The other day, I read a parenting article about stress. It alleged that having three kids is the most stressful. One mother of four kids commented that once you get past three, you just don't have the thought capacity to even try to maintain perfection anymore.
I would contend that it's stressful to have any number of children. Also, that with the addition of each child, a measure of grace is added to you as a parent that enables you to "handle" another child. As a mother of five plus one downloading, I totally agree with the sentiment that perfection is just not a goal I strive for anymore. And, believe me, I used to.
So does this mean I've lowered my standards? Or have I finally learned to just relax? I'm not sure. Now I'm the complete opposite of what I used to be - I'm Martha turned Mary. I still love a checklist, but now I can't remember where I put it. The four walls of my home may be crumbling down around me, but [most days] I'm able to look into the eyes of my children and connect with them in a way I didn't used to be able to.
People tell me often enough that I seem just like the type to have a gajillion kids running around. I'm so "easy going." I laugh, out loud, and tell them I guess I put on a good show. It's hard for me to think of my tightly-wound, chronically-stressed self as easy going. But, you know what? I think I might have turned out that way.
Five years ago, if you would have told me I'd be reading a book called If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?, I'd have laughed and said, "I think you meant to give this to my mom." Nevertheless, I nodded and Amen!'d my way through the book and all of it's painfully true glory.
I am the one who starts out to get her child a drink of water, stops briefly to pick up a paper clip from the floor, and ends up weeding in the garden with absolutely no understanding of why that child is still thirsty.
My guess is that I'm using only about 10 percent of my brain, at best, but I'm using that 10 percent at 185 percent of its capability. That poor little portion of grey matter is always being asked to put out more than it was designed for. And it is being asked to do so at a nonstop, incessant, seagulls-swarming-around-your-head kind of pace.
We don't usually engage in one intensive activity and push it to the limit. We have hundreds of less intensive activities that fill every available space in our day and our brains. Before we even answer one child's question, three more kids have thrown their question into the mix. We don't have time to stop and redirect ourselves thoughtfully. The oatmeal is boiling over, the UPS man is at the door awaiting a signature, and the baby has just gone into the backyard without a diaper on. I would LOVE to be able to stop in between each task, turn my attention fully and thoughtfully to the next item needing my input, and give it my very best. ...some moms can leave an activity for a moment, confront an issue that has suddenly appeared and then pop right back to the original activity. In other words, these moms have a back burner. But we gloriously unregimented moms, for whatever reasons, possess stoves that no longer come equipped with back burners - our stoves only have one burner. It's a front burner, and it's always on.I think she's been reading my blog. It sounds a lot like spinning plates and asteroids, right?
Because of Carol Barnier's book, and another I just started called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud, I have come to realize the need for margin in my life and how to create some. Because I'm highly distractible and because I have trouble saying "no," I have painted myself into a corner of chaotic obligation. Plus, I'm late to everything. (Annoying.)
I hate that I'm not Martha, even though Jesus clearly doesn't require us to be. How much praise did he have for Mary? (A lot.) Mary was able to just be and to appreciate. I am learning to embrace who God created me to be. I am recognizing that we can change. God created this often-introverted, scatter-brained, highly-capable but totally unfocused self.
I need to embrace my highly distractible nature, while having confidence to put up boundaries to protect my sanity. I long to surround myself with people who understand that I simply cannot always be surrounded by people. People who understand that I love them dearly even if we only hang out every other month. Sometimes I feel like all I'm doing is pouring out. Sometimes I just need to steep. Other times I need coffee with friends, I really, really do. But sometimes. I just need to be. (And be alone.)
You see, Mary gave into the moment. She recognized the wonder of what she was experiencing. I have had the privilege of experiencing so many moments. I can't even imagine how many I missed those first Martha-doing, twenty-some odd years.
You know, I enjoyed being a Martha while it lasted. I got a lot of stuff done expeditiously, but I didn't know what I was missing on the other side. A life full of wonder.