Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conflicted Feelings

 The following is an excerpt from the novel Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini.  It is one of the books in her Elm Creek Quilts series.  I read all of these books in the summer of 2010.  When I read this passage, I really identified with the character of Karen and how she feels torn between the duties of motherhood and her own wants/desires.  Fortunately, my husband is A LOT more understanding and appreciative than her husband, Nate, is.  But I still felt this passage worth sharing and reading again because it reminds me that I'm not the only stay-at-home mother who sometimes has such conflicting feelings.


     "I'm sorry, honey."  Nate wrapped her in a hug, and she rested her head on his chest.  "I know you really wanted that job."
     "It's all right," said Karen, and she meant it.  In a way, it was even a relief.  she had no idea how she would have managed working outside the home and raising the boys without driving herself to the brink of exhaustion.
     "But I know how much it meant to you."  Nate hesitated.  "I know you want a paying job so that you can feel like you're doing something important."
     "That's not it."  Karen pulled away and picked up the knife, slicing Lucas's sandwich into squares and Ethan's into triangles, the way they preferred.  "I think that what I do now is important.  Not making sandwiches, but all of it.  What could be more important than raising my two children to be self-confident, compassionate, moral adults?  I just wish other people respected what I do.  I know I shouldn't care what other people think, but I wish other people thought that what I do is important."
     "And by 'other people,'" said Nate, "you mean me."
     She set the knife in the sink and tightened the lid on the strawberry jam jar.  "Yes, Nate.  I mean you."
     "I get it, " he said.  "I get it."
     She doubted he did.  If he did get it, if he really understood how she felt -- but how could she expect him to understand when she herself could barely sort out her conflicted feelings?  She loved her children dearly.  They were more precious to her than any job could ever be.  But one moment she felt utterly fulfilled by motherhood, and the next as if she were trapped, spent, finished.  Old and ugly, tired and used up.  She missed feeling special.  She missed that sense of anticipation that everything lay ahead of her, anything was possible, that she could do anything, be anything, be admired and cherished and beloved.  She missed feeling wanted for herself, for the woman she was and not merely the housekeeping chores she performed.  At the same time, she knew that taking care of her children was her duty and her calling and whatever she did or failed to do in the boys' early years would affect them so profoundly that nothing else she ever did would leave such a mark on the world.  She was angry that no one appreciated the importance of the task appointed to her and ashamed that she wished she could escape its drudgery.  She felt both taken for granted and selfish.  She was ashamed that she could not simply enjoy her beautiful sons, children any parent would be grateful to have, and that what seemed to come so naturally to other women was a continuous uphill struggle for her.  She felt like a failure, hopelessly inadequate to a task that was far too important to entrust to anyone else.


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