Recently I had a particularly hard day. I wondered about myself and my life and felt overwhelmed and burned out. Cody came home and I needed to escape. I went to the library and wandered around looking at books. I checked out four books that were interesting to me. There were no little people crying; there was no one to look after but myself. It felt wonderful. Then I did something that I don’t do very often. I went to find a quiet place where I could settle my soul. I ended up at the edge of the Fox River on a bench. It was a beautiful day with warm breezes. Besides the small bugs, it was perfect. I sat and closed my eyes for a bit and thought and prayed. I don’t think I really doubt if what I am doing is important, but I do wonder if I have the strength to do what is required of me. As I thought about being a mom and the challenges and self-sacrifice motherhood requires I looked up and saw the bridge connecting two sides of this area. My first thought was that the bridge was beautiful and had a majestic presence. Then this thought entered my mind as I noticed the cars driving across. “You and all mothers are like this bridge…beautiful, a presence to be reckoned with, holding everything up, and yet the cars above, those that the bridge carefully upholds, do not even see the beauty and take it for granted until it is not there.” I began to think of my mother and all that she so willingly did for me even when I didn’t recognize or appreciate. I cried and knew that even if others couldn’t see that what I do is worthy and terribly important, I know and God knows. I sat awhile longer taking the time to gather my strength and my wits. When I came home I had a renewed hope in my abilities to nurture and care for the needs of others. I also came home knowing that those moments of meditation, quiet and self-care were vital to my success.
I was also visiting with a friend recently and we found a common interest in English literature and writing. She, too, is an English major. She expressed that she felt sad about writing because she felt she could not give the art justice in the small and rare moments available to her with two small children and a busy husband. She also said that it saddened her to see how her talents were weakened because she spent little time lately using them. I commiserated with her and when she left, I thought about my poetry and began reading my masters thesis, which is a collection of poetry that I wrote on the subject of motherhood. In the introduction of my thesis I quoted Debra L. Spar, “There was pain and sweat along the way, but the end point [of the feminist movement] was idyllic, liberating women–liberating them–from the pains of the past and the present. Somewhere, though, the joy fell out of the equation, along with the satisfaction that true choice should bring. If women want to work in high-powered jobs, they should. If they want to work part-time, or from home, or not at all…that’s perfectly alright too. If they don’t want to be neurosurgeons or look like Barbie or hook up every weekend…they should…hold back…If they like to bake elaborate organic cupcakes, they should. And if they don’t, they should send Ring Dings to the bake sale and try not to feel guilty” (B9). Spar’s quote illustrates well the tensions that women face today. The poems in my collection address the issues that arise as women seek joy and balance as a 21st century woman. After writing the poems for my thesis, searching myself and observing others, I only found that there is no one definition for womanhood; it is relative to the woman. The beauty of womanhood comes from its inherent complexity, the tension that arises from being a human being with so many important relationships to maintain.
Then I read this from God is Always Hiring by Regina Brett, in regards to motherhood, but I believe it applies to everyone in what their circumstance. “Baseball offers a good way to measure success. A great batting average is .300. That means 70 percent of the time, you fail. Even the greatest home-run hitters strike out. Some of the greatest players of all time are included in the list of the 100 major league players with the most strikeouts: Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth…How comforting. Every mom is playing in the major leagues. We have the most important job in the world. The reason we strike out is because every day we step up to home plate and swing with all we’ve got.” This passage gave me courage to keep stepping up to the plate. The name of the chapter that this passage was in is “There’s a time for everything but not always at the same time.” She explained that people don’t have to switch out different goals into the same bullseye, always shooting for something, but essentially missing because we can’t hit them all at the same time. There can be a different target for each of the facets of our life. When we are with our children, pull out the parent target and hit the bullseye. When we are working, pull out the professional target and hit the bullseye. She said she received this “clarity” when a woman said, “You can have it all; you just can’t have it all at the same time.” Well said! Now that I think of my friends discouragement, I realize that she can be a great mom and a great writer, they just may not be at the same time. I again felt peace as I considered the targets that I have right now in my life and how I might actually hit the bullseye in each one without feeling so much guilt. I also believe that God is good. I believe he knows me and my hopes. I believe he wants to bless me with what I need and even with what I want, but I must trust him and the journey that he has in store for me.
I hope that all women will let go of any guilt that they have, take a moment to meditate and re-evaluate which targets you want to aim for at the right times and then take courage to keep stepping up to the plate to swing at all whatever life is throwing you.