I had a rather confronting conversation the last time I was back in Singapore, and it had gone something like this:
Friend: So… what are you working as now?
Me: I’m a stay-at-home mum
Friend: Yeah, but besides that?
Me: Um… that’s it. That’s my job. I stay at home and take care of Arddun.
Friend: You mean that’s it? Like, don’t you have a job apart from taking care of her?
Me: That’s enough for now, believe me.
And then I had launched into a mini-spiel about how being a SAHM is a full-time job, blah blah blah. All the while wondering if I had missed something huge. Like, am I maximising my time? Am I inadvertently being lazy? Are most of the other women home alone with toddlers also juggling a lucrative sideline in jewellery-making while studying for a grad dip in business economics? All while keeping the house immaculate, the waistline suitably skinny, and the child untouched by The Wiggles?
Am I not doing enough? Did I miss the secret memo on my obligations as a super woman?
So you know what I’ve gone and done since that conversation?
- renewed my gym membership
- redeveloped my church’s website
- taken up a freelance job
- started baking again.
And what I’ve succeeded in doing instead is
- see less of my husband
- lose sleep from working late hours
- fall sick repeatedly.
I’m not assigning blame to that friend or that conversation. I’m assigning blame wholly to my impatience, my pride, and my inability to bite off less than I can chew. Ever since I started secondary school, I’ve been notorious for triple booking myself. Crazy-eager to please others, crazy-eager to appease the inner voices, crazy-eager to conquer the world.
The first 16 months of Arddun’s life have been so blessedly peaceful because for the first time in a very, very long time, I found myself focusing on Just One Thing. My family. All the noise, all the clatter around the edges faded away. I had found The Happy – or at least what The Happy looks like to me now.
But in the last two months since I’ve worked my mind around going back to work, I’ve opened the floodgates and the busyness… the noise… has started to rush back in.
There is a sense of achievement in amongst it, sure. I’m really enjoying my freelance job, actually. And I’m glad I’m baking again because I enjoy baking for others – even if I’m not very good at it. And the church website has been one of those goals I’d been wanting to kick even before I had Arddun, so it’s great that it’s finally done. And the gym membership… well… at least it’s renewed. One step at a time.
But I’m also bone tired.
When thinking up of a title for this blog post, I thought about being a Time Warrior, and then I googled the term – only to find that someone had already written a book about being one. I’ve never read it, but the book summary seems to imply that one of the keys to productive time management is the letting go of people-pleasing and approval-seeking. And I really tussle with that description.
On the one hand, it really resonates with me. I think we are all inherently approval-seeking and people-pleasing. It’s how we like to get along in the world. And a lot of my people-pleasing stems from insecurity. I don’t like people not to like me, or think critically of my actions. Especially of how I manage my time.
But on the other hand, a lot of my people-pleasing stems from the desire to think of others before myself. I get really bugged that our family isn’t more hospitable, or that we’re not doing more for the work of the church. I also think we are called to be peacemakers – to be all things to all men which does seem to imply a sacrifice of one’s time and oneself for others. So the very idea of becoming a Time Warrior by “slashing out all the people-pleasing” sounds, to me, inherently selfish.
I guess what I’m trying to decide for myself while “thinking aloud” (i.e. blogging) is my motivation for getting busy these past 2 months. Am I doing it because I don’t want to appear lazy? Am I doing it because it’s for the edification of my family and friends? Am I doing it because I really want to?
Because there’s so very many things I want to do and be. I want to be a kick-ass wife. I want to be a kick-ass mum. I want to be a kick-ass asset to the church. I want to be a kick-ass writer, with a kick-ass career in writing and editing. Preferably earning kick-ass money to pay for kick-ass things for loved ones. Like immigration visas. And private tuition in kick-ass Christian colleges. I want to be a kick-ass blogger. With a kick-ass ass, honed by many diligent hours in yoga and pilates. YEAAAAARRRRHHH!
And of course there’s that wise old saying that
I can do it all… it just doesn’t have to be all at once.
I should probably get some sleep.
28 November 2012 at 2:42 am
What does God want for you? I think if what you do pleases God, you will be content.To me it is God first, family second, the rest is next and last, me. Keep on examining yourself, that’s what we as Christians are supposed to do anyway. The Bible is a clear mirror. Scary but clear.
28 November 2012 at 6:31 am
Inherent in all of this searching is the question of what God wants for me. But it’s not like He sky-writes very often. And I think many times, He gives us talents and goes, “Look, child! The world is your oyster! Just maybe stay clear of here, there, over there, and under that rock.” Which means the path may be narrow in the grand scheme of things, but for little ol’ me, it is still a huge and broad path. And I want to walk all of it, all at once.
In theory, I agree with the order that you prescribe – God, family, the rest, me. But in practice, it is difficult to execute because I doubt it is a linear progression. Sometimes, in order to serve everyone else, the self must be put last. Other times, in order to serve everyone else, the self must be replenished and therefore put “first”. The trick is knowing when to do which. And yes, the spirit replenishes and God does the refilling. But it’s knowing when to back off and go – OKAY, time out. Gotta go. Bye.
That’s my struggle.
28 November 2012 at 11:33 am
Also, I am currently very content as a SAHM but I also don’t want to be complacent. I think a lot of complacence can be disguised very cleverly by the devil as contentment. And there’s a part of me that’s constantly second-guessing this sense of calm and wondering if perhaps I’m actually being quite lazy.
28 November 2012 at 12:10 pm
Okay… after EVEN MORE mulling and praying over this subject, I concur with you. You’re right, mum. It should be that simple, and it probably IS that simple. I might be over-complicating things by over-thinking, and then getting defensive when I shouldn’t be.
Anyhoo… had a squiz at Psalms and lookee what popped up:
If it is not the Lord who builds a house,
the builders are wasting their time.
If it is not the Lord who watches over the city,
the guards are wasting their time.
It is a waste of time to get up early and stay up late,
trying to make a living.
The Lord provides for those he loves,
even while they are sleeping.
Children are a gift from the Lord,
a reward from a mother’s womb.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.”
But just to complicate things a little:
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
And then there’s Proverbs. My favouritest book of all because each verse is just jam-packed with awesomeness:
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
28 November 2012 at 5:19 am
Great post – these are exactly the same things I’m struggling with! Let me know when you have it all worked out ;o) Seriously though, i think God wants us to keep wrestling with these issues – makes sure we are consciously thinking about our priorities in this world. Love to catch up with you again soon! Kat xo
28 November 2012 at 11:31 am
We SHOULD catch up soon! When are you free this week?
I think that’s exactly it – the wrestling with the issues, and the consciously thinking of it. It’s constant. It’s a little comforting to know that God probably wants us to think about our priorities and to consciously ask what His will is. But geez, it’s tiring.
28 November 2012 at 3:33 pm
another great post! love the way you thrash out your thoughts and share them… i can SO relate to much of what you wrote here and want to natter about it all… perhaps IRL would be easier, lol! but i will say – YES I so hear ya about the PEACE I felt/feel from when I first stayed home w Lily. After 28 years of rushing around, busy busy busy trying to do everything. To just know I was in a good place and God was a-ok with me focusing on parenting my little one/s. it was like… PHEW!!! Slow down, do this well, I have done much and much will be done again but for now… enjoy this season. Relief huh!? :) YES i also know those other thoughts that creep in saying its time to do ‘more’ – and can be hard to decipher if that’s satan tempting us not value the worthy work of family-raising OR a conscience-prick from God to open our eyes to our capability to do more. I guess only prayer/discussion w others/much thought/bible can help discern that! (what ur doing here!)…
I will say that I’m pretty sure that scripture is not saying we SHOULD do EVERYTHING just cos it’s there to be done! (phew!). More like – the things God wills and wants me to do, He will enable. His power, His time, His plan.
As for people-pleasing – YES again. I hear ya!And yes to trying to discern whether I am doing a zillion ‘extras’ to make others happy in a selfless (to honour God and put others first) or selfish (to make others like me, approve of me or seeing i’m doing good) way. I find my husband (guys in general?) is a much better judge of this (eg less worried about others approval or how things look) and can help me discern when its right or too much to take other stuff on. Especially when it means putting my own family at the bottom of the ladder which i know is not what God wants!
Anyway, sorry for the ramble! I am grateful that I feel utter peace (and therefore no defensiveness) that being at home right now is the absolute right thing for me… and of course grateful that I also have the option to do it. But I still very much struggle w all the extras and other factors you mentioned! So thanks for sharing. You are doing amazing stuff and esp the way you think all this stuff through so earnestly – God wont fail to notice or help you in your decisions xx
29 November 2012 at 1:37 am
You explained it so well. We work so hard to be the best parents but we still seek validation from others. You are already a supermom just make sure to add just a few more things to that to do list :) You have a wonderful blog and glad to have found you :)
30 November 2012 at 12:08 pm
Hi, I’m the publisher of Time Warrior by Steve Chandler and I do think you would enjoy the book despite your misgivings. Steve says the best thing you can do for others is to make your own life work. So you see, it’s not all about selfishness. It’s about making your own life work. That’s a great foundation for helping others… especially your loved ones. If you care to send me your mailing address I’ll send you the book in paperback format or as an audiobook on CD, gratis. Best wishes, Maurice
30 November 2012 at 12:42 pm
What a pleasant surprise! Thanks for stopping by, and for taking the time to tell me more about the book. I will be PMing you soon. :)