Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Banana Cookies - An Essay by Bloom Guest Brooke Benton

It's a treat to have Brooke here again. We always love to know what's on her mind...

Today I made banana cookies.

And whenever I make anything banana, I invoke the Jack Johnson of my tastes and pretend like it’s the weekend

(yeah, we could pretend it all the time…)

And then get a little self-conscious at my propensity for slowness and quiet and the absolute allergy to multi-tasking and wonder why and how I’m so content to be simply-clad and sheepskin-slippered and day-old-mascaraed in the kitchen.

And I wonder why I don’t feel the urge to go and do and be! And proclaim myself to the world! And figure out who I am! And in the process, PROGRESS!

A recent conversation has me wondering where I fall on the spectrum of productivity and progress and how maybe—just maybe—the world undervalues those who seem content to not change. Or they put us in a box of always wanting to be there. Or else just send us mixed messages.

Because then I heard the tale of a woeful over-analyzer who was falling in love with what he supposed was the wrong girl because she wanted to be a doctor. And he wanted to be a doctor, and in his big brain he could never fathom who—if both were out busy being big doctors—would stay home with the kids. As the simpleton of afterwards, I said that love makes miraculous things work out and stranger things have occurred than two doctors with children, but my husband said this to that woeful over-analyzer:

“You just need to find yourself a girl who likes to stay home and wants nothing more than to be a mom. I’m lucky because Brooke is totally content to just be a mom.”

And I didn’t know whether to be complimented or insulted.

Because here’s why:

The implications would state that there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

(Which may or may not be true, because I haven’t figured that out yet. But then there’s)

the little bitty reality that yells and yells to me about how motherhood is hard and not always blissful and—dare I speak it out loud and say this?—that what is sweet can slip quietly into a manual effort without much plying or complaint: the bedtimes and bath times and (ack!) homework times, and times tables and time spent carpooling and “time for beds” unheeded…

And when someone says this is all I want to be (and when I even agree with what they’re saying) I start to wonder:




I’ve long feared that when the babies stop coming (though I have a secret notion that if I keep having babies till I have grandbabies I’ll never have to prove this out) I will be paralyzed with fear at reintroducing myself to myself. Suddenly cold and born into the new world of figuring out who I am, and regaling a memory of a girl who pre-kids was a mere 24 and selfish because she was only a self, I wonder how I will reconcile the two?

Did I lose myself so much that I really don’t know what I am anymore?

And is it okay to find a new me?

And in all the process, can I just make cookies right now and not think the big thoughts till then?

Thank you.


We live in a Zoo! said...

Its okay to think the "big thoughts" just don't worry about them until its time to deal with it. I swear that makes sense to me.

Abbie said...

If there is something wrong with you, then we should be boat-mates because I'm right there with you. So, this made me think (and now I will proceed to make a comment of my thought process). 1) I honestly have "found myself" more in motherhood than any other adventure I've had. It's amazing to me, really, how much I have grown personally as I've taken care of tiny kids. 2) it seems the times when I stop making the babes/fam number one, that's when my personal growth goes in the pooper. Weird? 3)when I make my little projects just projects instead of "I'm going to change the world!" projects - I learn more. Also weird. 4) I always think about where I fall on the spectrum too - how productive am I? (in all senses, not just in doing, but being). Some days I feel like super woman, others I feel super lazy. 5) I swear I had more thoughts, but now they're gone. Oh, cookies are usually the answer to most life problems.

chereemoore said...

I don't have kids yet, but I find myself having fearful thoughts of losing myself. I mean if I give up my career for children, what happens after when the kids grow up??? I want kids and I want to stay home with them, but right now I am having a difficult time reconciling the two in my head...

Bloom said...

First, thank you, Brooke for so exquisitely writing feelings that are in my heart, too. I can never quite express them right. You have.

As someone who was completely defined and happy and felt like 'this is ME!' in her career (teaching), I struggled and struggled to find the 'me' in motherhood. I had wanted it always, but had no idea how unnatural it would feel at first.

It took a lot of time and effort, but I feel like I know who I am again, and genuinely love it. In fact, for the first time ever, I told my husband the other night that maybe I wouldn't end up teaching again. (?) And I was actually OK with that possibility.

I guess I just think that each phase of life will require certain things of us--certain changes, progress, evolution. And I genuinely believe we can find our identity in any of those situations life demands of us.

And finally, to Brooke--I think it a wonderful thing that you can be so content in old mascera and sweats, making cookies. Some days I am so to-do list oriented that I stress myself out over the silliest things and don't enjoy anything. My banana cookies days are my happiest.

I woke up early (!) but grumpy this morning. Thanks for helping me reshape my outlook.


Jana said...

nothing like cookies to drive those big thoughts away...

for now you're a fab. mom and later you will be something else. (perhaps a fab. grandma!) but i think we mothers will be a great many things in the course of our lives.

and can you email me the "how to" of the banana cookies?!!!

~j. said...

Brooke, I love how you think. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Sally said...

Thanks for your thoughts today. I'm usually very content to "just be a Mom" because I have hobbies and friends that I feel like help me to stay "Me" but sometimes I worry that when my husband has his big career and I meet his collegues who's wives also have big careers will I be upset or embarassed because all I did was stay at home. Obviously this is the thing that I really feel is most important, but I still worry. Maybe it's just because I'm selfish and prideful. Whatever it is, I did ejoy your thoughts today.

Kalli Ko said...

This is probably why I'll just have babies until my uterus runs out of gas, or my brain dies. Whichever comes first...

Kalli Ko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesslyn said...

It's so hard to remember there's no such thing as "just a mom." I didn't get married until a few weeks after I turned 33. I spent a lot of years on an intense and fast-paced career track. Having 3 kids under 3 right now is SO MUCH HARDER! Most days I remember that it's also more rewarding by millions of miles. But some days, I just make cookies and ignore the laundry. Someday, when the kids are grown, I'll reenter the workforce... and miss this desperately.

Anonymous said...

I've been pondering this post all morning, as I've moved the laundry that NEVER ENDS, picked up shoes the kids have left on the floor, wiped snotty noses, helped with sorting, cutting and gluing, ran kids to school, fixed lunch, combed hair (sadly, not my own), and wiped crumbs off the table to have a place to set my laptop down.

What it boils down to is that we like validation. We NEED validation. Having a career or other activity outside our homes gives us opportunities for that validation and helps us to feel as though our efforts are useful and needed. That immediate gratification is so seductive that when we choose to stay home and raise our kids, we often feel 'lost' or have a hard time 'finding ourselves.' Here's the thing, though. We KNOW who we are, and that doesn't change just because we make a different career choice.
Henry B. Eyring explains the "Law of Increasing Returns. (March 1982)"

"The simple fact is that there is a God who wants us to have faith in Him. He knows that to strengthen faith, we must use it. And so He gives us the chance to use it by letting some of the spiritual rewards we want most be delayed. Instead of first efforts yielding returns, with a steady decline, it's the reverse. First efforts, and even second efforts, seem to yield little. And then the rewards begin, perhaps much later, to grow and grow."

The rewards of motherhood will come, and I believe they will be beyond what any of us can imagine. In the meantime, keeping our sense of humor and looking for the little blessings that come everyday will help make this journey not only endurable, but enjoyable. That's not to say we don't need validation and immediate gratification sometimes, because we do. I just think we, as a society, have come to expect that in everything, which makes it harder when the most important things require us to be patient and wait.

Now, I'm off to clean up a diaper blowout, and I'm pretty sure that's not a blessing in disguise.

Joan said...

Perfect, perfect, perfect. I think you are just lovely, Brooke. AND the fact that you are completely content with your place and purpose in life is a gift to you, your husband, and children.

Astyn said...

Beautiful post, and a lovely comment by Amanda. The validation and identity we find in a career is so tempting, and so much easier that staying home. However, I feel that my choice to stay at home with my children now will save me a lot of problems in the future. I feel like I am laying a foundation for things to come and spending my time with those that matter most.
Thanks for giving my something to think about.

Jill said...

Brooke, I've been thinking about your post all day. I'm currently a work-at-home mom dying to just be a mom and dropping the work part. That sounds wrong. The mom part is work, but I'm ready to have my child dictate my daily to do list instead of my employer. Know what I mean?

Anyway, have you ever read the blog Clover Lane? I'm not sure what the author's name is, but I love her take on being a mom. She's had some really great posts lately about motherhood and being a mom to 5 kids and just being happy with being a mom. She's got such a great perspective. Here are a few links to her recent posts about this subject. I know it's a pain to copy and past the links, but these are both totally worth the read.

Anonymous said...

I totally know whatcha mean. I am a stay at home mom as well, but unlike Abbie have not found myself while doing it. (Although I'm very glad she has!)
The transition has been a little harder for me! I love my children dearly and am glad to be home, and am more and more glad as I see them growing and it all paying off. But when I really question what I'm doing it's what Astyn said that I believe most firmly - the investment now will pay off big time in the future. And that keeps me going through the wearing sweats all day days!

And, um, those cookies look amazing. Any chance the recipe can be passed on???

Melissa said...

A mom was all I ever wanted to be. Career Day was no fun for me because I didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a mom though. I found myself wanting to express and be creative while being a mom, and I have pursued certain things. But I recently realized that I spend a lot of little bits of time doing creative things for me (singing, dancing in a play, lunches with friends, etc.) and have gotten so used to it that I'm missing some kids-growing-up time. You'll have plenty of time later to get reacquainted with yourself, but it sounds like you are pretty acquainted with yourself now. You're doing what you want to be doing and you are comfortable in your shoes. Enjoy those babies and this precious time. There is a ton of personal progress happening as you mother your babies. You can always expand later. I guess what I'm saying is I think you're doing just fine. :D

Rae. said...

Lovely, lovely post Brooke. Such good thoughts, and banana cookies?! Yum.
I think so many mothers, including myself, relate to your feelings.

I've had this conversation frequently with my husband, usually on the hind legs of some story splashed all over the news about the latest loser husband who cheated on his wife of 20+ years: the discussion of a the faithful, stay at home mother's "insurance policy".
Where is a girl's guarantee? These women who faithfully put their careers and advancement on the back burners in the very worthy (and in my opinion so much more rewarding) effort of raising a family? Because when the roles split, and he's out working and bringing home the bacon - he continues upward on the career ladder while you have no choice but to stay at a stand-still serving up PB&J's.

The world might pay occasional lip service to the labor of a 'stay-at-home mother', but in all reality that lip service will never translate into a decent paycheck if her man up and flies the coop and she finds herself in the workplace 22 years later?
I see it too often when I was in charge of hiring secretaries for my Dad's company. Women in their fifties, their marriages in shambles - earning around 10 bucks an hour right as their male counterparts peak in wage earnings! Eeek!

Where is our insurance policy, I ask him?!! How do I know? How do I know?! How do I know that nothing bad will ever happen?

My husband laughingly rolls his eyes for the 90,000th time at my rant, will kiss my cheek, and remind me of his endless love and devotion. But more importantly, I remember something even more reassuring: I am a tough person. I am [think I am] a good mother. And if I can do this...THIS...beautiful, exhausting, wonderful, under appreciated, magical thing called stay-at-home motherhood, then I really can do anything. Boo yeah, there's my insurance policy. Myself.
I guess I'm not lost after-all.



Anonymous said...

Love it, Rae!

Rae. said...

Thanks Amanda, how funny...I was thinking the same thing about your comment!

I forgot to ask: can you please post the recipe for those banana cookies?! PLEASE?!

Jane said...

I don't want to ruffle any feathers, but something about this post has really been bothering me since I read it.

I totally respect women who sincerely want to stay at home as mothers--I definitely don't think women like this are "just moms." I also completely respect and identify with women who have ambitions outside of motherhood. I think all women, really, have ambitions besides motherhood, even if these aren't career ambitions.

What I have a really hard time respecting is men who think that the only women suitable to marry are those who only want to be in the home. Obviously a man considering marriage with a women has to consider so many factors--and if she has no intention of having or helping raise children, I can see how he might be concerned. But I guess I see the alternative here of "just marry a woman who just wants to stay home" as kind of if it is the "easy" way out or something, instead of taking a woman for all her goals and desires (and again this doesn't have to mean career goals) and finding a way to support and make them work.

Hoo boy, again I don't mean to offend or pass judgment on your husband! I guess I just see that attitude as bothersome.

Rochelleht said...

I love you Brooke. As always. You rock. This is what I've had to struggle with this year. Kids in school, me at home. Who am I?

I've decided that I'm a servant. I serve God. Cheesy, but true. That's why I am at the temple every week. Why I spend hours on my lessons for Sunday School, why I volunteer at the school. There is nowhere my skills are needed more. And then when they come home, I'm mom again. It works.

Brooke said...

love the comments. love the eyring quote, amanda. and rae, the "how do i know?!" questions really hit me. i feel that way so much-- and i think i feel it moreso as i've grown up and been in the mothering role for almost 10 years now.

and jane, it doesn't mean i have or never will have goals-- or that my husband hasn't supported me in those endeavors... i dreamed BIG before i had kids. it's just that things change more than you think they will-- and finding yourself content with what seems so small compared with what you thought you wanted is a little disconcerting. not to mention the amount of sacrifice done simply by being a mother, especially if you believe in traditional gender roles that include a male who brings home the bacon and a wifey that cooks it. (which i ardently do.)

i too was a little confused by my husband's comment (as i wrote), but i think he may have gauged it better than i did: it's easier to be happy in your life rather than pine for another. for some women who truly want careers, this never comes. i see that i am lucky.

Brooke said...

oh, ps:

recipe here!