Monday, April 26, 2010

Prior (Ah!) Ties

I've always HATED when parents say that 'having children changes your priorities'.

I hated it before I became a parent. Why, oh why, should having a small person change the fact that you want to backpack your way across Germany? I couldn't understand it.

I hated it right after I became a parent. Why, oh why, should a screaming bundle of money-sucking joy change the fact that you want to sleep in on Saturdays? I couldn't understand it.

I hated it after I had my second child. Why, yada yada, does having another 'whoops, yes I mean OF COURSE you were planned' change my desire to finish school? I still hated the phrase, and the oddly smug looks of parents who said that Parenthood, in all of its splendiferous wisdom, made you suddenly able to rearrange your life into a Feng Shui mosaic of purpose.
And guess what?

Now that my third child (whoops, yes of course...) is closing in on on five months I STILL totally hate this concept.

It kind of makes sense when famous/rich/uber privileged people say that having children completely reordered their lives. If one is accustomed to spending large amounts of money on strange things that rich people dig (two laundry rooms in one house) then I guess it is quite earth shattering to have to drop all your plans to change a dirty diaper and rock a screaming child to sleep.
But for the working class citizen, the 'every day Jose' kind of fellas like you and me, well...we are used to it, no?

NO JOKE: I am now typing with only my left hand because my right one is holding Isla's bottle. Little monkey pretends she can't hold it herself yet.

So. A few weeks ago I was commenting to a fellow mother of waaay too many kids that I found losing my 'pregnancy/I Like To Eat For Any Reason' weight, ever so much harder with the third child. I was back in my size 4's a mere 6 months after having Sabra....without trying. I hate myself for this, so you don't have to make ugly remarks at my former good fortune. Anyways, I find myself 20 weeks into Isla's life and I look like I still have another baby in there. Ugh.

Surely, another mother would sympathize with me, right? Or better yet, she could tell me to just skip the sleep and get my cellulite sprinkled backside out of bed and get in shape!


She said That Phrase. She even had that 'I am enlightened and soon you will be too but for now I'll give you my sage advice until you join the ranks of Smart Moms who only care about their children and neglect their personal life' look that

She told me that I wouldn't/shouldn't care about my physical appearance now because I had 'more important' priorities.

I stared at her for longer than I should have. I have a very, very unfortunate inability to hide my thoughts when I'm sleepy or stressed (so...all the time). I think I just smiled awkwardly and then walked away.

But it stayed with me.

I doubted it, I raged against it. I questioned it, I cried. And then....I was simply back at irritation.


Well, I don't feel that my priorities are any different. If I had a magic lamp or a winning lottery ticket or some other magical device, I would wish for pretty much the same things.

1) I want to pay off debt and be financially 'set'. This way, Austin could be home with the kids more, and he wouldn't be a big ball of stress. Also, I could buy all the iTunes and tote bags I wanted. (Never underestimate the value of a tote bag or great playlist)

2) I want to travel. I want to go to Vienna and hear the street violinists and walk the halls of Schonnbrun. I want to be a groundling at The Globe for a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. I want to stick my feet under the blue waters in Santorini. I want to take my history loving Moira to see The Tower of London and let Sabra marvel at the sparkling jewels. I don't know yet what Isla will want to see, but I want to take her to see it! I just want to feel the sway and hear the click of cultures around the world, now so foreign to me.

3) I want to write. I want to write what I want, and what I think, and what I feel and can't understand. I'd be a big liar if I said it didn't matter if anyone read what I have to say. But really, in the end, I want to do it regardless. I have books in my head. They might suck. But one day, I want The Book to just jump out of my fingers and into the world of literary galaxy that swirls with all kinds of magical delights.

These, my big three wishes, co-exist with my responsibilities as a parent. I want to hug a big fat Nona in Roma as much as I did before children. Now, I just have to buy a few more plane tickets.

So, where did This Hideous Phrase originate?

I guess that one could look at my life and make a strong argument that I don't have the same priorities. Otherwise, how could I let my kids get in the way of writing? Shouldn't I just ignore their cries of 'Mommy she hit me, Mommy she stole my doll, and Mommy Sabra keeps taking her clothes off and sitting on my favorite pillow'?

When I think of it in this manner, it does seem that I have fallen prey to The Phrase that I so detest. I spend more of my day dressing dolls and dispensing medications than I would like to admit, and many such days pass while I remain unshowered, unOFFICIALLY educated, and unsatisfied with my current stage in life. Have I reprioritized? If so, when did it happen, and why did I let it occur?!

(Side note: since last update, I have changed hideous diaper, unwittingly smeared yellow poo on my forehead, tried to convince Isla to watch Baby Einstein, and am back at bottle holding while typing with my right hand. )
It is often said that anything is possible if you just want it badly enough. This is a truth that wears liar's clothing. Anything is indeed possible. Space travel, a smart female (non-Alaskan)President, and a winning lottery ticket are possibilities. But they aren't all my possibilities. Who knows? Maybe I'll be president someday. But probably not.
With faith, with determination, with God, all things are yet possible. But they aren't all possible for me. I am not the center of the world, even in my own world! It is a bitter pill to swallow. I may never have a critically acclaimed novel. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't write it. I may never hear Vienna's violins. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't strain my ears now and again to see if their tunes waft through the wind.

So what of The Phrase?

I think that I have determined there is a small, yet quite distinct, difference between responsibilities and priorities.

Responsibilities are those things we must do, day in, day out, without fail. I have to breathe, I have to eat, I have to drink good tea. Priorities (at least in my definition) are those things that remind us, in the depth of responsibility boredom, that we are more than breathing and eating and even good tea. They are 'prior ties' to our real self. I am as I was before I had children. I am hopefully wiser, and definitely older. I am also more in need of tote bags. But I am still me, and I can hopefully find a way to bring my children into those areas of life that I feel define my existence.

My priorities haven't really changed with children. My responsibilities, however....
I am responsible for feeding my children. If I don't, they will be hungry. They will think I don't care for them. I will be guilty of a grave error, and will be judged in this world and the next. It doesn't rank high on my list of things I want to accomplish at the day's end. But it is there, and it is at the top of a list that tops all priorities.

Who would read and heed the writings of a woman who didn't take care of her children? That woman would have little to say and less to respect.
Such a woman, such writings, are not to be borne.

But my kids were.

So now I have my responsibilities. Sometimes they make me want to run away and find my Roma Nona. But she would chide me.

"Go home!" she would say. "Feed your babies! There is time yet for you."

I hope there is. Even if I have to stop to wipe the baby poo off my forehead.


Anonymous said...

I keep writing comments to this that sound witty in my head and then when I re-read them, sound like the very worst thing I could write. So, I'll leave it at this: well done! I enjoyed reading this blog posting very much. I'm glad you were able to take a break from the poo and write with one hand to share your thoughts with us.

Lori Buck said...

Oh, this is such a conundrum for me. I have three children, the oldest of which is almost 10, and there are some days that I think I still haven't given myself up to motherhood. And by that I mean embraced the season that I am in and all its responsibilities. I think my children have changed my "priorities" in that I have to put them first because they have to be fed, clothed, educated ad nauseum, and really a lot of that can't be put on the back burner.

There are days I dream about an empty nest when I can be "me" again. And of course there are days I cry because I realize in less than 10 years my son will be out of my house, and I have screwed up so many things about raising him that I need more time to "fix" it. And I'm pretty sure the fact that I am still so very selfish with my time and energy is the very reason why God keeps putting homeschooling in my face. Ugh. I have no answers and only questions that muddy the conversation... But I love your writing, so there's that at least ;)

ReflectionsByPj said...

Hear, Hear!!! My children have not changed my priorities, merely added to them. My dreams and desires are still very much alive and ticking. You are so much better than me, when my kids yell "momma she/he hit me" I simply reply, "And you want me to do what?" And I'm pretty sure that if they were sitting naked on each other's pillows, I would be an encouragement with my bellows of childish laughter. Wow, my poor kids don't stand a chance. In all seriousness, we drag them kicking and screaming into our dreamy priorities, introducing them to things that they hate (90% of the time) now and later discover that we knew what mattered in life after all, or so I'm hoping anyhow. My kids know that when my youngest graduates HS that I'm moving to Italy and in the mean time, we will be traveling, when we can... I'm thinking they'll join me in move so they can study abroad but perhaps not, they too will have their own priorities one day. On another note, I like that you stated that all things are possible with God, just not for me. He may help us do something because we ask Him to help us, it doesn't mean that we do it well. We each have gifts and talents, yours my friend is undoubtedly, writing, in addition to providing me comic relief.

Antonia (Toni) said...

You will be an amazing woman when God has completed the good work within you. My heart connected with you. This is what a good writer accomplishes - The ability to connect the readers with your writing, bringing them into your world and opening their hearts.

I admire your love for your children and yet the courage to be real with your feelings. I am a grandmother raising 3 grandchildren in this season of my life. I too have dreams that only God knows.

I want my grandchildren to grow in a healthy and godly way. I want them to experience the world in ways I was unable to. Maybe one of your girls or one of my granddaughters will be President. We really don’t know what part in their lives we are contributing to, but God does.

I love your definition regarding responsibility and priorities except for one word – tea – I would replace that word with “coffee” - =)

I would read your books! I could experience some of the world through your writings.