Finding (or, rather, “Protecting”) Joy in the Little Years
April 5, 2017
This week, I get to spend time with moms of preschoolers speaking on the topic “Finding Joy in the Little Years”.
As I was preparing for the lesson, I remembered the time a while back when I had to break up with a Facebook group.
It was a group full of moms swapping parenting stories, pictures, and experiences.
When the group first started, it started out awesome – great stories of epic mom fails. Of kids being hilariously kid-like.
Over time, however, it morphed into a place to air grievances. A place to wallow on the unfairness of it all.
“Being a _______ (stay-at-home/working) mom is SO much harder than being a _______ (stay-at-home/working) mom.”
“My husband didn’t do the dishes when he came home from work. Doesn’t he know how much I have to do all day and he can’t do one load of dishes?!?”
“I deserve a vacation/back rub/spa day for completing one day – unassisted, I might add – with my children.”
I made my breakup official when the complaint posts started outweighing the encouraging ones. When the memes morphed from solidarity in motherhood to the “my kids are driving me to develop a drinking problem” variety.
Memes like this:
I love a good joke – especially a good meme. I even love an Old Vine Zinfandel.
What I don’t love are
a) jokes that even hint that my kids – my source of greatest pride – have ruined my life
b) the seeds of entitlement that get planted in my brain with those lines of thought.
She’s right. My job as a mom is infinitely harder than anyone else’s because _____ (x, y, z).
Preach, girl. My husband doesn’t help around the house as much as he should, either. I can’t believe he doesn’t appreciate me as much as I deserve.
When is someone going to notice and applaud just how much of my life I sacrifice to raise 3 miniature people every day?
Woe. is. me.
This is dangerous.
When we start viewing life through the filter of underappreciation, we buy into the lie that parenting isn’t possible without unhealthy coping skills; that we deserve things like middle-of-the-day Netflix binge watching because we just “can’t even” anymore. We need to pop the cork on the wine bottle at 3pm because it helps take the edge off. We obsess over the hardships of our lives as moms vs. our husbands’ lives as business professionals – professionals who attend “client meetings” that look a whole lot like “eating delicious food in an air-conditioned suite at a professional sporting event”…
Through these thoughts, seeds are being planted.
For you and for me.
I’ll even let you pick your seed type: bitterness? Entitlement? Victimhood? Selfishness? Pride?
Whatever the variety, it’s being planted. Our exhausted, overextended mom brains are fertile soil for things to take root.
And if we aren’t careful, these seeds grow into something nasty.
There’s a big difference in bonding over a shared experience and bonding over a shared complaint.
Social media thrives in the latter.
When we forget this…when we let our guard down…when we get sucked into the “woe is me” narrative…our joy gets thrown out faster than nice things in a house full of tiny humans. We grow bitter and ohsovery underappreciated.
Sometimes we don’t even realize it has happened.
Sometimes we get about 8 miles down the path of discontentment before we look around and realize that, somewhere along the way, all of our joy has been choked out.
Sometimes we even laugh our way down this path because those posts/memes/stories/plot lines are just so funny.
The thing about humor is that it’s sneaky.
If you wrap a story about your husband being an idiot up in a joke, it slides into my brain and takes roots easier. More subtly.
The funnier you tell a story, the more I enjoy it; the more I enjoy it, the blurrier the lines between laughing AT your kids and laughing WITH your kids get.
Humor can be a sneaky avenue for toxic seeds to be planted. Not always, but more often than we realize.
We don’t have to look very hard to find joy in the little years (or any years, really); we have to work hard to protect it.
And evaluating the thoughts we allow in is a good start.
What story is your Facebook feed telling you? Is it encouraging you, or reminding you of just how hard being a mom/wife/coworker/human is?
What are your favorite Instagram accounts saying? Do they point to truth and authenticity, or to perfectly filtered, unattainable lifestyles?
What are the conversations at your play groups/work/girls’nights like? Do you walk away more appreciative of your spouse than when you walked in? Or did you swap enough negative stories to walk out with something new to be bitter about?
If your kids read your texts about them, would they feel loved? Or would they feel the need to apologize for inconveniencing you and cramping your independence?
I am all about some good “fail” stories. I’m all about hearing stories of unnamed children doing horribly embarrassing things in public places. I’m all about laughing with my husband about the time he asked, “Why do babies need burp cloths? Aren’t burps just air?”
Let’s laugh about that, absolutely. That’s what life is about – finding joy in the messiness and absurdity of living on planet earth.
What I’m not all about, however, is letting those connections morph from shared experiences to shared complaints.
Or allowing the weariness of navigating parenthood to turn into victimhood and bitterness.
Or giving entitlement room to grow and choke out my joy.
Being a mom of tiny humans doesn’t make me some sort of sacrificial martyr. I have the honor of loving and raising 3 of the greatest masterpieces ever created.
There is so much joy in the little years that it is physically painful for my camera roll.
There is so much joy in life.
I reject this “woe is me” line of jokes you’ve got going, pop culture. You aren’t going to rob me of the joy I find in the messy, exhausting, ridiculous, awesome hard work we’re putting into building this little family.
What a beautiful life I’ve been given. As far as it is up to me, my kids and my husband will never doubt my gratitude for that.