The Nuances of Parental Love and Loving

I find my job dull, monotonous.  My neighbor’s children have simple logic that I wish finances permitted—to quit.  I can’t.  I never dreamed of working when I became a mother.  My desire was to be a stay at home mom.  However, since I have a college degree and Frank’s work is inconsistent (he is a carpenter in NJ), I’ve had to be the resource of a stable, reliable income.  I don’t do this because I enjoy it, I do it because I must.

Then I dream.  Late night conversations with my husband led to discussions about passionate work.  He said that if we can manage it, then I should pursue side work that interests me, work that makes me feel fulfilled.  Yes, I am a mother.  I love my children dearly.  I work this job for my husband, for my kids.  (Yes, unto God as well.  The church consistently tells me to focus on the fact that I work for God really and to make all tasks at this repetitious institution devoted to him.  I’m told to find contentment in the Lord.  I do, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you have to spend the majority of your life engrossed in something that you feel breaks your soul that you want to pursue something on the side that you can find a sliver of satisfaction in.)

In my excitement, I shared these dream aspirations with my parents.  Ah, my parents.  These people who raised me with goals.  To their chagrin, my goals and desires are different than theirs.  I’m a minimalist, born to individuals who think of wealth as a mark of success.

They say two incomes are needed.  Yes, it is difficult, especially nowadays, to live with one income.  You have to sacrifice American comforts (read:materialism) at times in order to pursue other priorities.  They also told me that I already have a full plate.  I have my current job, a home, and kids.  The thing with becoming a Bradley birthing instructor is that I can teach classes out of my home with my kids nearby.  I’m passionate about women’s health and educating women to be empowered by giving them choices, not just information spoon-fed to them by the medical world.

We live in a society that so often tells women they can’t do it, they are weak.  We are told to let men take charge.  Sadly, many obstetricians are male.  Males have never given birth and yet, they are the forerunners in the medical birthing world.  I want to bring birth back to the individuals who understand female anatomy and birth best, women.  As such, it made sense for me to consider the idea of becoming a Bradley birthing instructor as a side profession.  I would be doing work that satisfies me, aside from motherhood.  I am a mother, but I did not forsake my individuality when I made that choice.  Yes, I have made sacrifices.  I do not mind sacrificing sleep to attend the needs of my children.  I do not mind thinking about activities they would enjoy on the weekends rather than something I’d rather do.  If I need to financially provide for my family though, I’d like to do so knowing I felt fulfilled rather than drained.  If I can teach these classes out of my home, I can be near my children and empower women.  I’m not trying to be supermom.  I’m just trying to find fulfillment in areas outside of motherhood and monotonous lab work. Through this, I think I can be a better mother and employee at a job I detest.

My parents don’t see the validity in midwifery, being a doula, or teaching birthing classes.  They are strong proponents of a medical world.  They think doctors know better because they have lots of education.  However, you can spend years in school without learning much.  I’m a chemist and while I enjoy the subject material, it isn’t as strong a passion as my other interests like language, writing, education, and art. As such, I’m not as good as someone who finds intense satisfaction in this profession.  My parents would have no issue if I had to work 50-60 hours in this job at the expense of time with my family because they have said I’d be providing for my family.  As you can see, sacrificing family time can occur in so far as it is apparently a result of “needed work”, not “lesser” professions.

I appreciate my parent’s advice, but I think they have backwards ideas on things.  They’ve always been very work driven, as evidenced in the previous paragraph.  They also have an opinion on my sleeping arrangements (with Willow), my nursing choices, and my dwelling selection.

For a time, Frank and I bed-shared with Willow.  This wasn’t our choice.  Frank was a violent sleeper before having kids.  The first night we brought Willow home she didn’t stop fussing until I put her next to me on the bed.  Frank didn’t flail.  The choice stuck because we were trying to maximize our sleep.  We were advised (repeatedly by my parents) that this would spoil her, our intimacy would be impacted, and she would sleep better if she was in her own room.

As an infant, I never slept in the same room as my parents.  While medical professionals will usually advise, strongly, against bed-sharing, they will promote room sharing until a baby is at least 6 months of age.  Room sharing has been known to reduce the risk of SIDS.  On another note, but similar thought line, other cultures, a significant amount around the world, do bed-share.  Yes, bed-sharing is typically done out of necessity due to space and income, but these cultures have more children and seemingly more stable family ties than many Americans, including my parents.  My parents were never really intimate with each other.  Even today, my mother acts like marriage is more of a burden and obligation than a blessing.  My childhood sleeping arrangements had no bearing on my parents romantic life and the sleeping arrangements I have with Willow do not gravely impact my romantic life with my husband.  (Frank would agree.  We’ve discussed it before. FYI, I keep saying children throughout this post because I’m pregnant again.  Willow and this baby will be 16 months apart.  Bed-sharing doesn’t impact our intimacy as much as advice-givers like to think.)

*It should be noted that Willow has since transitioned to sleeping in her own room.  We knew she had to because the new baby is coming.  When nights are really rough for her (due to teething, sickness, or other troubles) we will bring her into bed with us and we all sleep.  She didn’t sleep better in her room initially.  It took time.  We also did not practice CIO methods to sleep train her.  She learned to sleep on her own.  This is recent.  You can say she started to “sleep through the night” around 14 months old.  Yes, it was exhausting and long and we were sleep deprived, but she got there without us “training” her so we could sleep.*

Bed-sharing also helped me to get more sleep since I am a nursing mother.  Yes, I still nurse.  I tried to wean Willow when she was a year because I was so drained with pregnancy and trying to nourish her.  It didn’t go well.  She would cry and scream and sleep worse.  Eventually, I just started praying for strength and decided to let her go until she is ready to be done.  It would be less traumatizing for us all.

(FYI, your body can produce enough breast-milk for two children.  Mothers of multiples have to figure this out all the time.  Also, tandem nursing can be done.  Toddler nursing is beneficial because it provides antibodies, quick comfort in times of distress, and great bonding time (which will be wanted and needed when a new baby stirs up life).  If at anytime my supply is insufficient for two, then I know Willow must be weaned for the safety of the baby, but I’ll address that situation if it arises.  I don’t need to let fear drive this decision before it needs to be made.)

Willow was recently diagnosed as being borderline anemic.  I was advised to decrease her cow’s milk intake.  She is to have her protein increased from other food sources.  When I told my father this, he said they were telling me to wean Willow.  My pediatrician is a strong proponent of breast-feeding.  She has never advised me to do this and thinks nursing a toddler is fine.  She also told me that if I did try to stop her, that Willow would reattach when Willow saw the new baby nursing.  I found it amusing that my father was telling me what the pediatrician thought because he was masking his opinions on the matter.  He thinks Willow is too old to be nursing.  I was switched to formula at an early age when I was an infant.

As I mentioned before, I’m a minimalist and my parents tend to be more materialistic.  They think a 2500 sq. foot home is the smallest size acceptable for a couple.  My family currently resides in a 700 sq. foot home.  We purchased what we could afford, without “breaking the bank”.  I love to travel.  I did not want a home that would deplete monies so I’d have to sacrifice the minimal amount of travel I’m able to do each year (I get two weeks of time off from my company).  I do enjoy entertaining friends and family so this is the only drawback to living in a “tiny” home.  (FYI, my parents do not like to entertain lots of people in their home.)

My mother frequently tells me what I should be doing in regards to parenting.  My father will state his opinion and then add, “but what you decide to do is your business”.  (As if that refrain softens his criticism.)  I love my parents and I know they mean well.  They want what they think is best for me.  I’m sure I will overstep boundaries and Willow’s desires at some point.  However, I keep praying that I will merely entrust my kids to God.  My only true hope is that they know Christ as Lord and Savior and use their talents for his glory.  I want them to be self-sufficient individuals, pursing their desires and passions, in so far as they live for God.  I don’t want to consistently insert my opinions into their choices, at least when they are adults, Lord willing.  I’d like to emulate more of Frank’s parents’ involvement in parenting affairs.  Frank’s parents are generally pretty good about not commenting on our decisions, even if their faces reveal a hint of disagreement about our choices.  (I guess a part of this stems from the fact that Frank’s parents are active Christians and my parents would label themselves Christians by mere affiliation with conservative political views; they aren’t active participants in the body of Christ and wanting to be transformed by him.  Work and Weight Watchers are their passions.)

I realize I’m being over-critical of my parents, more than likely.  I so often wish that they’d see validity in my passions, not in the desires they have for me.  This is something I should be bringing before the altar of God rather than relaying these wounds on social media platforms.  I’m a work in progress.  Sometimes I write because it is therapeutic.  Maybe if they come across it, my parents will have a chance to hear the cry of this heart yearning for their approval.

I know my true identity is from Christ, not in approval from my parents or peers.  I’m slowly learning to break free of the mold my parents want for me and live more according to who I believe Christ has called me to be according to his purposes for my passions and desires.  I also know that this life is a lesson in learning to love my parents as Christ loves them.  I need to extend them the grace, mercy, and acceptance I long to receive from them, without expecting it in return.  I’m slowly learning to implement understanding with peers, I know I need to do this ever more so with my family.  This process is longer with family because there is a deeper history.  Please help me to be more gracious, kind, compassionate towards my parents (and my sister…who I don’t discuss much because there is so much drama and pain associated with that relationship).  I want to speak well of my parents and sister, especially in front of my children.  I hope my children wouldn’t speak ill of me and as such, I must be a model of righteous speech.  Pray for me in regards to this dear friends.

I also pray others would do the same.

May we, as Christians, be characterized by love and forgiveness because Christ first loved us and has forgiven us by his sacrificial death on the cross.

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2 Replies to “The Nuances of Parental Love and Loving”

  1. That’s exciting that you are thinking of doing some work that will feel more fulfilling to you! I’m in a constant state of trying to figure out what’s next while also balancing the need to do less things overall… it’s challenging, but I know that right now, the work-life situation is not the way I want it to be. I’m happy to hear you’re thinking through what will make you happier.

  2. Thanks so much Jamie.

    Yeah, I’m trying to learn that I also have to stop trying to please my parents and others. I’ll be happier when I’m pursing passions I believe God has instilled in me.

    It is hard to find the balance between feeling fulfilled, still, and not overwhelmed. It was so great seeing you and Chad the other day. I like the moments of pausing in our busy lives to fellowship. I know you do that well and are looking for ways to maximize that. I will continue to pray that you find the balance between work-life that you are longing for.

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