Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Was it wrong to be unhappy?

As you probably remember from yesterday's post, I've been accomplishing quite a bit lately....

And I don't think I've experienced this level of life satisfaction in years. Today, I cleaned out the 18-year-old boy's room in preparation for setting up my pseudo-photography studio....

And in the past two days I've done, literally, about 60 loads of laundry, most of which came from the basement....

And I've packed the 4 four and under's suitcases for our upcoming trip, for which we don't leave for another five days... (See how organized I am?)

And while I breastfeed, which is a lot, as you can see...

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...I spend my time poring over images of newborn babies so I can get a feel for what direction I want to go when I feel competent enough to start taking clients.

So this is what I feel bad about. Is it wrong to be this happy over things that in no way involve my children?

It is so amazing to have the four oldest home for the summer to help with the four youngest, and it feels so incredibly rewarding to actually be accomplishing something. I mentioned these feelings to my mother, that I feel like I might have been somewhat unhappy for the past two or three years, because I haven't been accomplishing anything, and she cried, "Jennifer! You have been accomplishing something! You've been keeping all those kids alive!"

Now, I'm not sure this was a compliment or not. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to do more than just keep my kids alive. But I got her point. I'm supposed to feel good about raising kids and find the "joy in the journey" of doing that. However, when I evaluate my feelings of the past two weeks, with the older kids being home, and me not being pregnant, or having a newborn or baby twins, or moving (which I've done seven times in the last six years), I realize I felt immensely happy. And something I've also noticed is that when the older kids are gone, such as when they went to help a very good friend set up her kids' bunk beds, and I have to do everything involving the 4 four and under on my own, I'm stressed, and irritated, and feel unfulfilled.

So I've been wondering if this is how I've felt for the past two to three years, and didn't even realize it. And aren't I supposed to like being a mother of young children more? Shouldn't I be able to find happiness in the cute smiles...

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...the chubby toes and cheeks...

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...and the kisses...

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??????????????

I do. I really do, but it's wonderful to have a new hobby/potential part-time job (very part time, believe me) to think about, and when I need to find a happy place for my thoughts to go when they start to get out of control, I think of taking pictures of little tiny babies. And it's wonderful to be getting things organized in my home after three years...but...

What's going to happen when the kids go back to school and I have no help again and do nothing but "keep kids alive" all day? Will I go back to having a low life satisfaction level? Things will be a little different this year. The 4-year-old boy will be in preschool every morning, the twins will be closer to three and more manageable, and the baby will be close to crawling and happier to be on his own, not needing to be held constantly. So perhaps I will be able to do more that just babies.

Now watch me get pregnant this summer....

As they say in Spanish, "Dios se lo paga." God will pay me. I know he will, and does, it's just that life is hard, and some years it's really hard. I guess it's supposed to be.

I feel like I've kind of blabbered on and on today, but if you've gotten this far, thanks for listening. :)

29 comments:

Lynn said...

I totally get what you are saying......been there and done that. ; D

You are doing something more important than anything else in the world....right now....raising those babies. And trust me......before you know it.......it will be no more babies.

Expat Mom said...

Ah, this sounds familiar. I only have two, but I feel like I've lost a little bit of ME. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty that I get grumpy because I can't paint anymore, or sew, because little hands are into everything and I just don't have the patience to deal with it. I think every mom has to do something for herself sometimes.

Also, I suspect you didn't feel quite this bad before because it's just now that you are realizing what you're missing when you don't have the extra help. It's good to do things for yourself, but raising your kids, keeping them alive ;), and teaching them to be productive adults (that basement is testament to that!) is also very important and you are definitely accomplishing something.

Hope the flu is gone!

Jenny said...

Just happened onto your blog the other day via blogfrog. I totally can relate to what your saying. In fact during Relief Society on Sunday this became the topic of discussion during our lesson which came from Sister Becks Talk from General Conference.

I try to keep in mind that our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy here. The challenge is just that, finding the joy in the struggle. Boy, it is not easy.

alessandra said...

There would be a lot to say, about this, but I know it's a delicate topic, because it involves beliefs.
You can see it like this, now you're happy, enjoy it.

Tracy Harvey said...

I am just the opposite of you, my youngest is 9, and I have been going back and forth with whether or I not I want to start a business (coincidentally as a photographer) or if I want to continue being a housewife.

For the past two weeks I have had my nephew staying with us, and with him my 9mth old great nephew. Just before he came here I had told hubby that I didn't think it was in me to have a business, I was stressed, irritated and frustrated, so I decided I was giving it up, although my website is still up (you can check it out if you like www.tracyharveyphotography.com) having my great nephew here (who I babysit all day while my nephew is working) has confirmed for me that that is what I enjoy most.

Hubby and I have talked about foster parenting and that is the direction my heart is leading.

Everyone is different. Some women where made to be home while their children are young, some are made to be home all the time, and some are not made to be home at all. The important thing is you find what God is leading you to do. If it is to start a business in photography then he will open the doors.

Don't beat yourself up thinking you have been unhappy, if you didn't know you were unhappy, then how could you have been? Just b/c you have found joy in another chapter doesn't mean there wasn't any in the last.

Mrs.Dr.Shot said...

I hear you. However, I'd bet that (like most of us) you have days where you're thinking "i've been so unhappy!" and then the feeling will pass. You'll find your happy place at home again.

It's hard sometimes to revel in the joy of being a wife and mom if you feel like you are just repeating the same things over and over (and losing your adult vocabulary for lack of use). The eternal perspective of course says "this is a short life, and your blessings will be great". We're just required to take ourselves out of the center of things and let others be the focus.

I think it's great, and necessary, that you are working on things to make you happy. If momma aint happy, aint nobody happy. But you can do both, I know you can.

singlemormonchick said...

DISCLAIMER: i am not a mom.
however i do have opinions on this subject. being a mom might be your most important job/calling, but it is not your only one and these things you are discovering now that are bringing you joy will only add to your ability to be a good mom. sacrifice is a big part of being a mom, but you have to give to yourself so you have something to give back. let go of any guilt you might be experiencing-enjoy these things that are making you happy! its not like you are letting the kids play in traffic or eat raw red meat. or are you? ;-)

Ginger said...

Sounds like you need to homeschool. It would fix all the problems you mentioned. Really!

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Thanks for all of your sweet comments, everybody. :) Ginger, I did home school for 13 years. Now I am fortunate enough to have our children attend a Mormon multi-lingual school. It's the best thing for them at this point in time. I did love home schooling when I did it and I think it's a great option for many people.

Jenna said...

Not wrong at all! You have many talents and many aspects to your wonderful being, and all of them need nurturing. The hard part is in trusting in the time and season for all things. I struggle with that too. You're doing a great job and setting a wonderful example for your children who watch you magnify your calling as a mother first and foremost, but also develop all of your other talents.

Is it wrong to tell you that this post made you seem more real to me? You've always seemed so perfectly content in your (lovely) chaos, which made me feel bad sometimes. All in an inspiring way, of course. You're normal! :) And still amazing.

Denise said...

Wrong? Absolutely not. You are a mom, first and foremost, but you are not JUST a mom. You are also a person, a woman, an individual with individual needs, desires, talents, and abilities. What would be wrong is if you were to ignore all those things, and make yourself unhappy, and by extension, your kids unhappy.

It's a balancing act, to be sure, but I know I am a better mother when I have some things I keep just for me. We were put on this earth to have joy, and while my kids bring me great joy, they also bring me great stress, and I need a release from it.

Enjoy exploring your talents and interests, and know that you are still being a good mom -- you're just being a more well-rounded and sane mom!

Pati @ A Crafty Escape said...

I think what you are feeling is very normal. I breastfed both my kids until they were almost two, and thus became very attached to them. When my son weaned himself I felt a sort of freedom that I didn't remember from before. I started taking night classes for fun and am loving my new hobbies. I started my blog as a way to escape the craziness that being a stay at home mom can sometimes be. I love spending all day with my children, and feel blessed to do so. However, I also love being able to do fun things in my "spare" time.

Freya said...

"Freshness trembles beneath the surface of every day, a joy perpetual to all who catch it's opal lights beneath the dust of habit"

-> Freya Stark (my parents named me after this author)

I think this quote could be applied to your situation in two ways - firstly not letting the "dust of habit" blind you to the beauty of your current situation (four kids 4 and under included!). Alternatively, you could look at it in a way that shows you were lucky enough to spot a particularly bright "opal light" - your skill with photography - even despite your busy home life, and were able to bring it to the fore and enjoy it.

I think that maybe, instead of worrying about whether you were happy enough these past years, you should focus your energy in promoting your happiness in the years to come. Your children's happiness will only grow with yours.

Warm wishes, Freya

Meghan said...

(((HUGS)))
I understand completely & I only have to keep one child, really, alive, the other two technically live w/ their mom.

I am sorry you have been feeling this way. It's all normal.

Anytime you want to vent or chat or whatever you just let me know.

((((BIGGER HUGS))))

Jb said...

I'm sure this is very natural. Just because you are happy now, doesn't necessarily mean your were unhappy then. And even if you were, that doesn't make it wrong. There will always be times when you feel unhappy, but now, aren't you glad to know that the next time you feel unhappy, it won't be lasting forever?

Melinda said...

You do an amazing job Jen. I am glad you get a break even if it is just for a few months in the summer. Hoping to a better year for you. Lots of Love

Anonymous said...

Completely understandable...maybe it's time to consider not having more babies? If it is losing its joy for you, there is nothing wrong with moving on to another stage of life where the kids become more self-sufficient and you can focus on other aspects of your life. Just a thought.

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Anonymous, believe me, I've considered it. However, both John and I feel that this is the direction we are supposed to be going in, even if some years are really hard.

I realize that what I'm going through is a stage and that once the kids are a bit older, things will be different. I remember having these feelings when my oldest were little, too.

I guess I shared what I did because although I try to be positive most of the time on my blog, I try to be real, too.

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

Nikki said...

Sometimes I find it difficult to read your posts when I see such adorable pictures of your baby. I find myself sitting here smiling and thinking another boy wouldn't be so bad.

Nikki said...

But seriously, I know how you feel. I also recognize that that feeling wears off after a couple months post-partum when you get more "back to normal." My prayers are with you. Continue to count your blessings. :)

Brian + Cheryl B. said...

Hi Jen :-)
Very glad to see that lots of your commenters are now leaving you longer comments ;-}

Jen, as others mentioned, the day, to day, to day, to day, 'sameness' can wear us out after awhile. We fully reconize that the 'mundane tasks' we are doing, are actually important. We also acknowledge that tending to and rasing up children is in and of itself HARD work! But it just never ends. NEVER. You turn around, there's more laundry needing done. Or it's meal time again. Or time to drive somebody someplace. Or another mess to clean up. Or ... ...

Therefore, while we KNOW in our hearts of hearts that what we are doing IS important and necessary, and that we actually ARE achieving something, the 'something' gets undone so darn fast, it leaves your head spinning and your spirits feeling overwhelmed.

Jen, I would challenge you to scan read through your own postings from let's say just the past calender year. You will find that all of the way along, there has been much joy and happiness in your life.

Remember the time that your daughter was singing and the gentleman watched your younger kids ...

Remember the time that your eldest son helped the elderly couple in the store ...

Remember the time that a son made breakfast for the whole family and all of the girls whom had been a part of his sisters sleep over...

Remember the joy of watching the twins learn to ...

Remember laughing ever so hard when ...

Jen, o/~ Remember the (heart warming) times of your life o/~

For the record, I want to make sure that you fully 'get' that I am not critisizing you in any way, shape or form. NOT AT ALL!!!

See, to be honest, I 'get' what your talking about way more than I wish I did. But I have caught on to two different things, which I know you know, but I'd just like to remind you of anyways.

1 - happiness is a decision. In a way, joy is a branch off of happiness. Yes, 'life' happens on a all to frequent basis.!!! And negative emotions are just as real as positive ones are. And no, I don't think you go around being moopy all of the time. But extremely often, we must force ourselves to look for the little smiles/things in life and once we spot them, make huge deals out of them, at least to ourselves. When we do that, we are choosing to be happy.

2 - Satan delights in getting us 'down'. Whether we are 'down' physically, or emotionally, or spiritually, or any other area. And he does a 'happy dance' when after getting us down in one area, we allow it to affect us in other areas as well. We MUST NOT allow/grant him such behaviour!!!!!

I am glad that you have been able to get so much accomplished while the older kids are on summer break. Look at it this way, once they return to classes again, all of those things that you got done, will no longer be nagging at the back of your mind any more :-p

Jen, I'm very glad that you are open and honest with all of us, your blogging friends! By doing so, you are allowing us the privalage of encouraging you. That is part in parcle of being friends!

May this week of visiting with your sister and eldest son hold many smiles and heart warming memory makers!

May your attempts at surfing (or whatever it was you were hoping to try) be both fun and mission achievable.

May you find some way to pull an innocent but funny prank on your sister o;-p

And may whatever your trip elsewhere entails, be sucessful.

(I wish to apologize for misspelled words .... I just can't seem to remember spellings this morning .... aw well o;-p)

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Brian + Cheryl B. said...

J-e-n ... I don't know .... it kept telling me wierd stuff like it wouldn't take my comment, so I tried again, twice. Then tried logging in to your site new again, only to find it not only had posted my comment, but done so repeatedly ... SORRY!

p.s. - I found it funny that there were two (side by side) ads for Pop Tarts displayed promenetly at the top of your side bar ... John won you over? ;-p

I'm only trying posting this once. And I'm not coming back to check ... ... ... yeah.

Beth said...

THANK YOU, thank you, thank you!!! Your honesty in this post was refreshing! I am blessed to be the mommy to three little boys all under 5, and I'm just realizing how much of "me" I've lost over the past few years. Don't get me wrong - I love being their mommy, I am married to a wonderful man, God has truly blessed my life, but some days I am ashamed to admit that I think, "Is this what it's all about?" I'm trying to savor all of these moments, as time passes so quickly, but when you're in the throws of the situation, it's hard to remember.

Sometimes I've found that doing things for ME makes me a better mommy and wife. Hard to put into explain, but when I feel fulfilled (in the emotional sense), I feel like there is so much more of me and I can easily give myself to others.

Sometimes I think that women feel the need to act as if everything is fine - to be strong so that others won't "judge" us. I applaud you for sharing your feelings for us. You're not alone, and you'll be in my prayers as you continue on this journey.