Sunday, May 11, 2014

Finding the Joy in Motherhood

A few years ago I was made aware of a very sad fact.  I am not a playful, joyful person.  I think that I used to be one, before I grew up, got serious and responsible, and had a husband and kids.  I really was a lot of fun.  Now I am all about business.  Having identified a problem, I am now implementing a plan to be more playful.  Look folks it doesn't happen overnight- I have to work at this.  I thought an easy place to start was being intentional about playing with the kids.   Problem is, I don't really like that kind of play.  I LOVE spending time with my kiddos 1:1, but their ways of spending free time and mine are vastly different.   Do any of us really get great joy from the act of having a tea party? I don't know, maybe some of you parents really DO love that and that is awesome.  I admire you.  Really, I do.
My path to holiness just hasn't taken me that far yet.  I find myself watching the clock wondering how many more times I am going to have to say "yummy" about the plastic cookie I am pretending to consume.  At least it is a calorie free cookie…

I seem to be unable to turn my mind off.  I catalogue all the things that I could be/should be doing instead.  I wonder if I am going to have time to make the dinner I planned or if I am going to have to do a quick short cut dinner instead.  And then, even sometimes, I find myself a little resentful that I am sitting there instead of doing what I really want to do or need to do.

So for a while, when making my ToDo list I included "do puzzle with Gracie" and "play board game with JR" .  You know, to give me some credit for that good play time.
 That didn't work well either.  It just left me feeling guilty.

From time to time I listen to Denis Prager.  He is a conservative talk show host and on Fridays he does a Happiness Hour.  It is just what it sounds like.  He talks about the importance of being, finding, choosing happiness.  My husband too has been on a happiness kick the past few months. He too is fond of telling us all "happiness is a choice".  And it is.  I guess.  He really has been much happier. It seems easier for him.

How to actually get from saying "okay I am going to be happy" to having the joyful feelings eludes me.  Both Prager and author Ann Voskamp suggest that you make that leap through gratitude.  They say the key to joyful living is thankfulness.  It is the ability to see how much in life we have the be thankful for.  Once we identify all those specific, beautiful, wonderful things around us it allows our hearts become filled with joy.

Voskamp goes into MUCH detail in her book One Thousand Gifts.  The full review of the book is here.  In this marvelous book she reveals here thesis that no matter how much you suffer, and no matter how much you want to be happy, it is only in Eucharist - or Thanksgiving - that you can grow in joy and fullness.  In every situation you can have joy if you can be thankful for the goodness that surrounds you at all times.  And not just thankfulness for the big things. The key is finding thanks in the details of life and making it a habit.
Voskamp catalogues them:  
"37. Windmills droning in day's last breeze
38. Wool sweaters with turtleneck collars
39. Faint aroma or cattle and straw"

My current list is a bit more urban:

the song of the bird outside the window, 
the smell of the coffee in the am, 
the feeling of clean sheets, 
the gift of a good night sleep, 
the ability to breathe deeply,
listing to Anthony talk & sing to himself while he sweeps the garage

Voskamp says that when we take the time to stop and be thankful for the little things, joy is the natural extension, the reward from our Father.  It is His "your welcome" to our "thank you".

This is such a great example to set for our children. There are a dozen things I pray my children will grow to be - one of them is grateful.  Since virtues are caught - not taught- my living with a grateful and joyful spirit is the best way to give them a shot at being thankful themselves.  So my new strategy for being more joyful is to be more thankful and to look for ways to say "yes" to the kids in a way that inspires playfulness and a more youthful heart for myself without adding drudgery to my day.

It is important to connect with the kids 1:1 so I have found little ways to connect regularly with each of them that is not necessarily play related.  Gardening with the kids, painting finger nails, having our weekly lunch dates, snuggle time, story times whatever -  Leaving me with good quality time with them (and only an occasional tea party).

So this Mother's Day weekend I commit that when I read them stories I will use the silly voices, I will treat them to snack time at Mamacita's Restaurant (when we make-believe my kitchen is a fine dining establishment), I will tickle them, I will hug them, I will play Hide and Seek.   I will stop and take some time to be grateful and thankful that they WANT me in their lives now.  I will give extra thanks out loud each night during prayer time for those specific blessings of the day that have touched my heart.  I don't have to play dolls or build LEGOs with them in order to live a more joyful & playful life -  and that is one more thing for which I am thankful!

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