I got up at 4 a.m. the first time to see my husband and teenager off to the airport. It’s an amazing thing about marriage and family. The teenager is slower than molasses, so I spent my whole morning following her around, speeding her along, and my husband isn’t the morning person (once he got all the way to the airport—1 hour away—and realized that he forgot to put his suitcase in the trunk). As much as we nag each other, I have to say that their voices sounded soooooooo good when they called to say that they were safe. We had our first dose of reality regarding international travel, especially to lush, rainforests in Central America: cell phones don’t work. So when the collect call showed up as ‘Unavailable’ on the caller ID, we shared a good laugh in knowing that only the Holy Spirit made me pick it up.
After the three of us who’re here got up (for me a second time) and got going, the 5-year-old wanted to visit her best friend next door. I had other plans and spent most of the morning telling her to wait, while she spent most of her morning trying to persuade me to speed it up for the sake of her plans. Before she could go, I needed to meet a couple of deadlines. I needed to clean. I wanted to work out, continuing my newest effort to fight the good fight against that first early 40’s metabolic change. Mainly, I wanted to do all of this without the pressure to hurry before the neighbor’s kids inevitably wound up back at our house. The ensuing back and forth exchange (Mom says, “I need to _____________”, child says, “And then you’ll let me go to __________ house?”, Mom says, “We’ll see.” ) made me think so much about me, my mom, and the reality of so many moms I meet.
In one of the many “pass this on to __ people”-type emails that flood my inbox, I once marinated over one entitled, “The Make-Do Woman.” The moral of this particular story was that, as women, we should never put ourselves last, stating that we’ll “make do” until this or that happens, because there is always something that will get in the way of us taking care of ourselves. I never bought into this concept; I love preferring others over myself, especially when it comes to family. Without a doubt, it is better to give than receive. I guess over the years, I’ve become a “make-do” woman, and on most days, I’m happy with that decision.
My mom was a “make-do” woman. But there was at least one area where she put herself first. She worked nights, and so I could never have company or go outside before a certain time of day. Though I didn’t understand it as a child, she needed her rest, and that was her way of securing it. That was a personal boundary of hers, established so that she could sleep and do all that she needed to do as a wife, mom, employee, church worker, and so on, and so on. Over the years I’ve had other seasoned mothers come into my life and speak of personal boundaries. Recalling another instance, I can remember being so frustrated when we moved into this house, which is double the size of our first home. I thought surely we had enough space to not be cluttered, but the kids, then 4 and 1 (the youngest hadn’t come yet), left stuff everywhere, and now everywhere meant 2x the space that I had to clean. One fountain of wisdom told me to confine the children’s play area to certain spaces, and those spaces needed to be upstairs. I struggled with her suggestion, and didn’t implement it until several weeks, maybe even months, later. My thinking at that time was that I didn’t want to be the type of mom that made the kids feel as if they always had to walk on eggshells. This house was our home, I thought, not a museum. Once I reluctantly followed her advice, I found that the kids couldn’t care less where they played, as long as they could play, and I was at peace that the primary entertaining areas, for the most part, were neat enough for me to relax and receive an unexpected visitor without being too embarrassed.
Before the flashback, I felt pretty bad about making the kids stay here until I finished my list, but then I remembered my mom, and it occurred to me that there is nothing wrong with personal boundaries. The “make-do” woman needs occasional peace and comfort, too, even if the kids don’t understand it until they become parents. As the day went on, they actually worked out with me (and pooped out before I did—thank God for that bit of encouragement), they visited the neighbors, and yes, the neighbors wound up back at our house—our clean house (well, at least as clean as it will get today). Later I ordered pizza, and the kids took advantage of the oldest not being around to get exactly what each wanted— 1 pizza with 1/2 pepperoni, 1/2 cheese (normally we buy pepperoni, and my son, the vegetarian, has to pick it off in order to enjoy his cheese pizza). In the end, we all got what we wanted, and making do, as usual, was far more pleasant than that pesky e-mail made it out to be.