More than my Roles: Lessons from My Mama

Posted By Kallie C on Mar 17, 2015 | 0 comments


I decided to pour my time this weekend into writing something that has been stirring in my heart for several months now, but haven’t been able to find quite the right words for. So for those who may be wondering, the Townhall is still in the making and will come out tomorrow on schedule leaving last week to be just “one of those weeks” where I literally could not do it all.  

Where I grew up most women I knew were women at home with lots of children. The kind with a baby on one hip, a toddler at her feet, another at a small desk nearby working on first grade material, and older ones coming in and out to either question a subject they were working on or to lend her a helping hand. A spatula in hand she directed the traffic and barrage of questions with ease, multitasking her duties as mass-meal cook, mother, child-care giver, and teacher like an orchestra.

In our home in particular, day in and day out, mama was there–never complaining and never making us children feel anything except that we were the center of her world. She made piles of laundry feel like the best place in the world to hide because we knew we were only to be discovered in a midst of giggling, wriggling bodies of laughter and hugs. Then as we grew older laundry became the chore we all did together, as we sat around and pestered her with questions about life, about her childhood, about when we would grow up and be just like her. She taught us to dance and to sing and to laugh, because these were the moments and family we should cherish forever.

This was my mother.

A woman full of life, a deep love for family, and a never ceasing desire to create a home where each and every person felt safe, cared for, at peace, and most of all loved.

She loved babies. She was the epitome of glowing motherhood, approaching each pregnancy and labor like they were life’s greatest gifts. She multi-tasked like a champ, orchestrating a home full of activity, children, school, and continual guests coming and going. She was a city girl gone country, teaching her girls to love animals, the imaginative possibilities of the great outdoors, and an appreciation for a hard day’s work. The girl who had spent 13 plus years in Girl Scouts from Brownies to Senior Level First Class, her high school years as a cheer leader and pom pom dancer, and her college years embracing sorority life and volunteer leadership like it was made for her. Not only was she fun and beautiful, but smart too, graduating from college with a degree in finance. Compiling all that talent with her uncanny way of embracing motherhood, made her a model at homemaking. She channelled her leadership and social organization skills into our home, our church, and the community of women and families around her.

She was also the girl who had survived a childhood no girl should have to, with an alcoholic mother, a bitter divorce, and a childhood of juggling family issues. She survived, she found a peace in forgiveness, she found hope in faith, and she was determined to build a home of love for her children. She did that when I was at home and she still does it today. Except now she is juggling children in every level of school from grade school to graduate school, sports and extracurriculars, PTO and school dances, meals and errands and phone calls from her adult kids out of state. If there was ever a woman designed to be a mother and wife and to excel at it — my mom has definitely mastered a super level of it. If she ever questioned it, doubted herself, or wished for something else — it has never showed or lasted long, as there was no question in our minds growing up that my mom loved us, our home, and being our family’s biggest cheer leader.

As an adult, I have learned a lot about my mom by remembering other women I watched around her as I grew up.  Some of the most unhappy women that I have observed are women that I saw struggling to also be a wife, mother, and homemaker believing it was the only good version of themselves possible. Whether it was an inner insecurity of never being enough, constant competition, constant complaining, constant criticizing, or succumbing to a pervasive and limited view that a woman’s only place and talents were in bearing children and keeping a house — I saw women crippled under the pressure to be something they weren’t even sure of wanting to only and always be themselves. Their voices lost, their no unheard of, and their doctrine making them believe that being a woman and being lesser was somehow their cross to bear — these women passed on a message of life to me that this was it. That women could only go so far. That our education was only worth pursuing so much. That finding a man to marry me and provide for me was the only goal in life.

The system and the beliefs we swam in corralled those who believed in it tightly, and those who questioned it or tried to fight against it found themselves crushed and removed.

To some it may sound like living in a different country or a different century, but no this was small town, middle-of-nowhere America in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was a conservative community and an even tighter network of homeschooling families struggling to keep out the world with every boundary, rule, and doctrine. For the women: God, the Bible, and everyone else demanded these roles of them so what else could they do, but try. When they found themselves failing or questioning or wishing for anything different, it was easier to find someone else who was A) doing it worse, B) doing it better, C) doing it differently, or D) not doing it at all and openly criticize them or judge them in order to feel better about themselves.

Looking back now, I can see how my mother stood out differently, mostly because she was so happy. Truly happy with her life. When someone is jealous, or insecure, or discontent — time around them reveals it. When someone has made a choice that they do not feel forced into and believe to be right for them, it makes all the difference in the world. I think this was one important way that my mother differed. When it came time to guide her adult daughters into the kind of women they wanted to be and the choices they wanted to make as adults, all she has wanted for us is to make choices that allow us to be the best version of ourselves. I am sure it can not have always been easy to see her daughters question the role they saw women filling the most growing up or to watch us choose to walk different paths then her. But her ability to listen, her willingness to embrace change, her genuine faith, and her selfless love for each of us, has let us know again and again that her relationship with us truly matters above all else.

She has taught me more than anyone I know how to look fear, loss, grief, betrayal, and mistakes made in the face and to find a way to hold my head high and keep walking.

She has taught me through watching her choose to support another woman’s choice to leave the community or be different, that any community or doctrine that demands me to keep other women around me small, voiceless, and powerless is not one worth staying in, defending, or believing in.

In watching her handle being rejected, she has taught me how important it is to surround myself with all kinds of women. She has taught me to embrace women around me who are different, and most importantly to surround myself with women who are kind to each other. She has taught me that family and forgiveness are two things that are always worth prioritizing, because family are the only ones who remain when friends fail you and forgiveness is the only way to find peace in the pain of loss.

For being raised in a household of eight girls one might think that the girl drama would be a bit too much to handle; not with my mother though. A girl who grew up befriending boys much more easily than girls, my mother knew well the stereotypes of dramatic girls and the behaviors so many girls learn from a young age to compete and criticize each other.  My mother worked extra hard at teaching us to be women who celebrated each other rather, even when we didn’t feel like it. In fact, I think this is one of her most valuable lessons she has ever taught us. My sisters and I can now thank her, the iPhone, and group text technology for continuing our family celebratory traditions. When one sister needs us for whatever, the others are all there to chime in day or night with words and a never ending slew of emoticons.

If I were to pick a reason for why my mother is so good at living this out in her relationships with other women and for teaching it to us, it is is because she knows who she is and she is content that being herself is enough.

So for me, when it comes to what kind of woman I should be, the bar is set high.

So often I fear that I have already missed it, because I seem to so easily forget that ever occurring lesson my mother would always strive to teach me.  I find myself comparing myself yet again to her and to other women with a critic’s eye that only leaves me more aware of how I fall short.

Why do I do that? Why do we do that as women? Why do we do it to ourselves?

Why do we see someone excelling at a role in their life and then prescribe it to be THE only standard that must be achieved for self-worth and security and happiness?

All of us have more than one role in life that we fulfill, whether it be daughter, sister, wife, friend, mother, worker, etc. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses.

Each of those roles do not alone represent our worth, nor do their summation or how well we juggle them.

Our worth should be found in the inherent value and dignity that all humanity has been given. Christian’s often ground this in the biblical teaching that “we were made in the image of God.” The Hindu greeting, Namaste also hints of this as it expresses a beautifully complex meaning of not only a greeting, but one that says something close to “I see you, I see the light of God in you, and I honor all that is you.”

If being a military spouse has taught me anything in the last four plus years, it is that I am and will be called upon to fill many roles in my life.

I am the happiest when I approach them as equally important roles that I carry. I am the most miserable when I begin to conflate an impossible standard in my head of how I am failing in comparison to other women and which role I should prioritize the most.

For so long I have listened to two warring voices in my head. One that tells me that there is only one kind of real woman in this world and I am already failing at it, and another that challenges me to dream and to be more than a diminished version of myself. When I listen to the voices telling me to reign it in; to give up dreams of being good at more than one role; that wanting more for myself and other women is somehow unrealistic and selfish; that the woman over there that is obviously not me must have it better off or figured out; that I need to somehow make myself smaller in mind, body, or ambition—when I listen to these lies I begin to project those lies on every other woman I encounter, even the ones I know and love.

I have learned over and over that I can not listen to lies of doubt, insecurity, and scarcity and truly celebrate another woman succeeding differently than me.

With those voices, all I can see is how they are different than me: whether it’s they are a mother and I am not, whether it’s they have a better job, or a better house, or a better marriage, or a better …. fill in the blank.

In short, when I am listening to those lies, all I have in my hand is a distorted measuring tape that will always read: Kallie is not enough _______.

Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I am the only one that finds myself with that stupid measuring tape in hand, going why am I doing this to myself and to them yet again? All I know is that deep down, I have got to find a way to start measuring myself and others from a place of “enough.”

What if we as women started celebrating each other as more than enough, instead of silently opening up that measuring tape?

What if instead, I am grateful and joyful and satisfied and content in being myself with all my oddities, imperfections, and mistakes. If my faith and my mother have taught me anything, then giving in to the temptation and voices to make myself or anyone else small in order to feel better will only lead me down into a vicious cycle of hurtful relationships, where my chains and fear are the only things left I have to give to women around me.

So today let’s remember that we are more than our roles, we are more than our fears, we are more than our shortcomings, and we are more than our measuring tapes — I am more than that.

It is possible to have relationships where we celebrate each other, celebrate our successes, celebrate our differences, and vulnerably admit to our mistakes, insecurities, and fears. They are harder to find and take a lot of time and intentional effort to create, but these kind of people in our lives give us the ability to truly be ourselves without justification.

I am Kallie — a woman who is a proud military spouse, a graduate student, a career-woman-in-the-making, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a runner, a pet lover, an aunt, a mother someday I hope, a volunteer, a woman of faith, a woman filled with doubt, a questioner, a talker, an idealist and on other days a cynic, a cryer, a writer, a homeschool kid, a bookworm, a sometimes organized and other times chaotic home keeper, and so much more.

I am Kallie and I am learning from my mother who has shown me for years in being herself, that being myself is not only enough — it is the best version of myself that I can be.

 

To my Mama.

 

Love,

 

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This post is part of a Series. Part 2 can be found here.

 

Discussion:

  1. How has life taught you to celebrate women versus to criticize or compete with them?
  2. How do you fight the temptation to make yourself and other women around you smaller?