Monday, July 18, 2005

Just Enjoy It

My husband, Topher, has been out of town for a while and the kids and I have been "hanging out." By "hanging out" I mean doing fun, physically exhausting things during the day, and then putting them to bed early. We go swimming, go to the park, ride bikes, go to the library (okay, maybe they're not ALL physically exhausting, but have you ever taken 4 kids to the library? 1. it isn't quiet 2. sometimes things get ugly) I think I handle it pretty well; I scream and yell rarely, but only when necessary--for dramatic effect. I'm not Mary Poppins, although I do break into song throughout the day, but I'm no Sherry Bobbins (Simpson's anyone? anyone?)

So on Sunday, as I took all four children to church solo, I had realistic expectations. I brought crayons and books and gave the children a sit-down lecture and warning before church. All in all they were "good" (about a 7.3 on a 10 point scale). It was hard carrying in the diaperbag, activity bag, and infant, all the while trying to grab Phoebe's hand as she ran up the aisle, missing our stopping point, and whisper loudly trying to get Owen off the floor after one of his dramatic "opps I fell on accident--or. . . did. .. I. . .?" performances. Miles was no help, he gets his gaze fixed on someone or something, ideas start swarming around in his head and he forgets where he is or what he's doing and bumps into one of the pews. As we get settled Hugh starts screaming and I have to make a break for it. I motion to one of my friends to sit with my kids (all her's are grown and gone) and I go feed Hugh. It's a great set-up: that mother's lounge. I sit back and nurse in a soft recliner, listen to the speakers uninterrupted and can even close my eyes with no fear of offending anyone. It's a great deal and I only feel a little guilty about sticking my friend with my kids. She's the Relief Society President so it's like her job, right? Besides, Hugh is the only baby under a year in our ward--so he's got that great novelty factor. Anyway, I come back a few blissful, quiet minutes later and sit with my kids. I even think I was smiling. No, I'm sure I was. This fact will become more important as this THRILLING story continues.

Sacrament Meeting is over and I'm gathering shredded pieces of the program, broken crayons, and various items from Owen's pocket off the floor, grabbing my bags with Hugh over my shoulder. As I'm writing this, I'm even a little impressed with the feat, when this well-groomed woman with grey-white mom hair, a conservative red dress that buttons in the front, comes up to me and says, "I just wanted to tell you that I had EIGHT children." She paused with a smirk on her face that suggested that it was now the appropriate time for me to compliment her with something like, "Oh WOW! That's a lot!" or "Oh, how DID you DO it?" or "Oh I am just in AWE!" but I was too busy for that and I hate telling people what they want to hear. I just raised my eyebrows which could be interpreted as, "OH. . . " or "And. . . " without sounding as rude as it would if I had said anything. As Topher can attest, I'm not so good at hiding the sarcasm in my voice. Cause where I come from, when you meet someone for the first time, you usually open with a. a greeting or b. an introduction. I thought that she was just really proud of herself and her birthing eight children that she just couldn't keep it in any longer, and that would be that. I was wrong. She was very earnest and leaned in and told me, "I was watching you during Sacrament Meeting, (interpret: CREEPY) and I just wanted to tell you, JUST ENJOY IT." and she walked away with satisfaction oozing out of her--as if she were going to run home and write in her journal about how she had helped this poor, young mother.

Here's why I hate her:

Okay, not her as a person, but as an idea/stereotype/situation, whatever--or like my mother taught me, "I don't hate her, just what she does." Here's why I loathe said thingy;

First of all, it's really, really presumptuous. She's assuming that I was really stressed out and hating motherhood. Like I was having one of those "what does it all mean" moments. Which I wasn't. She obviously doesn't know me, but worse than that she assumes that everyone is like her, or is like she was. But can I go up to her and say, "Just enjoy home without your kids. You didn't really appreciate it when you had it, but it's too late." Can you imagine if I said that? I will tell you I can.

Second of all, she really thought it was appropriate to serve me a hot plate of unsolicited advice with a generous dollop of judgement on top. Not only did I not ask for her advice, I don't even KNOW her, and she's assuming I'm a stressed out mom. Well if I wasn't feeling crappy, thanks for nudging me in that direction.

Third, I know all about enjoying every moment. I'm an extremely emotional person who cries on the first day of anything and everything and I constantly worry about capturing every moment and all of that so the last thing I need is a helpful, neighborly reminder. I'm out of control when it comes to all of that, and I do the double-guessing yourself, guilt thing really, really well.

Fourth (I'll stop after this one, I promise), I hate the idea by these women like Ms. Enjoy that doesn't suggest, but INSISTS that the more kids you have, the better mother you are. Cause, really? It was her first, and only, point of command: I have eight children so listen to my words of enlightenment. Obviously birthing does not equal raising. I've seen plenty of really good mothers and they don't have a number in common, but I won't go on because this is a blog about a crazy woman, not how to be a good mom.

This incident reminds me of a conversation that I had with a woman in my ward a few months ago when I was 8 months pregnant. I was bloated, fat, had a sharp pain in my back, I was tired,-- the whole glowing miracle that was me. This woman came up to me and said,

"I loved EVERY MINUTE of being pregnant. I never felt better or more beautiful."

"EVERY minute?" I replied.

"Oh yes! It was the best time of my life. I never felt better."

"Then you've forgotten." I don't hide my scepticism. The hormones have taken over and there's no filter.

"OH NO!" she insists.

"Then you're lying. I don't believe you for one minute."

(she shakes her head.)

"You're lying. You're a liar or you don't remember." I just called her a liar and I don't care. Topher runs out of the room.

"Oh, no, I felt so alive and grea. . ."

I cut her off. I have no time for this. I tell her: "You see, this information is no good to me now. I have pretty good pregnancies--I really do--I've heard horror stories and I'm grateful I have good pregnancies, but lets not turn it into something it's not. It's really, really hard and I'm really, really uncomfortable." I hope my honesty has touched her.

"Well. . ." I imagine she's considering my plea to tell the truth--to free me from the guilt that somehow I"m not graceful enough to enjoy every moment of the miracle of life, but instead I hear a deafening, ". . .no, it's not hard."

My friend, Katie, who is pregnant with her fifth, said I should really take her advice and "just enjoy it" : Your washing machine broke? Just enjoy washing your clothes by hand! Oh, you have cancer? just enjoy the chemo! Your husband's leaving you? Just enjoy the time you have for yourself now! You can see how this game can get a little out of control, can't you? (Katie and I did) It dawns on my that this "I love being pregnant" woman ALSO had eight children. (Katie promised me to have 7 OR 9) Coincidence? I'm chewing on the possibilities.

38 comments:

Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson said...
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Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson said...

lisa, when people out here ask me how I do it with 3 kids, i proudly tell them I AM A MOTHER IN ZION

Bek said...

Oh Lisa,

I think I need to remind you of the phrase that has become a mantra in my life. It is also responsible for the the fact that 1. I am active in the church.
2. I am still married
3. I have not yet sold my children to the gypsies (a favorite threat in our house)

IGNORE THE CRAZY!! :-)

While living with "the crazy" makes for fun blogging, it is so incredibly annoying. Why is it that all the people who fall into the catagory of "the crazy" feel the need to compulsivly share their opinion on everything? My new gift for newlyweds and newly baptized is going to be this phrase cross stitched on a pillow.

wendysue said...

Here's why I hate her (with an amen to all of your comments). . . she's there with you, and I'm not.

Wendy

wendysue said...

Oh Lisa, you really are my twin! Remember how we used to really think that?? I Hate those ladies that LOVE pregnancy, and can't even remember feeling a little bit off, let alone puking their guts out every day until week 18 like me! And echo that to the moms that Oh, I just LOVE EVERYTHING about motherhood. Get real, honestly, what are you trying to sell me? I mean I love my children and all, and 9 out of 10 times they are really good kids, and I know they'll be grown and gone before I know it, but are you seriously telling me you haven't for one second wanted to walk out the door? I would like to personally invite Ms. Enjoy and Ms. Love Pregnancy and Motherhood to my home on any given night around 8:45 when the kids get their second wind and Whitney is screaming at the top of her lungs. She can come over and "ENJOY" that any time she would like!
p.s. I really do miss you, especially when we have crazy days like these, we just need to be together having a big virgin strawberry daquiri as the kids run circles around us!

Hey Rebecca, could I order one of those pillows?

Suzie Petunia said...

I'd also like to place an order for the cross-stitched pillow! :) Right now I am singing, "YES! Here is another mom that understands me!" I can relate all-too-well to the kind of conversations you described. Next time Mrs. Enjoy It tells you to "just enjoy it", ask her to change the baby's poopy diaper (and enjoy it).

lisa v. clark said...

good advice! I think it's time to share a little poop with the world.

Erbecca, you could make a killing off those pillows.

I went to Enrichment tonight (read: desperate to get out of the house and use the free babysitter) where a single gal with no kids was giving me advice as to how to keep my kids quieter in sacrament meeting, and then I came home just in time for Phoebe to throw up on me cause the babysitter let her chew/eat on a pencil (k, what?) But I'm not complaining, I'm just explaining what it is I'm enjoying today. . .

Teresa said...

First of all, I want to know where this magical ward is in Provo where you have the only infant! That is amazing! There are many pockets in Utah, Lehi for one, where there are so many young families that children of the ward could do a perfect reenactment of the 2000 Stripling Warriors! I happen to not live in one of those areas, so I guess I shouldn’t complain about the half a dozen or more infants in my ward.
Second, I had a thought about this “Enjoy it” woman. Maybe, and I really don’t mean this sarcastically, maybe you should feel sorry for her. If she is qualifying herself by the number of children she has birthed, preceding even her name, perhaps there is a lack of fulfillment in her life. (Or maybe I just have one too many shrinks in my family, which is quite possible.)
And third, I just took my four kids to the library—that IS an exercise!

Kacy said...

I just want you to know that I hate that woman as a person. Just to clarify: I hate her and I hate what she does.

Eric D Snider said...

Lisa, I'm sorry I haven't been there to help you take care of our children. Just enjoy it, K?

Bek said...

Pheobe threw up a pencil? Wow, that actually takes talent!!

I am going to start making the pillows to earn extra money for myself so I can really begin to "enjoy" motherhood. Actually, I think I would use the money to PAY for the privledge of motherhood. These adopted babies aren't cheap. :-)

For my birthday a few years ago, my friend had an apron made for me that says "Ignore the Crazy". It is had become a cherished item. I just re read your post and the part that really reverberates w/ me is how patronizing it is and and that it makes the assumption that you are not over your head. Grrrr.

christopher clark said...

Hi, this is your husband in Fresno. I'm still here doing magical fruity things like "giving my hands the gift of my breath." Anyway, I was a little excited to steal away to church on Sunday. And I thought it would be nice to actually be able to listen to talks. Turns out, it was SUPER BORING. I really missed picking Owen up off the floor and passing Phoebe back and forth to Kimmy Bramble. When the sacrament tray went down the row, I missed that sense of danger and unexpected surprise that comes when six dodgy hands shoot out for the bread clumps.

Lisa, you should seriously enjoy it. Listening to talks is overrated. And don't get me started on Sunday School!!!!!

wendysue said...

Lisa, speaking of children on the floor. We sit in the back row where there's plenty of room for my kids to just spread out on the floor with their crayons, paper, books, snacks, etc. I love watching those little deacons try to make it over and around the obstacle course my children have left. :)

Gabby said...

I'm just impressed you made it into the chapel.

When I'm sans husband, I park it on the couch in the lobby and let my kids run the loop. (That's right, we attend a non-standard floorplan building that features a continuous hallway.)

As they pass, I call out my due diligence discipline: "Hey run reverently in the church kids. Oh, and get me a treat from the primary closet on your next lap."

Lorien said...

Gabby-what a SUPERB strategy! I'm tucking that one away for certain.

Maybe loved-being-pregnant lady already has alzheimers. Maybe she's been brainwashed by other Mollys. Maybe her brain isn't connected to her womb or the rest of her body. I had pretty easy pregnancies, too, and I hate those schmaltzy women who love watching their bodies change (what the?). Gag. It may be natural, and it is amazing, beautiful, and a miracle and all that, but it doesn't feel good and anyone who says it does is, like you said, lying or nuts.

As for the lady with 8...UGH! I've been fortunate enough to have a few lovely ladies who smile and laugh with me (I think it's with) and tell me they remember how it feels. Why can't they all be like this?

lisa v. clark said...

Lorien-My mother-in-law (who had 9 kids) is really good at that: laughing with you and never making you feel stressed out about the craziness your children create. Why can't everyone be more like that? Because most people are crazy. I think Kacy really put her finger on the pulse of this topic.

Gabby, as always, I like your style. why didn't I think of the Primary treat closet?! oh, that's because our Primary has BANNED any food of any kind--not even a carrot or cracker (let alone a good treat) It's my main goal in this ward to get that ban lifted. That's another issue for another blog. . .

Erbecca: pillows AND aprons. .. a killing I tell you.

Suzie Petunia said...

Where have you people been all my life? You actually GET parenthood! I can already tell "Ignore the crazy" is going to become a standard phrase in our household. And I'm with Christopher Clark all the way... Sunday School is overrated. My youngest recently turned 18-months and my husband was simultaneously called to serve in the nursery. Here I am left all alone in Gospel Doctrine twiddling my thumbs. OK, I haven't actually been yet...but I'm sure I would be. Without wrestling kids in sunday school it is like I have ADD or something. I can't sit still and listen!

c jane said...

Lisa,
I get the "just enjoy it" thing all the time. When I tell people about infertility they always tell me to "just enjoy the time with your husband" as if I haven't thought of that.
Sometimes I want to tell them about how much we enjoy "it" and make them really embarassed.
"Oh yeah, good advice, just enjoy it. You mean sex right? Well actually just this weekend..."

Lorien said...

Jane-fabulous. Simply fabulous. Please, please, PLEASE try that one and let us know how it turns out. I'm bustin up.

Bek said...

Lisa,

Your post and Courtney's comment inspired the next post on my blog. Courtney, we had the same thing when we only had one child who was approaching 4. Check out my post in the next few days---it is more of my coping mechanisms. From one infertile lady to another "JUST ENJOY IT". Just kidding, I mean hang in there, you will have your family. You will have to work harder for it then most, but your children will come to you.

I will always be grateful for my mom who always tells me "I had 6 kids under 10, it MUST have been hard but I don't remember". She doesn't invalidate my feelings but she is honest.

Teresa said...

I asked my mom once how she handled three children under 4 years old. She said, "I remember sitting on the floor and just crying; it was so hard." Now that's the part about motherhood that they don't tell you until it is too late!

lisa v. clark said...

My mother, bless her heart, continues to insist that having 5 kids in 10 years was NEVER hard. NEVER? my sister ("Tina", with her third girl on the way) and I ask constantly. . . Now I'm not one to call my own mother a liar, so I have to come to the logical conclusion that it was so difficult that she's blocked it out completely. After all, I was there.

Josh said...

Thanks Lisa - to all the stupid people out there: SHUT IT! This is where those cards would come in handy....

abelnap said...
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Little Miss said...

Hmmm...and I thought those conversations only took place OUTSIDE of utah.

At least it's considered "normal" to have more than two kids in Provo. Here in the south, people are constantly looking at me like I'm a crazy woman...even feeling sorry for me because "boy, [I] sure have my hands full!"

What am I supposed to say to those well-meaning couples who feel the need to "compliment?" me everytime I venture out of the house?! And Gasp, what will they say when we decide to have another baby? Oh the inhumanity! Someone save me, or quick, offer me some empathy, or patronizing glance, or words of "comfort" to make all right with the world. K, I need to stop this.

I'm just glad I'm not alone.

~j. said...

I recently returned from NY, where I was for 5 weeks with kids & no husband. I made my 6 year-old take her almost 4-year-old sister to her primary class with her so that she (4) would stop crying, and I convinced the nursery person that clara really IS 18 months, and not 15. Sacrament meetings were spent: first week, in the mothers' lounge; 2nd week, in the hall; remaining weeks, at grandma's house. it was all so enjoyable...

Hailey said...

I just think it's a bit ironic that I was sitting here, reading this entry and chuckling to myself, "Boy, if I had a nickel," when I heard Ethan coughing and sputtering in the next room. He appeared in the doorway soon after, covered head to toe in vomit. My only regret is that I did not have the phone number of Ms. Enjoy It, so that I could have invited her over to enjoy this wonderful midnight moment. But alas, since I had no way to contact her, I had to endure the guilt associated with enjoying this moment all by myself. (Well, Ben helped a lot, too, but it's more fun, and "enjoyable" to take all the credit)
And by the way, after I had Mila, I searched high and low for someone who would even come close to admitting that sometimes they struggled. My greatest desire was to be at one of those playgroup things when everyone was talking about how wonderful everything was and just come out and say, "OK, that was fun, now let's talk about what sucks! I'll go first!"

jennie finnerty said...

Lisa - Ihave never known anybody to "just enjoy it" quite as much as you did. I know that was back in the days when you just had two and Phoebe was a bump but, hey you are supermum!! Why is it (I've just realised reading all your messages) that us English are brainwashed from birth that any more than two children is illegal!? And you've seen the stressed out miserable mums at toddler group here right! I'm regretting it now, wish I'd had a load more, and tell that stupid woman to get over to Dawlish, England and see what reaction she gets!! Miss ya Lisa xx

lisa v. clark said...

JENNIE!!! It's so good to "hear you" on my blog!!! A representative from the other side of the pond . . . I appreciate you witnessing that I "enjoyed it"--that means a lot to me.

I don't think your theory is unique to England--think most people in the United States are "brainwashed" into thinking two is the max, too. I just happen to have a lot of Mormon friends who, like me, came from large families and grew up wanting that enviornment/life (craziness and all!)

How are Ryan and Ellie?!?!?

Katheryn said...

Lisa -- I've been waiting to post something until I had something really wonderful to write, but really...I don't. It just hurt me to read that there were people who belittled your unbelievable efforts and victories as a mom, and that you felt the sting. I think you rock. I could never have four children. John and I are just enjoying our nephew (Carolyn's son). We're looking far off into the future at the idea of having even one kid (though we'd like two), for the very reason that all that responsibility, energy, stress, uncertainty, sacrifice, etc. times four makes you an incredible person. It's really really hard to raise kids. So here's all the credit they should have given you in the first place!

Tina the sistah said...

I find that motherhood is a joy and a blessing. My children are a source of constant joy and I enjoy them everyday when we make crafts, read stories, and spend those quiet magical times cuddling. Oh, sorry, I was in my "happy place" while the girls were fighting over marshmallows strewn on my dirty, ant-infested kitchen floor, but in my 7th month of pregnancy I'm unable to bend over and pull them (the children) apart. Erbecca, I'll help you sew the approns and pillows!

wendysue said...

Wait a minute, is that last comment from who I think it is??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Bek said...

TINA!!! You blogged!! Yippeee.

We can go 50/50 on them. By the way, call me because I think I have a publisher for the first books in the Tina Games empire.

:-)

P.S. With all the other crap that is on T-shirts these days, Ignore the Crazy could work. We could get Amanda to wear one, then dress a celeb in one and before we know it, we will be seeing it flying off the sheves at Kitson and poppin up in music videos? :-)

lisa v. clark said...

Bek and Tina: someday, you will both rule the world. Please remember me.

Katheryn: Thanks for the cheers--really nice. Of course it sounds worse once you write it down. The fact is I do get a lot of satisfaction out of what I do and a lot of support. It's just that life is so, so very funny.

GINA! I mean TINA! : Welcome to the blog.

Lorien said...

The other day I saw a commercial with the mom caressing her child's face as she lovingly put the child to bed. And the child was perfectly content to be in bed. It was one of those beautiful, satisfying moments where parent and child grow closer. Am I the only one who is just beat at the end of the day? When all you can say (and sometimes beg) is "just go to bed!" and having a special moment couldn't be further from your mind. Truthfully, about 80% of the time I hate bedtime. Oh well. I guess I should just specialize in breakfast or something.

Bek said...

Lorien,

I am right with you about bed time. In my mind I know it should be a special bonding time and full of fun rituals, but in my real world it is a game of "how fast can you get ready and just go to sleep already".

My husband works a LOT and is never home (a popular theme w/ mothers). He goes to work at 4:00 am so I don't even get to see his face at breakfast. When he makes it home in time--HE does bedtime. Granted, it is the only time of day he sees his kids, but it makes me feel better knowing that they are getting some of that "special bedtime ritual" stuff. If it was up to me, it just wouldn't happen.

The sad things it--I don't have 4 kids like you guys, just two. Yikes. By the time I get four I am sure bedtime will consist of me squirting them off with the hos in the back yard, letting them sleep in their dress ups and just telling them that I don't care WHAT they do in there as long as I can't hear it and the door is closed!!!

"Just Enjoy It" Committee Chairperson said...

Lisa,
You know what I would enjoy about now?
A new post on your blog.
Thanks!
The Committee

Becky Baird said...

Lisa,

Seriously. Can you tell you struck a nerve on this one? But don't worry, we single gals get it too! I'm always hearing "Just enjoy your time as a single". Um, why wouldn't I? The PRESUMPTION is what gets me! Obviously I need someone to explain that life isn't unfulfilling just because I'm "a single". Pretty sure I'm kicking butt and taking names! Pretty sure I've enjoyed my life as much as humanly possible! But it's like you're not really allowed to enjoy it. That is, unless an older LDS married mom of 8 tells me I can! Oh, Judy indeed!

Do I sound angry? I'm really just wicked animated. Lisa, I think you and Katie should write a book on how to enjoy motherhood...and then NOT sell it in LDS bookstores! They're not ready for the smack down.

I love your blog, you are like a blog superstar to me. Write a new one asap! That is, unless you're not too busy enjoying the blessed life!

LOVE YOU!