Tag Archives: mother vs self
Growth and Girl Scouts
Any Girl Scout leader will tell you a troop is born of one girl’s total insistence – and that girl is usually her daughter.
That’s how they get you – the girl and the Scouts; they know you are wholly dedicated to her growth and will do anything, including hundreds of volunteer hours, to facilitate that.
So how did that commitment ten years ago land me in the same church hall last night leading a workshop for mothers?
That, too, is all about growth.
When I trained to be a troop leader, I did not know with whom I’d be working. Ironically enough, there was an existing troop at my daughter’s elementary school so both my daughters joined. Fresh-faced and grateful for all the two co-leaders were doing, I eagerly attended each meeting, offering whatever help they needed. I knew these two moms, their oldest girls in the same classes as mine, but not closely. As the girls bonded over ‘Simple Meals’ and ‘First Aid’ badges, I got to know and enjoy crazy times with these women. Overnights and hikes, crafts and camping. When I went to Troop Camping Training with one of them, we found a whole crew of women dedicated to the cause and having a whole lot of fun doing it.
The circle of women I got to know only grew as my girls progressed through the levels. My younger daughter started as a Daisy and a new crop of girls and moms came in. Leader meetings gave us a chance to ease the commitment we’d taken on by sharing ideas and resources and they almost served as a troop meeting for the women themselves. Very often, the speaker had to deal with unruly ‘kids’ just as a leader did. The leaders of the ‘mega troop’ of many levels all three of my girls eventually joined even went on a scavenger hunt scouring three towns.
It all started with a desire to empower our girls. But I wonder what other motivations kept us dedicated. Was it the thrill of recapturing a lost girlhood? Carefree and fun and sequestered? Or did it speak to a longing that grown women, especially mothers, don’t often find fulfilled? Companionship, camaraderie? And was it also a safe way to seek this out, without guilt, within an activity that also served our children?
Even though I took on a troop when my fourth was a newborn, I eventually ‘retired’ from leadership. I remained a registered member and assisted with my youngest’s troop, but I was too tired to lead. Still, there are times I miss the sisterhood of women bonded by the girls they serve.
Now that newborn is old enough to insist I bring her to Girl Scouts. I did. Our service unit hosted a ‘Learn about Girl Scouts’ series for parents and girls. Over the course of three meetings, girls experienced troop-like activities while parents learned all the stuff I already knew. My former service-unit manager outed me to the Council member running it, saying ‘she’d be a good leader’ with an elbow to my side. I admitted I was a ‘recovering leader’. But as she explained to parents how leading her troop for thirteen years gave her her own set of friendships with women as they nurtured the girls, I was wistful.
A mother seated next to me, who may indeed end up being the leader for her daughter’s troop, said, “I want to do Girl Scouts! Can there be a Girl Scouts for adults?”
I think it’s safe to say that most adults yearn for the simpler days of their childhood. Not the growing up all over again, but the chance to do things just for the fun of it. To play with friends. To not have to be the one in charge. To feed our soul with things that feel good and light us up – not alienate us and drag us down.
As I packed my things last night in preparation for the workshop, it didn’t escape me that it was same as setting things down into the tote bag I used to haul Scout supplies. I loaded the trunk and drove the same route. I parked by the ramp and unlocked the door with the same key I borrowed for meetings. As I set up in the rosy glow of sunset slanting through the blinds, the quiet excitement with which I laid items out on tables, shifted chairs into place, had the same feel as preparing for a troop meeting all that time ago. It was oddly satisfying and soothing to be preparing for this new type of meeting in that same place. It was like coming home.
But this time, it was for the moms.
A meeting to discuss putting ourselves on the schedule. Where our motherhood ends and our self begins. Or the jumbled up place in the middle where they intertwine. About taking care of others and ourselves.
I’m not saying my meeting was Girl Scouts for Adults, but it was a chance to sit uninterrupted and think about what we, as women, as individuals, want from our lives. With like-minded people experiencing the same things, facing the same struggles.
Because no one wants to be lost in the shuffle – girl or woman.
I will be offering women the opportunity to explore their identities and where mother and self intersect through reflection and writing. There will be several ways to do this – including an interactive one right here on my blog – but my inaugural offerings will be local in-person events this month. I’d love for you to join me on this journey!
Stop Gaps on the road to Self Care
My last post, The Kids are All Right, elicited a lot of feelings and reactions. More than I expected actually.
I always view difficulties through the lens of mental illness vs health, but those I outlined last Tuesday struck a chord with many moms across the spectrum.
That doesn’t mean there is an epidemic of maternal mental illness – though there is an underreported and underserved population for sure. It only underscores what every mother already knows: motherhood is extremely trying.
Every age and every stage has its challenges, which usually present themselves directly after one set has been deciphered and conquered. But add in a post-pandemic, high-inflation, middle-age slump (at least for me and my contemporaries) and even getting out of bed seems like a monumental feat.
There are many systemic and cultural constructs that make up the fabric of our current constraints – and yes, there needs to be change at those levels. But what can one mother do as she looks at her own face in the mirror?
She needs to be clear on what motherhood means to her. What it looks like. What is non-negotiable and what falls under should. What has to occur/or not for her to be able to rest her head on her pillow at night and not toss and turn.
This does not preclude those around her from supportive responsibility. But the reality is, she likely will have to recruit this, too.
Self-care has been co-opted as a concept by the those who can make money off face masks and body poufs, candles and cocoa butter. But taken at its literal meaning, mothers need stop gaps to release the daily pressure of motherhood.
Mothers need stop gaps to release the daily pressure of motherhood.
In the everyday rush of responsibility and running on empty, however, caring for oneself can be just one more item on an already too-long-list.
Sometimes it is quiet and solitude. Sometimes it is community. Sometimes it is rest. Sometimes it is activity.
Surviving motherhood is a constant balancing act. Hopefully we don’t get turned around in the process.
On the Treadmill
No, this is not an account of my latest exercise endeavors. The only personal story I have about treadmills is my daughter’s run-in with one that ended in road-rash (see what I did there?). That still makes me giggle. Don’t judge. It was her own fault. I’m pretty much in love with OK Go’s endeavors on treadmills, too.
But me, no.
Which is ironic because I’m on one every damn minute of every damn day – the metaphoric treadmill of motherhood.
Maybe it’s unfair to blame all of my mania on motherhood. There probably is some part of my personality that would still schedule me to my utmost limit – but it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if I ‘only’ had to work without the constraints and constancy of mothering. And even pre-kid working me would binge watch Trading Spaces in a blob on the couch after a particularly hectic day of work.
Now, when I get the chance to step off the treadmill, I’m like that blob – but without the decision-making capabilities of any grey matter. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the grey matter used for ‘personal’ decision-making is so underused it has atrophied.
When we get off the treadmill so infrequently, our bodies and minds know not what to do without the cycle and incessant motion. Being at rest is so foreign, that part of ourselves we’ve shoved down for so long is like a salamander with a light shone on it.
That part that cultivates hobbies, interests, passions; rest, rejuvenation, relaxation. That little corner inside ourselves closest to our souls. The part that should be getting more play, not the least amount possible. Not so little that when it can come out to play, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
By some stroke of luck and generosity, I find myself alone and stuffing my face with donuts. I’m also sipping on a caramel-sea salt-molasses-coffee concoction. The caffeine and sugar combination is already thumping in my veins and lining my blood sugar up on the cliff. BUT what else does one do when you can stuff your face with forbidden foods without little people’s pleading eyes killing your buzz? Yoga without a little person sitting on your head or smashing into your pelvis while you try to relax into savasana? A warm bath with the aromatic soaks your friend handcrafted!? Scrap some of the eight-thousand photos that would bring you into the last decade? Write that folktale you’ve been ruminating on? Or the several posts you’ve been marinating? Or actually get down ideas for the next big jump in your life?
Or you could stand in the middle of your living room floor, holding onto your phone with your atrophied little T-Rex arms and scroll Facebook on your browser – not the app because you took it off your phone for Lent so you wouldn’t go on FB so much – and not sitting down because that would mean it’s not just a temporary distraction to which you’re not totally committed. You could stand there and fill the void with more vacuous activity instead of plucking one valuable thing out of the myriad you haven’t had a chance for in so long. You can give in to the confounding paralysis that comes from wishing desperately for more time and then desperately wanting to do all that you’ve missed out on once you get a bit – that you do nothing. You could also invite your anxiety in so that even watching Trading Spaces or whatever binge-worthy show has replaced it is ruined because you can’t let go of the things you’re not doing.
The answer, I suppose, is to get more free time; take more free time. Part of that is impossible because – treadmill. Part of that is more difficult because of my ‘prepping for a sub is more work than a day of teaching’ theory. And a huge – perhaps the most insurmountable – part of it is breaking ourselves of the mental and emotional habits that have led to this. Yes, we can be angry at the treadmill, curse the unseen figures that keep turning it on and programming it to higher, faster levels, but we need to learn how to unplug it, unplug ourselves. So that even when we get some time, we don’t spend the whole time trying to unwind.
Now I face the insurmountable task of unwinding with a gob of caffeine floating throughout my system. I’ll let you know how savasana goes. Or maybe I’ll have an energized bout of writing. I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet.