Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mommy Martyr? Silencing the Crotchety Old Lady Within.

Sunday afternoon we drove home from a lovely mountain getaway with family; our legs were cramped from hours in the car and our stomachs were nauseous from winding mountain roads. And after days spent relaxing and doing nothing, my motherly instincts kicked in immediately after we unloaded the car.  So, while I was inside scrambling through the house, sorting laundry, unloading the dishwasher and putting things in appropriate drawers, I looked out the window and saw my husband joyfully pushing all 3 of our kids as high as he could on our swing set. So often my husband gets it right.

I hadn't even noticed what a gorgeous evening it was, or how urgently my 3 moppets needed to run. I joined my little family in the yard and spent some time playing. It is sad that I still have to remind myself of my true priorities so often. I am always chasing down balance, and it's tricky.  And while I certainly don't intend to play good cop bad cop with my husband, why does it happen sometimes? Because somebody has to do the laundry and put things away?

It's no secret that I like to plan; I like to keep things together and fairly controlled in my life, but sometimes I catch myself in a moment like this—looking out a window at laughing kids while I'm unpacking suitcases and worrying about messes and supper and bedtime and I realize my balance has tipped the wrong way. Again. So often I am once again the party pooper who is only worried about everyone having clean fingernails and 9 hours of sleep.

As moms, not only do we find ourselves constantly dragging the chains of housework and food preparation, but we also might find ourselves yelling about dangerous games of horseplay, plastic Light Sabers that swing dangerously close to faces, climbing to dangerous heights on chairs and ladders, and on and on and on. We are protective by nature; we want our kids safe and our houses clean. At the same time, I want to guard against turning my natural motherly instincts into a complete fun zapper. If I am so focused on safe kids and a perfect house, I might get my wish, but I might end up with kids who fearfully tip toe around their own home. And the sparks of bitterness and resentment that sometimes ignite might eventually turn me into the dreadful crotchety old lady I fear I may someday become.

Sometimes I feel the crotchety old lady welling up inside me. Many of us have her. She is the voice that loves to bombard me with facts: the laundry needs done. The floor needs cleaned. The kids are due for a bath. She is the voice that says, my workday is never done and I never get enough sleep! She is the one who rolls her eyes when nobody helps clean up the kitchen after dinner and throws a fantastic pity party because she's the only person who ever does anything around here!

And while the crotchety old lady may be telling the truth and presenting legitimate facts, she needs a new pair of old lady glasses to take a real look at the present. I love the English word for the present—because it is a reminder that NOW is a gift. And when I let the ugly voice of an embittered old lady shout negativity inside my head all day, when I inevitably become a REAL crotchety old lady someday, who will be left to listen to my whiny stories about the injustices of life? Nobody wants to listen to that. I'm afraid women are particularly guilty of this. Granted, the monotony of these years and the lack of immediate gratification is often draining. And we might not get daily recognition for our dirty work and child-rearing responsibilities, but what can I do now to focus on the present—these many gifts before me that outweigh the infinite messes and endless discipline sessions?

I am the first to admit that some days the crotchety old lady in my head wins the battle. Sure, I would love to roll around on the floor with the kids all day instead of folding laundry or I wish I could sleep in until 9 just once in my life! I am trying to silence this cranky old lady with reminders of other truths. These days are fleeting. My babies already need me less each minute of every day. I am blessed. Not only are they watching my every move, but they actually still want to play with me and sit on my lap.

Obviously I don't think we should just let our home become filled with dirty laundry and dishes and cobwebs. There's no need to make bath night a semi-annual event, but we need to balance our responsibilities to our husbands and kids in a genuine attempt to enjoy and appreciate the present. I have seen what happens when women wallow in years of self-pity over the thankless job of motherhood, and it isn't attractive. When I am especially tired, I feel myself becoming the mommy martyr, the one who doesn't have time to sit and play with matchbox cars because there is just too much to do! It's just a matter of time before the mommy martyr becomes the crotchety old lady, because the patterns and selfish thinking are already there.  

I am so guilty of this, and although one of my greatest fears is becoming the bitter, cranky old lady, I know that I need to focus on the truths of the present to keep her from eventually taking over. When it comes down to it, the crotchety old lady is my selfishness, telling me that the gifts of the present are never enough. These moments are temporary in every way; let's send the poor old lady to a place where she won't drag us down with her selfish, bitter thoughts again. 

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.  Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
Philippians 2:1-4


  1. Just before I came downstairs this morning and read this on the computer I was sulking at my husband for not getting up from bed. I've been awake since 6am and there he is, lying in and it was already 7:30am! It's so easy to wallow in our own selves. Thank you SO much for this! I posted the scripture on my FB page.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Riette! I wrote this because I do it; I fear we all do. There are already enough grumpy old ladies in the world--maybe we can do something about it by focusing on daily truths, and with some helpful accountability to each other! Have a great weekend.

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