Thursday

acedia & motherhood | exorcising the noonday demon



I don't think I'm cut out for this stay-at-home-mom gig.

You're not supposed to admit that, are you? I'm blessed and lucky to be able to stay home, so the least I can do is be grateful, right?

I am grateful. I love my kids fiercely. I loved being the one at home when they were tiny. But at three and five, they aren't tiny anymore. And I'm weary and poured out. 

Five years is a long time in the land of littles. 

--

We don't spank. God doesn't parent me with fear, threats, or force, and I don't want to either.

We listen with our ears.
We speak kind words.
We help with our hands.
We love each other.

These are our rules. We do love each other, but not always well. There are days in which we hurt as much as we help, and around here, listening is like a unicorn--or an errand by myself. It's difficult to be kind at top volume. A little bit louder and a Whole Lot Worse.

A hot, crimson rage fills my heart, love.

The fabled Mommy Wars are fought on two fronts: in the media, of course, but many days, the battle feels closer, under my roof. I feel foolish for believing that babywearing and breastfeeding would create a magical foundation of attachment, trust, and peace in my home.

I don't want to reinvent the wheel, but I don't know how others do it. If a kid isn't naturally compliant or fearful of punishment, where is the incentive to abide by family rules or function as a team? I can't prevent and redirect every negative behavior. I can't even keep my own shit together.

--

Deep down, I know that every Yes is a No to something else: a clean house, a play date, a quiet morning at home. But I keep joining. Staying too long. Committing to things whose season has waned. I hang on, just in case.

If I don't keep putting myself out there, this loneliness could be construed as entirely my own making.

--

There was that study last spring, about how stay-at-home-moms (especially low-income ones) experience more depression than working moms or women without kids at home. The findings familiar, my eyes brimmed. Mothering is emotionally exhausting. Without that village it takes (or the money to hire one), the isolation exacts its toll.

--

I saw a counselor once this summer. She had a lot of pointers.

I just needed to get out more. Date nights!

Writing might not be the best use of my time. Too solitary!

And she was the one, after I told her we didn't spank, who reminded me none-too-subtly about a certain Proverb's fondness for smacking kids with rods.

I wiped my eyes and nodded my head dumbly. So hungry was I for adult conversation that I made an appointment to return the next week.

But I didn't. I remembered my already-ample access to ill-suited advice from strangers, free-of-charge.

I called to cancel. "You'll be fine," she assured understandingly and yet not at all. "You just need to get happy again."

--

I finished a book about acedia, the noonday demon, bane of solitaries, desert monastics, and apparently, stay-at-home-moms. It's a spiritual restlessness, different from clinical depression, but with similar markers: lethargy, languor, and lack of attention to the daily upkeep of life.

I'm still in deep. I confess it here, without tidy resolution, to say: I'm ready to work, to fight. Not my kids. Not my husband, not even myself, but the acedia. The creeping suspicion that if my best isn't good enough, then what's the point in trying at all? 

Work, gratitude, and prayer are all antidotes, and when I'm stuck like this, I shrink from all three. But I need them, blessed footholds to climb my way out. To live again as an actor in my own life. To fight hard against complacency and escapism. To be present to joy in hardship, purpose in monotony, and holy ground on the kitchen floor.

To not despise the day of small things.


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