Mary the Secretary {Discovering the kingdom of women}

“What are you talking about? You never take us up on our offers to take care of your kids. You always ask your parents!”

She had me.  This friend who knows my day to day, knows my children, knows the truth – I never ask anyone to take care of my kids.

For once, I had no response.

I am pretty much all game & no play. All talk, no action. All ideals, no follow-through.

She was right.

For all of my soapbox babble about community, women supporting women, caring for one another, accepting help and letting go – I never take action in accepting them as my own.

Simply put, I’m prideful.

Willing to shell out hours on others, never willing to personally accept them as a gift.

And let me tell you – It’s a nasty, self-righteous, self-affliction to impose.

I know, my friends, I know…

I know it’s not for me to decide if someone is feeling obligated to give or not. If they want to give, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. If they don’t want to give but do, well – that’s theirs to own.

This is the thing though, as I’m busy deciding how others feel and should act I’m not allowing myself be a part of God’s great Kingdom known as “Women”.

I’m not allowing myself take part in the cycle of giving and receiving the unique care & language only women speak.

I’m not allowing myself be released from the hostage of self.

And really, Who is this helping?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not without justification or reason for my hesitation in accepting this gift of Women.

Fear not, I have a list of reasons:

Irrational Reason #1:  I have a two year old.

I don’t need to share ad nauseum how taken aback I am by the beautiful inner essence of our daughter. She is light. She is also wildly independent, passionately stubborn and painfully loving.

I’m quite sure she is the only two year old to have ever fully embraced this erratic spectrum of child development.  Right?

Truth is, I just don’t want others to have to be her student as well. I have this inner desire for her to not necessarily be perfect (Oh Lordy, wouldn’t that be traumatically delightful) – I just have this fraction of fear that if others “have” to take care of her, they won’t like her.

Because sometimes I don’t like her. I don’t like the actions she chooses; the painful acts of self-denial she ushers me through; the difficult work she makes this beautiful act of mothering.

Irrational Reason #2:  I despise feeling like a burden.

I’m not sure where this comes from, as it is certainly not a part of the Kingdom.

Still… I don’t like the self-imposed feeling of “putting people out”. And yes, I have decided it is up for me to decide if others are feeling put out upon or not.

You’re welcome for relieving that burden from your shoulders.

Irrational Reason #3:  I always feel the need to give something in return.

Yes, I know, I don’t always need to be the one giving.

Yes, I also know that gifts are gifts because they are given with nothing expected in return.

I don’t expect to be given anything for caring for a friend’s son. In fact, it feels really uncomfortable and slightly awkward to be given something for enjoying the presence of her child. So why can’t I translate the reversal in my mind?

I know I could always give flowers or jars of goodness as a gift, but I don’t.  I’m just not that on top of things.

Irrational Reason #4:  I have two children.

Caring for one child in exchange for others caring for two doesn’t feel balanced in my mind.

I know it’s not all about balance but I still end up feeling guilty.

Simple as that.

All extremely legitimate research-based irrational reasons as to why I don’t ask friends to care for my children.

Sick. I know.

In middle school my mom made a friend. In this friend, she found us a friend.

Mary the Secretary, as we often called her in front of and behind her back, was the quintessential friend any mother dreams of. Living with Type 1 Diabetes, Mary the Secretary never had biological children of her own.

Children she loved though? That she had in spades.

Not a woman to seek out children to love but a woman who was loved by children because of who she was; how she listened; the advice she never gave; the candy we were never suppose to have but always was passed to us behind our mother’s back (Mom, did you know about this all those years?).

Throughout middle school years from hell Mary the Secretary was my secret friend. I’m quite sure I never even so much as whispered her name to any of my day-time school-day friends.  I wasn’t cool enough at that time to be different, to tell them I actually had a friend my mom’s age.   I simply just wasn’t that confident. It’s actually took me about 10 years from the drudgery of early adolescence to develop even a sliver of that kind of coolness.

Often my dates with Mary the Secretary went like this:

Mom: Tomorrow you’re going over to Mary the Secretary’s to help clean her home and put her holiday decorations up.
Jess: Mommmmmmmmmmmm… I don’t want to. Please. I have other things to do like count the cats on my bedroom wallpaper (don’t judge) or test again to see if our dove, Angel, can fly over the balcony (keep those comments to yourself).
Mom: Well, you’re going. I’ll take you over in the morning.
Jess: (Stomps off on the red carpet up to my bedroom, presenting to mope, secretly delighted.)

Secretly delighted because this is exactly what would happen when I got to Mary the Secretary’s:

Mary the Secretary: Would you like a cinnamon rolls?
Jess: Yes, please.
Mary the Secretary: Want to come in the living room so we can talk?
Jess: Yeah, why not?

Followed by two or more hours of chit-chatting, telling of secrets, sharing of stories and maybe a little dusting to show my mom, validate that I did something while I was there. Maybe.

This woman, one of my mom’s closest friends, was my friend. Not only a friend though, a safe friend. A friend whom I knew would never trade me in for the cool girl with the see-through shirt sleeves. A friend whom I knew wouldn’t turn her back on me as I walked down the hallway with new braces and latex donut underarm (think broken tailbone, 8th grade and yes, it is all the horrid that you imagine it to be).

I knew that Mary the Secretary was safe, faithful and loyal.  That she would love me donut and all.

Isn’t this what I wish for my daughters? For a woman, or women, to step into Mary the Secretary’s role and be that friend for them?

Then why am I holding this potential hostage?

Too many questions, I know.

But all worth a moment of pause.Image

If I want my daughters to learn how to develop healthy relationships with women, strong women, wise women, safe, loyal, honest, trustworthy women – I need to ask my pride to take a back seat and let this happen.

I need to let other women care for my daughters.

I need to let go of how I perceive others to feel or what I think may be an obstacle in caring for a two year and 10 month old and embrace the possibilities.

I need to trust these women not only with my children but in our relationship. That if loving & caring for our children becomes a burden they will talk with me and together, we can continue to build into the beautiful Kingdom of Women.

I need to believe that there is a Mary the Secretary out there for each of our girls and in order for them to find her, I need to step back and let the spirit of God work.

So to my dear friend(s) who called me out on my all game no play, what are you doing next Thursday evening?  I’m taking my husband on a date and I need someone to care for our daughters.

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