Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ab Muscles, Complaining, and Not Taking the Path of Least Resistance

In honor of our first day at MOPS for a new year (does anyone remember THAT fiasco two years ago when I nearly quit MOPS my first day?), I thought I'd post a bit about motherhood.
Today I had to tell my itty bitty son (doesn't it seem like this was yesterday) that "even if everyone else is doing wrong, we choose what is right....and conversely, we do what is right, even if nobody else is doing it."

It was a fun little chat.

But it's been something that I've been thinking a lot about lately, in light of motherhood.

I need to do what is right, even if everybody else is doing wrong or giving me permission to do wrong.
Our culture is a culture that gives women, especially pregnant women or mothers with young kids, permission to complain. *  I've had people tell me straight-up "It's okay to complain.  You're pregnant."  I may not be a theologian by degree, but I don't see how that exegetically stands up.

I've had my share of moments where I just wanted to scream to the world how hard this dang this is.  Especially with adoption stuff.  And I have a very select few friends who hear those primal screams, usually via facebook messages.  I am by no means without fault here.  And it's valuable to have a few friends who see the raw-ness of you, in all your mascara runs and fallibility.

I'm not the person who's trying to hush up any valuable conversation about the challenges of motherhood.  But so little of it is valuable.  And that's where it's tempting to complain... the bit about never getting alone time, not getting enough sleep, schedules always changing, these wee beasties that seem to know every single button to press (and press them they do!), the standard aches and pains of pregnancy or phases of motherhood.

This is going to be a bit of a change of topic, but I'll get back to my point, I promise you.  I've been working out a lot lately.  A lot means two to four times a week.  I don't enjoy workouts.  Never have.  But I've finally found something that works for me.

One day as I was browsing around some of the "mommy forums" for this particular workout, one thing that I saw struck me.  They said "Pregnancy should not be an excuse to be lazy about your ab muscles.  So many women believe that because they're pregnant, it's okay to let their tummies hang out and slouch forward because the photos are going to show a big tummy anyway.  That belief is actually harming them.  A) their shoulders are using the incorrect muscles and they will likely experience more back pain than necessary and B) their ab muscles will not stay maintained, and they will more than likely experience post-birth complications with muscle reformation."

You've seen it, haven't you?  When women are pregnant, their natural instinct is to slouch, and carry their hands in front as a "support" for their stomach----taking the pathway of least resistance instead of carrying themselves in proper form and allowing their muscles to continue to be stretched and strengthened.  I confess, I did this during Creedence's pregnancy, but I've made a concerted effort this pregnancy to try to stand with my shoulders back using  my lats instead of my traps, and also keep my abs engaged.  I sound like an exercise freak by this point.  I guarantee you, I am no such person.

But just like I need to keep my muscles engaged in order to keep myself as healthy and pain-free as possible, I need to keep my mind and my self-control engaged in order to not go the pathway of resistance----complaining.  My typing this is as much a reminder for myself as it is for any of you reading this.

I am by no means suggesting that we women or mothers go around lying or covering up any problems we have.  Our lives are not always picture-worthy.  And there IS value in letting others in, as I've said before.  We should *not* paint false pictures of our lives, but we should make a concerted effort to exercise our gratitude and patience "muscles."  

"Is there a way you could express what you're saying differently?"  I find myself saying that a lot to a certain eldest child.  It rings true for me.  Is there a way that I could say what I'm saying differently?  Does it need to be said?  Is it truthful, or am I over-dramatizing to get pity?  

So this is my plea....when you see me huffing and puffing through a parking lot, or struggling with two less-than-perfectly behaved boys, or if I look tired, don't ask me a question that invites complaining.  Don't raise your eyebrows and say "So how ARE you doing?" in the way that expresses pity.  You can simply say "How can I help?" or just send a card with some encouraging words.  I'll try to do the same for you.  Because we all need encouragement, don't we?

*When the time comes when women with infertility or growing their family by adoption are treated as equals in this department, the world will be close to an end, I'm sure.

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