Like a folk song from the 60’s, people keep telling me there’s a time and season for everything.
“I’m exhausted,” I say, “the baby’s not sleeping well.”
A knowing wink, a nod of the head, “It won’t last forever,” they say, “It’s just your season.” (Turn, turn, turn!)
“I can clean all day,” I say, “but there are still toys on the floor, food dropped in the kitchen.”
A wise chuckle. “It’s just that time of your life!” (Turn, turn, turn!)
“I miss my husband. We’re so busy and tired that haven’t been out in months.”
“Times and Seasons,” they smile, “Times and Seasons.”
I could sing along, if I didn’t find the whole thing so frustrating. You see, buried in this cheery phrase I hear so often is some harsh advice: the problem is you. It’s your perspective. If you could only accept your Times and Seasons and stop complaining about the things that are hard, you would feel better about life. Change your outlook, not your situation.
The song “To Everything There is a Season” (Turn Turn Turn) became famous in the mid-sixties, but the lyrics are taken mostly from the Bible:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
So, great. Now it looks like the Bible is telling me to suck it up and suffer the pains of mommyhood cheerfully.
Except it’s not.
In the context of the rest of Ecclesiastes, these verses are actually saying that life wears on unchanging and unchangable generation after generation, because God’s decrees outweigh our efforts. People live and die and in the great scheme of things, have no effect upon the universe. Not exactly cheerful reading, but it has its light points. The author (who goes by the title of Qoheleth, or “wisdom teacher”) says that we shouldn’t let this unchangable nature of things get us down, but should find happiness in life, and do good. Our life may be a grain of sand in the storm, but we can still be happy grains of sand.
The “Times and Seasons” people probably still want to tell me that Qoheleth just thinks I should accept my lot as an overworked mommy with a messy house and be happy with it. To be patient. I say, show me the rule book that says moms should be overworked. I once spoke with a mom who said she went three years without so much as reading for herself, she was so busy. Show me a scripture that demands absolute sacrifice of spare time and personal goals for our children, or quote me a parenting expert who recommends it. Coming up empty handed? That’s because no one who knows what they’re talking about would tell you it was a good idea.
I had an interesting online conversation with another mom recently. She said,
“Upon what is…patience based? Is it based on doing nothing? Is it based on complacency? If I have a child with a reading difficulty, for example, I don’t just be patient with it. I actively get him involved in a program, work through it with him daily and during that process I exercise patience—both with the person and with the process and myself…Patience implies waiting gracefully with a hope or an expectation of some outcome in mind. But if there is no catalyst or program in place to eventually generate such an outcome, “patience” is scarcely better than procrastination.”
I agree with my online friend. In fact, what she said was so wise, and so fitting to this subject, that I immediately asked permission to quote her, then came back and reworked this post around her perspective. To wait for the sake of waiting without any other goal in mind is easy in some ways. But, rather than tell ourselves that it is just our season to be tired or lonely and “patiently” waiting for things to change, isn’t it better to have a plan in place to change what we can, and then be patient as we work through that?
It can be scary to plan, to try to change things. It involves admitting that there is something less than ideal about your situation in the first place, which opens you up to criticism–especially if you come from a culture where being a mother and wife is considered a natural role for women (that might actually be everywhere). “What if the problem is me?” we think, while those inclined to finger-pointing point fingers and say, “The problem is you.”
If you have been reading my posts, you know how damaging this line of reasoning can be. You know that you are not alone in your doubts, that everyone thinks they fall short, everyone gets frustrated, and that a Good Enough Mother is the best thing you can be for your family. You know that no matter how important it is to be a mother, ‘mother’ is only one aspect of you as a person, and without nurturing the other aspects, you can’t be a whole and healthy person. Like my online friend said, you need a plan. A plan to improve your life and your family’s, and then patience as you work through it. There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. The time to wait patiently has passed. This is your time to act.