Monday, January 13, 2014

Finding fulfillment in motherhood

My cousin, Wendy, wrote this post and this was my reply:

Wow, you're a terrible, horrible person for not feeling fulfillment in motherhood!  What's the matter with you?!?

Haha, just kidding!  I don't either.  I think it's easier to be fulfilled by a job because there are measurable goals and standards.  That's what I'm used to-finishing a project, getting the next raise or promotion, being recognized for my skills, etc.  Transitioning from career woman to mom hasn't been easy, although considering I'm used to working with people with disabilities, raising kids isn't hugely different.  :)

I love staying home with the kids, but at the same time, I don't know that it's hugely fulfilling.  I'm sure this is just my mindset because, like I said, I'm used to measurable goals.  How do you measure if you were successful each day with your family?  Granted, you can totally have a to-do list of things to cross off, but even those things can't always be measured.  Like if I need to clean the bathroom, does it count if the best I can do is pick the dirty clothes up off the floor and make sure there isn't any unflushed poo in the toilet?  Or does it need to be spotless?  In a house with 6 kids, a man and 4 animals, it will never be spotless.  And while part of being a responsible adult and parent is keeping the house clean (or in my case, just managing the mess), do household tasks really have anything to do with being a good mother? 
What defines being a good mother and nurturer?  Not losing your temper?  FAIL!  Making sure your child is potty trained and can count to ten?  FAIL!  Making sure homework is done every day?  FAIL!  Making sure your child is alive at the end of the day and did not suffer any major injuries?  SUCCESS!  See nobody told me about a mother's guilt before I got these kids.  Of course until you experience it, you just don't know.  I work really hard to not sweat the small stuff, but even so, it's hard not to feel guilty when you tell the kids to go watch a show because you want 5 minutes of peace.  Or when one of the kids complain to you that another one hit them and your solution is to tell them to go hit her back.*  (I so wish that I cared more about them hitting each other and calling each other names, but I just don't.  I want to tell them to get over it and I feel like I should put someone in time out or something like that, but I just really don't care.  Like seriously, the world isn't coming to an end because your sister called you stupid.  Get over it and move on!)
And speaking of discipline and naughtiness, how do you decide what's really important and what to ignore?  I lose my temper the most when the kids don't listen and don't do what they're told.  If I have to tell you to do something five times, the shit's gonna hit the fan.  Tyler, on the other hand, loses his temper the most when the kids are mean to each other.  My philosophy is that being mean is part of growing up with siblings and you should get over it.  I can't get upset about everything and I just naturally don't care as much about certain things, so there you go.  Would it be nice if they never said anything mean to each other and just wanted to spend every waking minute together because they loved each other oh, so much?  Yeah, it would, but it would also be creepy and no one likes creepy children. 
So anyway, now that I've rambled on, my point is I liked your post and can relate.  I, too, need to figure out how to find more fulfillment from motherhood.  Or maybe I need to figure out how to turn off the work and goal-oriented part of my brain and just enjoy the ride.

I've been thinking about this topic ever since I wrote the above response and here are some other thoughts:
  •  I don't think it's abnormal or wrong to not feel total fulfillment from motherhood.  I don't think it's something you need to try to force either.  Not being fulfilled by something doesn't mean you don't enjoy it.  I enjoy caramel corn, but it doesn't fulfill me.  
  • Part of being a well-rounded individual is finding fulfillment in different things at different times in your life.  Those women who are very fulfilled by motherhood right now will eventually find other things to fulfill themselves when their children are grown and out of the house.
  • People have different mindsets.  The environment in which I grew up shaped my thinking of the world, my priorities, my mindset and what I find joy in.  Not everyone grew up the way I did and that makes the world an interesting place.
  • Should we find joy in being a mother?  It'd probably be a good thing.  Does it have to define us, fulfill us and be the only thing we focus on?  Absolutely not.  
  • Stop comparing yourself to other moms and your kids to other kids!!!  I know someone who is so stinkin' competitive when it comes to her child and that has got to be exhausting.  I don't have the time nor the inclination to worry about what miraculous thing your child did.  I also don't give a flying f*#k about your exercise program, what Pinterest masterpiece you made, how wonderful your husband is (who exactly are you trying to convince with all your Facebook posts?) or how fabulous you look in your 10th selfie of the day.  What I do care about is the strange and mysterious smell in my house, the fact that there has been chocolate cupcake smeared into my sheets for the last couple days and the currently unknown location of my Kindle.  
So now that I've rambled on yet again, the conclusion I've come to is that people find fulfillment in different things and that's ok.  I'm ok.  You're ok.  We're all ok. 

*Just so you know, I don't encourage fisticuffs between the children.  When I tell them to hit the other person back, it diffuses the situation and instead of one child being mad and the other one crying, they look at each other and start laughing.  


Anonymous said...

I relate to this post. I see these mothers who are so fulfilled being at home with their kids and just love every minute of it. Sometimes my weekend cannot get over soon enough, so I can get back to work. I love my child with all my heart, but like you said there's only so much of that I can take before I go crazy.

Wendy Harwood said...

Some really good points you've made.

Thanks for the support cuz!

Ginny said...

No one does tell you how hard it is mainly because we couldn't even understand it if they did. Do not buy any more guilt by trying to sweat the small stuff because it doesn't matter and you know that. I would also recommend you not look for fulfillment in parenthood because kids are fickle. I derailed my career to stay at home and I hear it from my daughter all the time that she wishes I would work so her grandpa could watch her instead of me. Plus I think the fulfillment comes once they leave the nest..Anyway I love Felicity Huffman's take on motherhood maybe it will ring true to you...

Kim said...

Anonymous-I think the weekend thing is normal. There is no one in this world (husband, kids, my own family) that I want to spend all of my time with. I have to have a routine and the weekends interrupt my routine. Sometimes the interruption is welcome, but I'm always ready to get back to regularly scheduled programming by Sunday night.

Ginny-I loved the Felicity Huffman thing. She feels how I do most of the time and it's encouraging to know that I'm not the only one!