Thursday, February 08, 2007

Motherhood and Meaning

I've been in a low-grade depression over the past few weeks. Apathy has kicked Motivation's behind and sent it packing.

This is nothing new to me. Every few months, I slowly slip into a grey funk. There is no fanfare or melodramatic crisis, normally. It's just a slow descent into dissatisfaction.

Usually, I do my best to ignore it. Emotionally, I feel as though I will never feel light, joyful, and fulfilled again; but, luckily, I have my cold, hard logic to try and keep me warm. Rationality whispers thing like:"It's just hormones and stress,;" "It'll pass and you'll be fine," "There are people who are worse off than you, " and "You've been through this before."
And so, Emotion and Logic do their rehearsed tango, each vying for the lead, and stepping all over each other in the process. Eventually, logic wins out, but not without a few cuts and bruises to show for its hard-won battle.

While ruminating over this irritating, consistent battle, I was trying to pinpoint the source of this latest bout of ennui. There must be some reason for my lethargy.(see...there's rationality...rearing its head again) So, I pondered.

Things have been going remarkably well at home. Financially, we had been wondering how we were going to make it with me still at home until this fall, when our youngest begins Kindergarten. Then, God blessed us with an unexpected, completely-out-of-the-blue, raise for my husband. It was the exact amount required for us to make it on his income alone. Previously, we were 80% there, but still were constantly trying to find that pesky 20% that was needed each month. God always provided it, but it was stressful. I was ecstatic, grateful, relieved and filled with hope at our new circumstances.

Then, the only remaining obstacle was our terminally ill car. We had no money to buy a new one, and could not afford a car payment. What were we going to do? Luckily, the U.S. government thinks we need credit for contributing to the population, so they are sending us a fortuitous tax refund-enough for advancing the search for a new car, in a big way.

I should be happy.

I should be satisfied.

And yet, I'm not.

And, I think that I have figured out why.

All of a sudden, I am not needed. If I sell things through my business, that's great, but not necessary. I have lost the sense of fighting for my family, of contributing to its well-being and advancing our cause when the odds were stacked against us and our vision.

This lack of fight has coincided at the same time that my children have become more self-sufficient. They don't need me in the same way that infants and toddlers need their mothers. They brush their own teeth, dress themselves, and have even made their own breakfast once or twice (cold cereal, of course). It shouldn't bother me. After all, I am the one who taught them how to do these things and have always wanted to teach my children to become independent and self-reliant.

I should be happy.

But, I'm not.

Crazy thoughts have been running through my head. Maybe, I should have one last child. Maybe, I should homeschool. Maybe, we should become foster parents.

What?!

I have looked forward to the maturing of my children. I have held it out as the beacon of hope that sustained me through all the madness of temper tantrums, potty training, and nap schedules. How could I even think such blasphemous thoughts? Here, my "freedom" is approaching and I'm thinking of ways to stay in lockdown.

I had never realized before how much I need to feel needed. I have to have a goal in order to survive. It used to be teaching them to talk, walk, and learn their shapes-colors-letters-manners was my goal. Then, it was helping us survive financially so I could be here to nurture them and protect their first five years of childhood. Then, it was growing my business in order to achieve all of the above. Now, for the first time, I'm not sure what my goal is.

Sure, they still need me, but it is in a much less tangible way. I have moved from being the sole source of education and guidance, to being the facilitator of such things. My importance has decreased as they have gotten older. That is as it should be, but I never realized how internally devastating it would be.

I wouldn't change anything, but I realize now that I am going through a mini empty-nest syndrome. For seven years, my life has been wrapped up in my family, and in fighting the good fight for them. Now that I am at the end of this phase, I feel very uncertain about what comes next. How will I define myself in the coming years? What will be my new goal and reason to fight? I haven't figured it out yet, but I am sure that I will.

Logic told me so, and you know that he has the obnoxiousness to always be right.

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