for release May 3, 2002
by Melodie Davis
Where Does a Mother Go to Get Fed?
When one of my daughters was 16, I remember she spent most of a day playing with an eight-year-old. By the end of the day my daughter was exhausted, irritable and grouchy. And she hadn't even been playing with toddlers or preschoolers, whom I consider much more of a challenge. She whimpered, "I've been on my feet all day." I knew how she felt. I said she should rest before supper rather than helping me in the kitchen as she often does.
My mind reversed to my own days of trying to keep three children happily involved in activities all day. It was tiring, and I didn't do it every day (working away from home about three days a week when they were small). Exhausted, irritable and grouchy describes a lot of parents at 5 p.m.
This is a reminder and encouragement to all parents of young children (and let's include any child 0-10): taking care of children, keeping them happily involved whether working on projects, housework or playing with them, is extremely hard work. You deserve to feel tired at the end of the day. You deserve to rest an hour before supper-but you probably won't get the chance.
Since this a week when we pay special tribute to mothers (although I know most mothers would rather have lots of help around the house than a heap of flowery words on Mother's Day), I want to focus especially on mothers of small children.
Karen Burton Mains, the author of several books, wrote a piece 20 years ago that I still think is right on. She said so often parents of small children are told, "These years are so precious. They go terribly fast. Enjoy your children now. Before you know it they will be leaving the nest."
This is all true, she said, but ... it is hard to always feel this way about kids "when they are tiny and underfoot and you just need a moment's peace to yourself." At the time her own kids were teenagers and early adolescents, but she temporarily took care of her sister's boys, ages four and 18 months for a couple of weeks. She wrote, "Although my nephews were exceptionally well-behaved for their ages, I went to bed wearily every night. ... It's not just the lifting, diapering and dressing. It's not just the noise-tumultuous dinner hours when a hungry baby has reached the limit of his physical endurance, all the children talking at once. It's not just the frustration of being unable to complete an adult conversation. Draining as it was, the physical exertion wasn't [as bad as] the need for constant attentiveness. Why had I forgotten?" ( Moody, December 1982).
That's why mothers-and fathers-of small children need to have their energies replenished. Another mother, Kaylene Johnson, writing in Christian Century many years ago, reflected on how, at least when she was nursing her children, she would take time to sit down and do nothing except feed her child and marvel. "I didn't answer the phone. I didn't fold clothes. I didn't read our insurance policy or pay the bills. I just sat and held my baby. Now, there are no excuses to sit still. They boys feed and dress themselves. We scramble to Scouts, soccer, swimming lessons and birthday parties."
So for her, a church service was a time when she could be fed and nourished. She related how during the communion service, when bread and grape juice or wine are given to participants, she sat in her pew and her boys leaned their heads against her shoulder, tired out by the long church service. She held their hands. Thoughts of the lawn, laundry and bills faded. "There is only this moment. Once again, I am sitting and doing nothing. I am being fed. I am filled to the brim, satisfied ... The boys notice that my eyes are nearly overflowing. They ask why with their glances." She tried to think how she might explain her happy emotion to them, the sensation that she herself was curled against the shoulder of the Creator.
"I squeezed their hands and said, 'I'm just happy that we're all God's children and that he gave me you.'"
Sure, the boys shrugged in the nonchalant way of innocent children. In a way, it's nice when children take their mothers for granted. A mother equals love and blessed is the child who doesn't know any different. But it's also nice when they reach a certain age and are able to thank you-with new meaning-for all you do.
If your kids haven't reached that age yet, here is a thank you from all the rest of us for what you do to nurture tomorrow's adults. And, this is encouragement that things will get better. They do grow up, all too soon. So even if you are exhausted and maybe even resentful this Mother's Day because you feel so drained, do take time to go to church, send the kids to the nursery if you can, and use the time to be fed and nourished yourself. You deserve it.
For a complete copy of both these articles on mothering send your mailing
Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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