Friday, August 31, 2012

A tale of two mothers - part 2

You all crack me up. Clearly, my readership is fixated with dessert. Maybe someday I will write a post on under-appreciated desserts, but for right now I must stick to deserts because otherwise my clothes won't fit and I will still have no lesson plans made. I will share a tip to keep the two words straight that a homeschooling friend shared with me yesterday when we were laughing about this. Dessert has two s's because there are more of them and with dessert you always want more.

I want to go back to the second of the two mothers. This mother of three I came across when I was reading the book about habits. She appears in the chapter about self will because of her horrific gambling addiction, but it is her initial circumstance I want to address. Before she lost everything because to her gambling, she started out as a mother of three who, when her last child went off to school, was so bored and lonely she didn't know what to do with herself. So she went to the local casino once a week, as a treat to herself for getting through the week.

Once again, my heart breaks for this mother. But instead of wanting her to slow down and do a little less, this feels like an example of needing to do a little more. And not a little more about her house, but more for both herself and her community. Nothing cures boredom like serving the needs of others. There are always people who need help getting to the grocery store or housebound adults who would love a visitor. A mother with very young children could always use a hand and schools are always looking for parent volunteers. There is such a dearth of volunteerism these days that just mentioning you had free time to a few people would land you with more possibilities than you could possibly manage.

But maybe the possibility isn't with willingness but with not being connected enough to other people to find the possibilities. This can be tough. It can be hard to meet people and it can feel scary. The trouble is, that this is a problem that only the lonely person can do something about. I grew up with my mother reminding me that to meet people and make friends you have to be the one who is willing to make the first move. You have to be the one to introduce yourself or invite someone to join you in an activity or volunteer to join the committee or group. If you wait to be introduced, asked, or invited you will wait a long time. It doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you, but only that most people are so caught up in what they are doing they don't think to look around for the lonely person.

This is particularly difficult for shy people; I should know, I am one. Thus I can say confidently that even shy people can learn to be not-so-shy. It takes more planning and practice and is more tiring, but it can be done. Once again the trick is to stop thinking about yourself and start focusing on others. If you are more concerned with making others feel comfortable then it is easier to stop worrying about whether you feel comfortable. When J. was in high school, he gave a testimony in church about how being shy is really an act of selfishness.

The other thing this mother can do is to develop her own interests and talents. Even if we have made a choice as mothers to focus on caring for our families, we don't do this to the exclusion of what we need as individuals. In fact, I would say that it is important for our children to see us developing our interests and talents. It is how they will learn to be interesting and fulfilled adults. Plus, I can guarantee that whatever I am currently interested in, chances are at least some of my children will be, too. If I get out my paints, my children want to paint. If I start knitting, they will want to knit. If I'm working in the yard, they will want to work in the yard. Children want to do grown-up activities and they watch us to learn what those things are. Plus, if we have a host of things we enjoy doing, it guards against that time when our children have grown and moved out. We don't wonder what to do with our lives because we have had interests and activities which are not child dependent all along.

M. and I were talking about this the other day... that we both have so many interests and things we would like to do that there is quite possibly not enough time in our lives to ever get to them all. Boredom is not a problem. I made a mental list of all the things I would do if I had more time (though some things I squeeze in every now and then already... that more time-thing is a myth), among the things I included were: volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, write the book about the theology of homemaking that I write notes for every so often, take a class on watercolors so I could actually know what I'm doing, work on a piano method designed for special needs children, paint some of the walls in my house, do research into music therapy, sew more, knit more, read more, etc.

Life can be very rewarding, but to a great extent it is as rewarding as you decide to make it. If you feel lonely and without purpose, don't sit at your kitchen table feeling sorry for yourself. find someone else who need help and help them. And in the process of helping them, you will be helping yourself.

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