Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Mother's Bank Account

A few days ago I received a text from my daughter relaying a message that sickness struck her home during the night. My grandson up all night after a trip to Raleigh and the washer and dryer going all night left her with little sleep. Still, work was calling and another child to get on the way to school. I knew it was difficult for her to ask if I'd help out. It was not a difficult decision. I insisted he come and be with me.A few words that expressed her heart about leaving her son to meet her obligations slipped through her lips. I tried to encourage her with the thought that I'd had to do the same when she and her brother were sick but my words seemed to fall so short of what she really needed at the moment.

I started to think about how my own mother seemed to always be there for me. I was a single parent for many years and distinctly remember the guilt trip I'd experience when I had to ask for help. It didn't seem right that I was forced to leave my children to go out and bring in that paycheck. I often felt like I'd left my heart behind to wander into a classroom full of other children with a pasted on smile giving it my best effort to muster up the energy to make it a good day for other folks' children. There were those times when an administrator expressed their opinion quite bluntly when I got “the call” saying my children had become sick at school and someone needed to come get them. When you work outside the home, your time belongs to others and the tug of war that goes on inside a mother is relentless. When one births children from their own body, both the responsibility and desire to bring comfort to one's children can become a double edged sword for all mothers whether working in or outside the home.

Taking her last backwards glance, my daughter closes the door behind her as I sit down to write my thoughts. A few feet away, my grandson lies on the sofa, sleeping in the aftermath of the ups and downs of the night. It's quiet here. I can hear the hum of my refrigerator and an occasional car passing through my quiet neighborhood. But my thoughts turned back to my own mother. She worked outside the home on a few occasions but for the most part was available to us when we were children. The world we live in now is so different than the one I experienced at my grandson's age. Both breakfast and dinner around the family table were the norm. When sickness came in the night OR during school hours my mother rarely had to make a choice who would pick us up from school. She never had to rush out the door dragging diaper bag or a barf bag for a sick child. The familiar phrase “those were the days” seems fitting. I thought of the days I felt this same struggle as I drove up to the childcare in the afternoons to see my children hanging on the chain link fence waiting for my arrival.

As I consider my own experiences as a mother, I'm reminded of both the deposits and withdrawals of being a working mother while raising children. My mother often spoke of missing out on going to college and pursuing more education. As a marshal for the graduating class at her high school, certainly she would have been a candidate for college. My own childhood could have been the polar opposite had she been a mother with a career, a teacher like myself and my own daughter. Perhaps there would have been more bank deposits and less time for cold rags on my forehead. I'm quite sure my maternal grandmother would have willingly stepped up to take her place had she not been employed in the textile mill. I'm also one hundred percent certain my mother would have battled the guilt of leaving her heart behind to make her way out into the world of work had that been her chosen path.

And so it is with motherhood and the invisible thread that ties our hearts to our children. We find it so easy to go to the guilt place when it comes to our children and our grandchildren. We rehearse in our minds the things we are unable to do for them, the lack of education we have or the hours we are away. My mother is not with us any longer but the memories of the thousands of ways she made our lives more rich and filled with good things abound. I think particularly of her cooking and sewing, things most moms don't have time for now, things that were more commonplace in that day. One thing we must face as mothers is we are each given a season of time to influence the children we are blessed with and cherish those moments to the full. The age in which we live now is fraught with sensory overload and I find myself wondering how I'd manage as a mother in this century. Screens, music and sounds seem to volley for the attention of our children and grandchildren. I'm sure some feel they are losing the battle. I applaud their efforts to keep some semblance of normalcy in the world we live in today.

It's time we all were easier on ourselves as mothers and grandmothers. We are not going to get it all right all of the time and neither did those before us. We do our best. It benefits no one to rehearse our misdeeds and mistakes. We waste precious time going over the things we did wrong, left out or just plain forgot to do. If there's one thing I wish I'd seen in my mother's life, it would have been more times of recognizing how much she blessed our family and less time thinking of her failures. Less guilt on her part and more thankfulness on mine.

Take a look at your hands and remind yourself of the ways you've used your hands to serve your children and grandchildren. Recount to yourself the number of times you've bathed them, the pieces of clothing you've laundered and folded, the meals you've served, even on the run. If you're car looks like you're the local concierge carting meals, gifts, the elderly couple's paid bills and you can't even see the passenger seat for a couple of boat oars for your child's upcoming program at school, count your blessings. You're still paddling in the game of life and you will get to the other side.

The hands that cradled you when you were unable to do one thing for yourself deposited something inside of you that is eternal and it keeps on giving. Guilt only seeks to steal the moments we have with those we love. Thank God for those who came on before you and the seeds they dropped into your heart and life and know you are scattering those same seeds inside the soil of your childrens' hearts.

God's love... it just keeps on depositing and it takes no withdrawals... so don't let guilt withdraw on your account. Time and ourselves is all we have to give to those we love. The time we have minus guilt plus the thanksgiving for all God's deposited in our lives is sure to be the right equation for making motherhood the greatest profession whether you stay home or go out into the world each day.

If you're a grandmother without the mounds of laundry to fold, perhaps you can fold your hands in prayer for mothers who feel the world has taken too many withdrawals lately.

I'd like to end this post with thanksgiving to My God who saw fit to use me to bring some amazing and incredible people into this world. When I saw my three grandchildren sitting on the steps today at the very spot I gave my heart to Christ many years ago, my heart was filled with so much joy. He just keeps on giving. To Him be all the praise, honor and glory!

My bank account is full!

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