14 November 2009

Back Again

Hello, Faithful Blog Readers (also the not-so-faithful, and those who are just stopping by). That is to say, greetings and salutations to you all. My computer is back from L.A., (the Mad Scientist is home, too). It is truly a sign of how my life has gone lately, that the week he was gone was the best one I've had in about a month. Sad, but true. It actually occurred to me that perhaps I could get him to stay in L.A. a while longer...No, I didn't consider it seriously (much).

But the monkeys and I had a very nice time, which was probably just the grace of God. He must have known that I was nearly at the end of my rope. My sister-in-law watched them for me two evenings, so I didn't have to miss my knitting night and Mom's Night Out, and that perhaps accounted for why the week went so much better than might have been expected. Mama is a much happier person when she has some knitting time, and bit of a break now and then. A huge thank-you, therefore, is due to my (actually my husband's) sister-in-law. I don't think she reads this blog, but in case she stops by, I'd like to say, "I'm grateful." (Don't worry, I'll send an actual note, too).

Does anyone else out there feel guilty about the fact that going away from her children improves her ability to mother well? I know it's not just me. Everyone I talk to acknowledges this phenomenon. I still wonder, however, to what degree this is a product of our cultural indoctrination, and what degree it is actually simply that mothers really do need the occasional break. To what degree is this simply an attitude problem on my part?

My theory is, that in a tribal or clan setting, and with a great deal of extended family nearby, mothers got a whole lot more in the way of support and regular breaks. It must have been pretty common for a mother to say "Run over to your grandmother's house while I get my spinning done so we'll all have clothes for the winter." Or something to that effect. Right? But not everyone has lived in a tribal or clan situation for all of history. So what did everyone else do? Just go quietly crazy? Clearly not (I think).

I continue to ponder this. I think it may have been more do-able for, say, pioneer women not to have so much of a support network, because their children grew up faster, and contributed more, sooner. But that takes work, too. You certainly do hear of poorly-trained disobedient pioneer children. But one always gets the impression that they were the exception, rather than the rule. And hardly anyone requires as much, as soon, of their children now, as families did at that time. Farm and ranching families are probably the exception, and I suspect the reason for the change is, that so few families live on farms or ranches of any kind, any more. The family's survival and prosperity no longer depends on the children's contribution really to any extent, and so their contribution has grown less and less. Let's face it, keeping your room clean isn't really on par with helping milk, feed, and clean up after the livestock that provide a large portion of your family's food and clothing. (No matter how much the bedroom may look like a barn).

(Break for Pet Peeve: my mother always says, that messy bedrooms do NOT look like barns, because a well-cared-for barn is clean and orderly. If more people lived agrarian lives, we would hear less about bedrooms looking like barns. Just saying.)

Where am I going with this? I really do wonder how much of modern mothers' need for regular breaks (and I do acknowledge it is a need; I'm a much nicer mother on weeks when I have my knit night and such) is self-induced, or a product of the larger culture. In a world where most children could play outdoors when they were done working (also outdoors) did the Crazy not attack quite so ferociously? If a mother could settle in to her spinning, mending, knitting, and enjoy that activity while still feeling productive and useful, did those regular small breaks negate the need for a regular longer one? Or did she have to drop her knitting every two minutes to go break up a fight, or get Jr. out of the marker drawer, just like I do? (Monkey3 found a permanent marker this week. He ruined two shirts before I got smart and hid it instead of putting it away.)

When I knit, most people would say I'm wasting time. When the pioneer woman performed the same enjoyable, productive, relaxing activity, she was performing a vital service for her family as well. Maybe she hated knitting, like I hate cleaning the kitchen. Maybe I need to find a way to find more joy in cleaning the kitchen and dusting. Can we just go back to a world where everyone needed to knit and spin? Or maybe just one where I do? That would work great, for me.

Just rambling...

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