Don’t Carpe Diem by Glennon

Don’t Carpe Diem by Glennon

This amazing article was posted only four days ago on the Momastery blog, and mothers around the world have already shared it 183,000 times!!! Read this unforgettable and perfectly right-on article on the essence of motherhood and you’ll understand why… Thanks to Michal Mendelson for sending this my way:)

Every time I’m out with my kids – this seems to happen:

An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, “Oh- Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.”

Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.

I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.

And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers – “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” – those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.

Now. I’m not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”

At that particular moment, Amma had arranged one of the new bras I was buying on top of her sweater and was sucking a lollipop that she must have found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feather stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn’t find Chase anywhere, and Tish was grabbing the pen on the credit card swiper thing WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, “Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you.”

That’s not exactly what I wanted to say, though.

There was a famous writer who, when asked if he loved writing, replied, “No. but I love having written.” What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, “Are you sure? Are you sure you don’t mean you love having parented?”

I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.

Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I’m being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times – G, if you can’t handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?

That one always stings, and I don’t think it’s quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right…in her own way…and she happens to be honest.

Craig is a software salesman. It’s a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don’t ever feel the need to suggest that he’s not doing it right, or that he’s negative for noticing that it’s hard, or that maybe he shouldn’t even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: “This career stuff…it goes by so fast…ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!”

My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.

But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here’s what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:

“It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And hopefully, every once in a while, I’ll add- “Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up- I’ll have them bring your groceries out.”

Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn’t work for me. I can’t even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.

Here’s what does work for me:

There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.

Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. It’s those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.

Like when I actually stop what I’m doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can’t hear her because all I can think is – This is the first time I’ve really seen Tish all day, and my God – she is so beautiful. Kairos.

Like when I’m stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I’m haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I’m transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I’ll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world’s mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.

Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.

These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don’t remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.

If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.

Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.

Good enough for me.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com user Brisbane Falling

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8 comments

  1. Awesome post! I love it and sooo true. A long time ago I had a blog called “Love/Hate being a Mom” — I got so many comments on that one, mostly negative about the hate part. I had to keep repeating, “I didn’t say I HATE my kids!”

  2. My mom says that grandparenting is like being part of medevial reenactment groups where she gets to take the good parts and pretend the bad didn’t exist.

    This article is true. I think every effort worthwhile is this way. Nothing we will do will ever take so much from us as parenting. Right now my kids range in age from 22-6. Most are teenagers. It seems like at any given time, one is acting up with mutterings or sarcasm, fighting with younger siblings, etc. I, too, will enjoy having parparented! The days are long, sometimes!

  3. On friday my daughter who is almost 7 said- “what, its friday…” gosh the days go by so fast…and yes I too feel like I just put away all the shabbos stuff and I have to get it all out again…no doubt time flies – but reading this post with the kairos -choros time labels really hit home. I am working on reacting less right now with my kids – just so I dont get so darn worked up over every choros ruling moment or hour… I use to hate winter…feel depressed when at 5pm its night time…as a mother of 5 k”h I absolutely LOVE the winter… Bedtime starts at 530!!! meaning dinner, baths and bed—and I can actually be relaxed about reading stories- (one each) and letting the baby climb over everything and get his energy out before bedtime…In israel kids get home at latest 2pm…or daycare at 4pm so thats a whole lot of time to be with them…to climb mount everest with them…so I truly appreciate the honesty and reflections this lady has on her daily grind and all she wants from outsiders is a pat on the back and not some guilt ridden carpe diem mantra…

  4. You rock and expressed what sooooo many of us loving tired parents feel. Thank you!!

  5. this article was passed onto me by a friend of mine. i too have passed it on.

    i think that every mother has gone through this but is just afraid of what society will think of her if she says she’s having those choros moments.

    you have given me a way to express my feelings. thank you.

  6. This article and the speech by a different mother about why we are like the unseen cathedral builders (who didn’t even get to see the end results of their work) really hit the nail on the head, regarding all the blood, sweat and tears we go through to nurture our children.

  7. love it! a soul sister to us all!
    I find the more I openly admit to my many shortcomings as a mother, the less those shortcomings bother me and I have become much easier on myself and a lot less guilt-ridden. Emuna helps a lot too!!!! When I accept that BOTH our chronos AND our kairos time are Heaven-sent, life is a lot easier to bear. But that spiritual consciousness is constant hard work too, no doubt about it.

  8. I LOVE this article — its a great approach to the need to be conscious while parenting while also allowing oneself to sometimes ignore or just charge through the more unsavory moments — and to ignore silly comments of every ilk received from ladies in the grocery store. After looking up kairos on wikipedia, though, I do think Jewish moms should try to come up with their own alternative word. Moed, maybe? Sha’a and moed?

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