Friday, 16 October 2009

Keeping up with the Jones

I love where I seem to have settled in for now. Having come through the tumultuous teen years, the wary university years, and the stumbling early motherhood years, I feel like I have finally found peace where I am. And the root of this peace, for me, is that I finally realized the fruitlessness of trying to "keep up with the Jones'."

I think this expression is obvious enough in relation to teenagehood and the college era, but I was surprised to find myself hit by this desire with a vengeance when I became a mother. There were so many issues, so many positions, so many persuasive advocates, so many people I wanted to emulate. I found myself very quickly being "tossed to and fro by the doctrines of men." There seemed to be no middle ground with any of the opinions. Healthy eating meant not only baking your own bread, but cooking everything from scratch, growing your own food and grinding your own wheat. Home-schooling was a complete eschewing of all things public education. Health care meant either doctors and medicine or doulas and homeopathy. Each advocate was so persuasive as to make one believe that theirs was the only way to successfully raise your children.

My conclusion: there is no middle ground. And so began desperate attempts to read and research and integrate these beliefs into my own life. But I didn't find myself enjoying the process. I found myself struggling as I tried to copy other's lives.

Then, somehow, I emerged from this shadow and regained confidence in myself. I realized it would not be worth trying to imitate even my dear, closest friends, those whom I admire as mothers, homemakers and wives. My own uniqueness requires my own unique approach in my home. We may all have the same goals but there are an infinite number of ways to achieve them. Success only comes from discerning what methods fit with your own personality and your family dynamics.

A book I am currently reading talks about principles versus practices. The principle is the idea, the goal, what you are hoping for in results. The practice is the means to achieving that idea, goal or result. Creativity and success arise from a multitude of practices. In fact, failure may be a direct result from copying a practice that is not the right fit for you. The author encourages the reader to keep their mind on the principles and to let their minds and imaginations guide them to the appropriate practices to achieve that principle, and above all, to not let the practices of others constrict your thinking.

The middle ground on which my feet are firmly planted has opened my eyes to the contest of motherhood. Not only have I learned how to figure out what is best for me and my family and how to feel secure and unmoved in my personal decisions, but I have also developed a greater tolerance and understanding for mothers with alternate practices. Raising our kids is not about convincing other parents why "my way is the best way." Rather, it is about a community of ideas and conversations of empathy. Once I realized that I didn't need validation from others that what I'm doing is right, the contest between myself and other women not only vanished, but left in the clearing of the fog much richer relationships that have spurred me on to greater heights in my calling as a mother. I have found my ground, I feel at peace, and I have moved out of Jonesville completely.

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