Why being a Mum is like being on the West End…

From a very young age I’ve always had a strong sense that I was made for the stage. Ever since first watching Mary Poppins, Calamity Jane and The Sound of Music, I’ve dreamt of being in musicals. The trouble is I can’t sing, or dance. Or act. I hate public speaking…

It’s kind of like my genetics and my destiny forgot to communicate…

Anyhoo, being a mum is much more fun! And here are some of the ways that being a mum is very much like being in a musical:

  • We now constantly narrate what we are doing in song. Whether it’s eating bananas, walking round the shops, having a shower… somehow the moment we got children we had a song for every occasion!
  • It’s OK to spontaneously sing in public. And we do. A lot. In the supermarket, in the park, in a queue. Singing is a great distraction. Spider-Man, Christmas songs, old hymns, Madness. You name it, we sing it.
  • Dancing too. That is not only acceptable, it’s also sometimes necessary.
  • Whatever I do, I have an audience. Showering, weeing, making a cup of tea, sorting the recycling. There are always eyes on me. And they are always waiting to be entertained.
  • Life is a lot more dramatic. whether we’re buying milk, posting a letter, brushing teeth… there is drama to be found and exploited. Raining? Not raining? Too tired? Too hungry? Back to front undies? We never miss an opportunity to be dramatic.
  • Wherever I go, people scream my name. Granted, it’s always the same two people. And yes, it’s not quite screaming fans, but still…

Mother knows best…

At the start of the adoption process we were very keen to take all the help and advice we could. We were aware that a lot of people are experts in this area, and we are not. We attended a lot of training courses and tried to absorb as much wisdom as possible.

Even after our boys arrived, we would ring or email our social worker often to ask advice and check in. It felt wrong to make decisions or do ‘parenting’ without permission.

When we were first matched with our boys, we were told that the Family Finder thought we were just the right fit, we were flattered. (We’ve since found out that she’d only met our boys twice at this point, so we’re not sure how she knew that.) Despite concerns that we are Christians, and that we didn’t want to send our children to nursery, their social worker agreed that we were the best parents for them.

When we first met our boys’ social worker, we were keen to glean as much information as possible. She was obviously going to be the expert on our boys(!!!) One questions we asked at that first meeting was who are their favourite superheroes. She confidently told us Hulk and Iron Man. Then we met the foster carers and we started to doubt if the social worker knew our boys that much! The foster carer told us that their favourites were Spiderman and Batman! At this point we had already ordered our introduction toys – Hulk Bear and Iron Bear. Grrrr.

And now, six months in, we are at a very different point in our journey. We have asked for some extra support to help us manage the boys’ anxieties, big feelings and the resulting CPV. For a long time our (agency) social worker has been trying to arrange a meeting with the LA to review the Adoption Support Plan and apply to the Adoption Support Fund.

Suddenly, the same people who picked us as the best parents for these children no longer think we are capable of knowing what they need. It’s our fault because we are too intense and should have sent them to nursery. There isn’t a problem because the foster carer (who didn’t ‘believe’ in attachment issues) never felt there was.

Fortunately, through we our agency we have access to CFAS and were able to have a consultation with a therapist. Just as I was beginning to doubt myself we met with a lovely lady who talked everything through with us and reassured us that we were doing the right things to help our boys, and that we were right to ask for support.2242240802_8aaa5f0845_o.jpg

It was a wonderful meeting for another reason too. It taught me to have confidence in myself as their Mum. I know my boys better than any social worker ever will, I am their Mum. Yes, we need expert advice and input at times, and we are so thankful for our wonderful social worker and all of her help. But there is a certain intuition that comes with the unconditional love of a mother for her child. And no social worker will ever have that.

Image: Flickr user Malay Maniar (2008)

 

Grrr, Radio 4!

This morning there was a short piece on BBC Radio 4 about female engineers. The woman being interviewed said how it was a great shame that there were not more women engineers in our country and how they were actively working to bring more women into the industry. The presenter concluded by urging all female listeners to consider a career in engineering. Well I have considered it, and here follows my reasons for not pursuing a new career.

I am a big believer that if you set your mind to something, with enough hard work you could achieve it. Certain social groups will have to work harder than others because of prejudice and inequality (anyone who isn’t a white, middle class, able-bodied male). But I went to a modern girl’s grammar school where we were taught to break the glass ceiling, don’t be the same as men – be better, and all that feminist malarkey. So my views that follow are by no means coming from the position of an oppressed, uneducated or indoctrinated woman.

Since my teen years, there has only been one career I have wanted: to be a wife, a mother, a homemaker. C.S. Lewis supposedly described ‘the homemaker’ as the ultimate career. And I do believe to make a home is a very noble task. A place to grow and thrive, somewhere safe from which to explore the world. A place to learn what love is, what it means to care for someone, to sacrifice for them. Somewhere to be valued and respected. Somewhere where there is joy and laughter, where sorrows are shared and loneliness is eased.

5113200859_377d4ec976_o (1).jpgMy (engineer) husband and I are a team. He works hard to provide our house – he pays the bills, provides food to sustain us and financial security so we don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I work hard to make that house a home – I try to make it a welcoming, relaxing place to be, somewhere where there is nutritious and delicious food(!), a haven where he can relax and feel safe and loved after being away from it all day.

Soon my job description is going to expand! I will have two little ones to care for who need stimulation, education, love and reassurance. My job will involve providing them with opportunities to learn and grow, caring for them physically, emotionally and spiritually, teaching them what love is through daily sacrificing of my own wants and needs for theirs. My job isn’t simply childcare, it’s child-training! Preparing them for school, for independence, for responsibility, for adult life, for marriage, for parenthood, for life!

As I write this, the photos we have of our two little ones are playing on a slideshow on the second computer screen. As I think ahead to this new stage of our lives, this new role in my busy and rewarding career, my heart swells in my chest with anticipation, with love and with frustration at BBC Radio 4. I do not feel I should pursue a career in engineering, just because I am a woman. If there are less female engineers than male in our country, is that a disaster? Could it be that those women just chose other careers? Telling me I have to consider a job in engineering simply because I am a woman, is as bad as telling me I should stay home with my children all day because I am a woman.

With full awareness of my options in the world, I am choosing to be a wife, mother and homemaker because that is what I want. If other women choose to be engineers – great! But let it be because they want to engineer, and not because society says they should in order to appear more equal. I do not feel any less than my husband because he engineers and I homemake. I couldn’t do what I do without him doing what he does. Likewise, he couldn’t do what he does without me doing what I do! That’s what makes us equal. The freedom to choose your own path rather than being pushed down the one that best suits others. That’s what makes us equal.

In my third year of university I took a module in Feminism. I used to come home irate  after each lecture and every time I vented my feelings towards my husband, he would respond with a smile, “grrr, feminism!” Well that’s how I feel today. Thank you very much for the right to vote, but please stop telling what to do in order to feel fulfilled and free.

Image: pbkwee

The Blessing of Childlessness

Believe me, those are not two words I ever thought I’d put together.

All I’ve ever wanted is to be a mother, to look after my family, and then to be a grandmother. And I was going to be really good at it. I’ve always been involved in children’s work at church, and it was something I was good at.

I was pretty sure I would be a very good mum.

Soon after we got married we decided to try and conceive naturally. We’d just joined a brand new church plant and most of the team were young married couples. It felt like everyone was having babies so we didn’t want to be left out! We read books about parenting, we planned how on earth we’d fit a baby into our one-bedroomed flat, we wrote a list of baby names. Every time we visited a family with young children, we’d talk about how they parented and what we would do the same and what we would do differently. We were pretty ready.

But God had other plans.

DSCF4785.JPG6 months. 1 year. 18 months. 19 months. 20 months. We were getting impatient. People were having their second babies, their third! People would say things like, “just you wait, you don’t know the meaning of tired!” “Are you free to babysit? It’ll be good practice!” “Drinking wine? You mustn’t be pregnant!” “Going to the cinema? You lucky things – make the most of it!” Well we didn’t want to wait anymore, we didn’t want any more practice! And we certainly didn’t feel lucky.

Soft cheese and wine are not a good trade off for a child.

We knew we were becoming a bit obsessed and we knew it wasn’t good for our marriage. We needed a strong marriage in which to raise children, and on which to build a life when the children grow up and move on. We purposely decided not to pursue medical advice for lots of reasons and so we decided to stop talking or thinking or trying, and just to enjoy each other, enjoy being married. To an extent it worked, we grew closer and more in love, but the desire for children of our own never went away. Last summer we decided to move on with Plan A and apply for adoption. We’d just bought our house and inherited some money, we were in a much more sensible position and much more likely to be approved!

The closer we get to meeting our children, the more we appreciate our years of childlessness.

Recently we’ve been listening to The Valley of Vision by Sovereign Grace, and it’s helped me to vocalise some of the things I’ve learnt:

  1. Motherhood had become my idol. I longed for my children more than I longed for my Father. “You stripped me of everything I would depend on, so I’d depend on You.”
  2. My bitterness was not other people’s fault because I’d been wronged, it was deeply rooted in pride. “And though my humbling wouldn’t be my decision, it’s here Your glory shines so bright. So let me learn… that my losses are my gain, to be broken is to heal, that the valley’s where You make me more like Christ.”
  3. Jesus suffered much more than I ever will, in order to bring an end to my suffering. “You knew darkness that I might know light. Wept great tears that mine might be dried.”

Although it still hurts deeply, we thank God for our time of childlessness. For how He has grown us and cared for us; for the time we have had to serve others and to learn from them; and most of all we thank God that He gave up His only child for us.

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD!” – Psalm 113