Sunday, July 7, 2019

Pulling the Handcart Alone

Last month my husband and I got to go on trek for our second time, this time with our 15 year old son! The first time we went, 5 years ago, the women's pull was very effective, so much that I NEVER wanted to do that again. We started out with just the mas pulling the handcarts. As I tried to start, I discovered my handcart was stuck on a little rock. It took all I had to get it rolling. Not soon after, I thought I was going to die. My heart was pounding harder than it ever has. I seriously wondered if I was going to have a heart attack or stroke. My breathing got very shallow and I wondered if that's what asthma felt like as I struggled for breath. I was so glad when "my" daughters were able to join me when the slope started, and then the sons and husbands as we got near the top of the hill. When we all stopped, we "processed" our experience and talked about how there are some things women do that men just can't help with. We talked about how when a woman has a baby, that's something she has to do on her own, and her husband just stands there wishing he could do something to help. We talked about other things, but I don't recall the details.

On this recent trek, they were careful to make the women's pull not too hard; however, they were so careful that it was pretty easy. The guys hiked off with some handcarts, and then women from different families joined up together. I think most of us families ended up with more people pushing the carts than we did when our men were with us. Girls complained that this was so easy, and that they'd made it easy because they didn't think we could do it. It was kind of a sad, missed opportunity. At the top of the hill, my husband and I still wanted to "process" with the kids. We talked about how sometimes we women have to do things alone, but that we CAN do it. We talked about how we are strong. We talked about men and women are different and we're meant to be that way, and it is ok to accept help from men; we don't HAVE to do it on our own, even if we are able.

After trek I was thinking about how much prep I'd done for trek, for me, my husband, and son, and even in sewing clothing with one of my daughters for others. Preparations started months in advance. Then there was cleaning up trek and returning all the borrowed stuff. Then there was preparing for the family reunion, and of course normal housekeeping and cooking, appointments, calling, kids activities, etc. etc. I was getting burned out and fighting colds and getting cold sores. I realized I was pulling the handcart alone or almost alone. My husband was busy with work and his calling and not thinking much how he could help me. I could have asked him for help, but saw he was just busy. I could have somehow talked the kids into helping more, but it's so hard when they resist. I don't know how I could have gotten more help, but the point was driven that we all have to be aware of those around us so that we can notice when they are pulling the handcart alone and do something about it.

On a related, but different note, I had the feeling on trek that youth need to feel useful. Our present culture often allows teens this lifestyle where they are spoon-fed, yet they are sad (especially where we live), and I wonder if they need to feel needed. I've heard that the teen years (and even into the 20s these days) is a new invention. Years ago, a person went from being a child to being an adult with adult responsibilities without these middle years. I realized that pulling handcarts is a really good way to make everyone feel needed, and the kids on trek were generally SO HAPPY. I now keep pondering how can I help my teenagers feel needed and critical to our family unit. I'm sure there's a way to meet their need to be needed and my need to not pull the handcart alone. But why is it easier to get your kid to pull a handcart than to vacuum out the car?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What brings you joy?

This is weird. Three posts in three days? Things must be getting better!

I was just cleaning the massive mess in the cubbies below our tv and found this little "joy" journal that came from who knows where. I flipped through it to see if there were any blank pages left as to know whether to toss it or keep it and discovered the author's bio at the back of the book. Author, Wendy Santiano mother of small children, remembered feeling "overwhelmed and . . .  really lost in life . . . [and] numb. . . ." when she realized that she did actually remember what it was like to experience joy. Well that sounds familiar on so many levels.

I flipped to the front of the little booklet, read it and came up with my joys:

1. Service: Service has been such a part of my life for well, pretty much all of it, I guess I can say it does bring me joy. I love coordinating with people and organizing and being there to help.

2. Learning: I love to learn or discover new knowledge, which actually leads to writing.

3. Dates: I love spending time with my husband! Watching shows or going on walks and talking. Planning things together.

4. Kids: I love it when the kids are kind and make good choices. I love it when they are happy and at peace. I love it when they reach their goals. I'm trying to figure out how to react when they are mean or have sad failures. I didn't think stuff like that would affect me like it does.

5. Build: I love to build. It could be "building" dinner, ok, we usually say cooking. It could be "building" a costume; we usually call that sewing. It could be working in the yard or fixing something in the home. President Uchtdorf called this creating.

6. Adventure: Well, I used to have a sense of adventure before I got all mom-serious and bogged down. I kind of gave up on adventure, too, when the kids complained about stuff like hiking or were too small to bike and things like that.

7. Exercise: I can't believe I'm writing this, but one of the biggest joys I had was once after running. I pushed it and felt so good! I really have a love-hate relationship with exercise because it's hard, and I really don't find it fun at all. But, it makes me feel so strong when I work hard at it, and I like that! I want to do it, but it's been so hard the last 16 years to really do it, with kids.

This all reminds me of all the health classes I took in college where we talked about the different elements of health: social, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, etc. The list varied by class. In one class we were challenged to do something from each category every day to remain balanced and healthy. As a mother, I realize I totally stink at that. I guess in college, I did, too, because I thought our assignment was to one each day, not each one once a day. I can pull off one a day, but all of them?

Every year our school has a "Sharpen the Saw" weekend based off of Covey's 7 Habits of Happy Kids. My cute first grader brought home a little book about what sharpen the saw means. Basically it's take care of body, mind, heart, and soul to stay balanced. I'm ok at making sure everyone else stays balanced, but pretty much stink at making sure I take care of myself.

So, there ya go. I'm feeling awfully vulnerable blogging again. It's been quite a while. I'll try to focus on my joys and see if my outlook improves because Santiano said, "Joy matters because you matter." And I know I do, it's just sometimes it hasn't felt like it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

"My Mother Sacrificed Everything"

This Mother's Day I saw at least a couple posts from children honoring their mothers by saying their mothers sacrificed everything for their children---they were at every game,  every recital. . . . All I know is that we TRY to be to every game, but sometimes it's not even possible because someone else has, or a couple others have, something going on. Luckily it's not that frequent as our kids aren't in that much stuff compared to many. I don't know if something's wrong with me, but the thought of mom sacrificing everything made me kind of sad. Maybe she had some hopes and dreams she was able to fulfill when she was not taking care of kids, but ultimately, I guess I hope someone had her back, too.

I guess I'm in a stage where I feel I'm drowning a bit. I am coming out of it, and we're figuring out a balance. I guess I'm just not the type who can give up EVERYTHING. I suppose some people are completely fulfilled taking care of families, but I can't say that it fills me up; right now it sucks most everything out of me. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, and obviously I'm STILL trying to figure it out.

This isn't really related, but yes, the physical demands of little children is super hard. But, I had no idea that the eventual moodiness of teenagers would affect me emotionally like it does!

I'm glad I've had a little time to have a few thoughts lately, even if they are kind of depressing. Hopefully I can get a bit more upbeat when it comes to parenting.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Can you do cool stuff and still have a family?

I've been enjoying the heck out of the What's Her Name Podcasts. However, I've realized that very few of the women reported on had children! I'm sure some of them did, but since that was such a normal thing, it wasn't worth the mention, maybe. But, it seems that in history if you were to do anything really cool, you didn't have children. Maybe if you had them, it just took you out of the ability-to-do-something-cool circle. While on the treadmill yesterday, I also turned on the Annie Oakley American Experience on PBS. Again: no children!

Is it really not possible to do cool stuff if you have kids? I was reminded tonight that yes, you can. I went to a Young Women's fireside with my daughter and husband where our mayor spoke. She's a woman, three years older than me. Her kids are older than mine; she started much sooner than I did. She dropped out of college because the babies kept coming and she felt it was what she needed to do at that time. She's back in school now working on a bachelor's with the goal to get a master's eventually.

Isn't it funny that I thought that the worst thing possible that could happen to me while in college was to get married and then get pregnant because that would ruin my educational plans? I guess for me I wasn't ready for the sacrifice of parent responsibilities, but some young people do it, and well! I would have thought people who do this were silly back then, but I admire them now, especially when they re-enter the college scene to continue their education as an older adult.

Kathryn Skaggs of Latter-day Saint Women Stand, a grandma, is doing it. My friend Emily M. S. just graduated with a law degree. How I admire them for having the guts to go back amidst having a family life!

As for women doing cool stuff AND having children, it does happen, and maybe it's more acceptable to do it now, but Carol Allen of Big Ocean Women has lots of kids and she's getting the word out there on maternal feminism. On the MWEG Facebook discussion group, there was a conversation about women who've gotten involved in the public sphere/politically who are Latter-day Saints. There are MANY MANY. My follow-up question is how many children do they each have? My hope is renewed in that you can do cool stuff and still have children; you don't have to give up family life to change the world.

I feel that the message to our local young women and young mothers is you get to choose - do what YOU want when you want, and you can really see a decline in family size because of this. So, it was refreshing to see the example of our mayor CHOOSING to have a family during those prime child-bearing years, but still eventually be involved so strongly in the community.