Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Date: October 15, 2014

The empty motherhood feedback form

In my working world I was that girl who demanded the feedback on how to do my job better. I would celebrate my victories but even more, I wanted to learn what it took to take my work to the next level.  I would spend probably more than appropriate time at my colleagues’ desks asking them questions, recalling situations or having them talk me off the ledge. Daily I would do this. At lunch time, we could converse in the cafe or after the kabillion meetings and group calls we were required to attend. I had instant messaging windows open constantly for chatter about this, that or the other. While worked “independently without much direction” I did so in a “team environment.”

Image via CC by Steven Depolo.

Image via CC by Steven Depolo.

SAHMs often have a team – it’s typically a spouse, and all prayers to the heavens for those who fly solo – but the feedback isn’t immediate. I might text an unlucky friend about the day’s woes or even a few highlights, but the lack of sharing physical space changes things. Presence matters. I don’t want to have to schedule a coffee date 3 Tuesdays from now to rant about the crayon on my wall – I want to march 20 feet away and find willing ears and resume my day with weight lifted, feeling validated.

The desolate loneliness of staying home with children isn’t only about missing adult interaction but also the lack of timely and appropriate feedback  on our work. For instance, I once spent the first quarter of nap time in a loud discussion with the 5-year-old about how mommy’s job isn’t just to give him what he wants, but to help everyone get what they need – in this instance, rest. I was shouted at, name called and eye rolled. The feedback was neither helpful nor thoughtful.

When I think about the ways my kids do offer feedback, I live in extremes. I hear “I love you” no less than 63 times a day. Within the same breath, they might scream at me that “I’m being mean” when I ask them to put shoes on as the mercury dips below 60. Often, I go completely ignored. Repeatedly.

For a person whose love language is primarily words of affirmation, these conditions make it especially tough terrain.

Of course, I do have people tell me “you’re doing a good job” but I sometimes resist, and not out of false humility. They see me at my best, with an audience. What about when I loose my shit before breakfast, ranting like a lunatic because of the 400th apple core left on the coffee table? My boss wouldn’t stand for my behavior. Where are the voices in my life with that reminder?

Right now my life’s work is raising these little humans. I’ve invested my working hours and energy into this gig and I want to give it all I’ve got – as much for my own sake as the children’s. What I want to know is not if I should be doing more crafts (because I won’t) or if I yell too much (because I do): I need the side-by-side learning offered in most work environments. I need co-workers who dealt with similar clients who were never satisfied. I need a meeting where someone brings donuts because she knows we’re working hard but still have miles to go.

Visit me elsewhere:

Shut the front door

We’ve never purchased those door locks that go on kitchen cabinets to keep toddlers out. Our current house came with a few in the bathroom and I find they really only frustrate me and seldom fend off a child. Instead, our approach has always been to try to teach, as the kids age, how to interact with our things. Currently Mr. M loves to open the cupboard doors to my small appliances and bang them shut. An annoyance, for sure. If we give him a few minutes, he’s usually over the entertainment and moves on. If he lingers, we send him toward the drawer filled with his own kitchen goods where he is welcome to play instead. We don’t lock the doors, we simply try to teach the children which ones are appropriate to open. 

Image via CC by www.geograph.org.uk

Image via CC by www.geograph.org.uk

So, as I’ve been mulling over the possibility needing to make a decision, the popular Christian notion of asking God to close doors has come into my path several times. Obviously, I welcome all of God’s power to do this, and perhaps that’s the course it will take. If an opportunity doesn’t make itself present, then I need not worry about “which door.”

Yet I’ve decided to do the work of wrestling while I wait. Perhaps the excessive mental work seems needless, but in honesty, I decided that my relationship with God is no longer at a toddler stage. By now he shouldn’t have to Michele-proof the doors but rather have taught me which ones are appropriate to open. With hope, if I’m tinkering in an unwanted area, I will bore of it in due time or otherwise God will remind me of where I’m welcome to play and keep me safe.

I’ve spent some time recently reading 1 Samuel, the story of the rise of King David – beginning way back when Israel had no king, then had the wrong king, and I’m currently in the part where David is escaping with his life from King Saul because everyone and his son knows that David will wear the crown before long.

In what appeared to be a boring chapter (23) of reconnaissance, I noticed the way in which David interacted with God and sought direction. David heard of a town under siege and asked God, “should I go defend it?” instead of waiting to be told. And God answered, yes. After he saved the town, Saul decided to corner him in the walled city. David heard about this and asked God if Saul was coming. God answered, yes. David asked if the city would hand him over to Saul. God answered, yes. So David fled the city.

David’s pattern of watching and listening to the world and then inquiring of God’s wisdom and will seems to be different than the pattern of sitting and waiting to hear God call out from the heavens, “Go!” After God confirmed that Saul was coming and the city would hand him over, David didn’t even inquire what to do – he simply left. He didn’t need God to tell him which door to open. God provided the information David needed to make a good (and life-saving!) decision.

God calls to each of us in different ways, and perhaps uniquely at different points in our life, which is to say that “shutting the door” is always a possibility. We can give God ultimate veto power. But is that what God wants of us? Is this the approach to living he desires? Is he content to mothering a toddler, still learning what she is allowed to play with or is there hope that we will someday reach adulthood and know where to find the blender and when when to put away the spices?

Perhaps the will of God isn’t always the mystery we believe it to be when we seek the wisdom of God know the character of God.

Visit me elsewhere:

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