Girls Rule the World?

I saw the original Pitch Perfect on a spring afternoon, taking advantage of a day […]

I saw the original Pitch Perfect on a spring afternoon, taking advantage of a day off work and a child in daycare to indulge in some solo popcorn-eating and foot-tapping in the darkness of a movie theater–one of this introvert’s favorite refuges. Now that this introvert is a mother of two, I watch movies in thirty-minute increments via On Demand from the “refuge” of my bed–a decidedly less interruption-free zone than that inviting theater. Perhaps this is why I so enjoy the movie trailers that I watch on my phone these days during nursing sessions or in stolen/guilt-ridden moments on the playground. Recently I viewed the trailer for the sequel to Pitch Perfect, aptly named Pitch Perfect 2. While making sure my son didn’t jump from a two-story play structure, I laughed at some of the jokes, marveled at Rebel Wilson’s bangs, and admired footage from the big number: a rendition of Beyonce’s “Girls Rule the World”. Then the baby squealed from the stroller, the preschooler whined from the slide, and I thought sardonically, “Oh, girls rule the world, do they? Well, no wonder we’re so tired.

I am woman: hear me snore.

My husband and I are in the throes of parenting young children–a five-month-old and three-year-old, to be exact. Which means we’re exhausted enough to be confused, but not far enough removed from our pre-kid life that we’ve forgotten what it feels like to sleep in or watch a full-length movie. In a theater. What I’m saying is there’s ambivalence. Not in the love we have for our children, but in the reality of living in the tension between gratitude for our suburban slice of life and honesty about how hard this period of time can be compared to our New York City salad days (or, more aptly, fried goat cheese and wine days).

And since I can only speak from personal experience, I’ll go ahead and say it: the mom part of this equation is challenging material. My husband is a coparent in every possible way, but possible does not, unfortunately, include childbirth and lactation and hormone production. Or understanding Mom Guilt Bingo. (“Why would anyone feel guilty about breastfeeding their kid less than a year?” he asks innocently from the couch. I’m tempted to point him to a mommy message board but I’m not ready to watch him give up on the human race.) I’m looking for the beauty in the moments and the divine in the mundane while one kid hangs off my chest and the other is climbing me like a jungle gym and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse blares in the background. It feels more National Geographic than Madonna and Child(ren). Ever aware of what my biology has outfitted me for, I alternate between marveling at my ability to carry/feed a child and resenting the fact that I’m the only one in this home who is #blessed enough to do it. Or the only parent with the super-Spidey, hormonally-honed sense of hearing the baby cry at night. I am geared to respond to these cries; I am designed to be able to nurse an infant. And on my best days, I murmur prayers of thanks. On my worst? Mutterings of inconvenience.

I’ll tell you a secret: my best and worst days are pretty much all of them.

Lately I’ve been dealing with sleeplessness independent of my children’s wakings, which is an especially disillusioning turn of events in its circular infliction of pain: I can’t take care of my kids well if I don’t get rest, and this realization (at 3 am) wires me like a triple espresso. When the kids’ cries have ceased (or have yet to begin, and I’m anticipating them) my multi-tasking brain begins its middle-of-the-night cataloguing of every topic imaginable. The frustration brought on by what, in the sun-filled hours of the day, would look like a gift for organization turns into rage, and soon everything that might look like a gift becomes…something else. I find myself seething, looking for somewhere to place my anger.

The other night it landed on God.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I actually stage-whispered through gritted teeth. I knew my self-righteousness was way out of line, but in that moment I felt I was either being tested or punished, not #blessed. Usually such an interpretation is a warning beacon that I am losing sight of grace, that I am beginning view the divine handprints on my life with the wary eye of a forensic investigator rather than a loved child.

The good news is that God didn’t smite me. The bad news is that this scene occurs more than I’d like to admit. Years of the learning-by-immersion method of fluency in grace doesn’t guarantee a reflexive appreciation for it. Which, when I think about it, is sort of the point of  grace in the first place, isn’t it? For flaw-full moments like these?

Tmadonnahe next day, at a less obscene hour and with some caffeine flowing through my veins (fine, maybe it was wine), I chewed on the thought that these 3 am psychological conflagrations look much like miniature versions of the crises of faith that punctuated my walk with God prior to understanding (or being taught) the truth about grace. When life handed me lemons, I sternly reminded God that I’d ordered sunny skies, and that I had always been such a well-behaved customer–why would he break our contract?

Offense at the non-record-based workings of grace bubbles up most often in moments of exhaustion and helplessness, because it’s then that reaching for the low-hanging fruit of earned love is most appealing–that grasp for control God will have none of because, like he has proven before, this moment isn’t over until he blesses me. And until I see that he has.

I still doubt his goodness. He still refuses to tailor it to my expectations. So here we are, hashing it out at 3 am.

Which means that this introvert’s need for space rails up against this woman’s design for childbearing and this brain’s capacity for organization and brings us to these 3 am moments, these chaotic feedings, these years of parenting and life that are unpredictable and messy and often sleepless. While the feelings of resentment and frustration and fear are real and must be acknowledged, there is a fine line between acknowledgment and indulgence. As parents, and women, and mothers, we (I) sometimes venture into the halls of martyrdom, feeling as though we carry the world on our shoulders. But we don’t–and we don’t rule it, either. Which is, as ever, a gift–because the world isn’t ruled so much as held in a hand…and so am I. The truth, whether today’s events make it feel like a burden or a blessing, whether we find ourselves in New York or suburbia, Madonna and Child or National Geographic, is that there is no place like home. And no one in it like Mom.