Monday, February 11, 2013

On why Addison didn't get a birthday party...and comparing mothers to bag ladies...

So I filled up your inboxes and new feeds last week with talk of Addison's birthday, musings from my perspective, pictures from hers. Some of you might now be expecting the pictures from a completely awesome Addison-themed birthday party.

Well, I have a small confession. I didn't throw her a party. In fact, I didn't throw her one last year or really the year before. (Note: this does NOT mean she didn't get chocolate...or presents...she got both of these in abundance I promise)
Over the weekend we DID attend two completely awesome birthday parties of Addison's friends. And especially this year I have struggled with my decision to not commit to a party.

I wanted to give her a party. According to Facebook, everyone else is doing it. According to Pinterest, each of those parties is grandiose and amazing. And yet, Addison is a poor, deprived child who had to make due with a family dinner at Texas Roadhouse. (She's been on a bit of a country music kick, so we thought it would be appropriate)

And as I tried to make sense of this in my mind and wrestle back the demon Mommy Guilt who spends way too much time with me, I decided to write about it. (A therapist somewhere is losing a lot of money to my blog)

There are many things that I want to do for my children- or even outside of my family for my church or for myself- that I choose not to do that others easily still do with their family demands. Wonderful things. Things that would be fun, amazing, and for sure spice up this blog with fantastic pictures.

And yet I don't. Why?
The way I see it, being a mother is a bit like being a bag lady.

You have the large bag that you carry on your back that signifies your children's physical health and safety. For me this means diaper changing, small body bathing, dressing them, feeding them, doctor's appointments, therapy appointments, pulling them down from tall heights that they managed to climb up to but have no way to get down except for a prayer and a jump...

Then in one hand you have a bag that signifies the home that you create for your children to live in. For me this includes laundry, fixing the meals to feed the little ones, vacuuming up the mess from the meals (this is a constant), wiping down small handprints, picking up the spreading virus of clutter, making the best use of the space we're given (improvised playrooms etc), organizing the mess, taking care of the sour smells (oh my the smells...with two kids in diapers it gets pretty ripe around here).

In another hand you include a bag that signifies the social and mental development that you provide for your children. Even if it's just as simple as flashcards or small gross motor skill exercises, this takes planning and time. Also, Mommy Guilt will spend a lot of time in this bag, making it seem heavier than it actually is.

And of course there is a bag for taking care of our husbands. Not to be overlooked, this is an important one, and when it comes to the all consuming nature of motherhood, I oftentimes add him to my list of children to make sure that he stays a priority to this mommy who often gets lost in the care of the two little ones.

On top of all of this you have to balance a bag for your own social life (which for me often gets pushed to the back of all the other bags), a bag for doing the "extras" around your home to help improve it beyond the normal upkeep, a bag for the energy it takes to get your children out to the door to various activities, a bag to keep your children in seasonally fitting clothes, a bag full of tricks to soothe a crying child, a bag full of so much love that you don't mind most of the time the constant sacrifice that motherhood demands of you, a bag for keeping toys free of germs, a bag for teaching skills such as potty training and self-feeding, a bag to breathe into to keep from hyperventilating because of all of the other bags...
And as I stand on the brink of motherhood insanity, juggling my bags and wondering how everyone else makes it look so easy, I then start to think of my upcoming child's birthday and the expectations that are upon mommy bloggers for parties for their children.

I have friends who are amazingly strong, and they successfully added another bag for a fab party and continued running along their daily marathon with their bags all balanced perfectly through another day of mommy hood awesomeness. (Seriously, the two parties we attended this weekend were really great)

But I have come to recognize that I am not them. All of our bags will be different. Different sizes, different weights, different points of balance needed because of the different phases of motherhood we are in. All of us have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the act of juggling our responsibilities. What one mother can successfully add to the bag collection might be the toppling point for another.

You have to choose- make priorities- and sometimes cut out super wonderful, well-intentioned things because it's not what's best for your family because of your ability to juggle what you already have. The hard thing is that this point of decision will be different for all of us, and it's easy to let the compare game make us feel like failures if we don't match our friend's mothering activities.

So no, I didn't throw Addison a party. And I refuse to feel guilty about it. I just know that if I were to do it at this point in my life, something else important would be dropped...and probably trampled.

A mother lying on the floor, crushed under the weight of the bags of her responsibility doesn't do anyone any good. Even if a post full of awesome birthday party pictures is uploading while she lies there waiting for the bolt of lightening to send her shooting back up into business- was the sacrifice worth it?
The balancing act is an every-changing dynamic, and I hope someday to be able to handle a party for my little little ray of sunshine. But right now, I knew it wouldn't be the best choice to me or my family, so I carried on appropriately.

I'm a mommy bag lady.

And after three years I'm still finding my ever-changing balance. It's OK to say no. It's OK to underperform the Pinterest boards. Because the most important thing to me is protecting the load on my back- even if it means that I have to drop a few-well meaning bags to stay upright.
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