, let us all know that she was going to say that there was no child old enough to help her move the calendar, and then invited Lydia and Matthijs up to help her.

04 December 2017

God as labouring woman

In our study at Campus Edge, we've been going through Winner's book, Wearing God. I've enjoyed it tremendously, although I have to admit that some of the images of God that we've explored just didn't work. Laughter was one that didn't really relate, and the image of God as laboring woman or nursing mother really didn't work for the group. However, I found these images, as shaped by my own experience, helped me grow in appreciation of God's love and nurture for us.

I especially found insightful what Winner wrote in regards to seeing God as a nursing mother. Speaking of the power found in nursing, Winner notes: “your body has the power to keep someone else alive. . . and as Gandolfo explains, ‘Like the power of a nursing mother, the power of divinity is the power to comfort. Babies who nurse often seek out their mothers’ breast not only when they are hungry, but when they are tired, frightened, or distressed.’”Winner, Wearing God, 167. Furthermore, “to picture God as a nursing mother is to picture both our dependence on God and God’s radical self-limitation for our sake. After all, in nursing, the mother gives herself over to her child and allows her life to be determined by the child’s schedule and the child’s demands.” Winner, Wearing God, 167. Knowing the cost involved - that my life and schedule got turned upside down to meet our little's needs - this image of God as nursing mother makes me appreciate God's care and comfort for us in a new way.

In light of my own appreciation of those who provide day care for my child and my recognition of the challenges in looking after children, it is fascinating to me that Winner picks up on Moses dialogue with God in Numbers 11: Moses asks why he should be taking care of these children, as he did not birth them? Winner provides the following commentary on the passage:
“Numbers 11 could be read as a parable about short-staffed day-care centers, about a society that does not allot adequate resources to caring for children to supporting mothers or hired child-minders. It is striking to me that, in Numbers 11, God reaffirms the decision that God made when God called Moses to lead Israel out of bondage in the first place – the decision to place the children of Israel in someone else’s care . . Perhaps this is another way that God puts God’s own power at risk. This is not the groaning vulnerability of labor or the chosen self-limitation of nursing. It is a different kind of risk: putting work that is important to you – in this case, the work of redemption – in human hands.” Winner, Wearing God, 176.