Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Garden Therapy

(Originally published Sept, 2007. Although it's not yet gardening season around here, I get to spend lots of time this weekend putting my creative energies into some thing more immediately gratifying than mothering. It will be a nice break :)

Judah is in a rough stage right now. I'm pretty sure he's teething and he's getting a bit beyond two naps a day, but not quite ready for just one. So evenings are... tense, to say the least. And this evening was particularly bad-- partly because Jeremiah had to work late, so I ended up having to teach with both kids here. To illustrate, let me just say that the evening ended with Judah biting me just as I finished nursing him before bed. That was pretty much the culmination of the rest of things. So, because he is a wonderful husband and very understanding of this tendency of mine to fall apart at the end of a rough day, Jeremiah put Sofi to bed while I went out to water my garden.

I love gardening. I really do. Sitting on my bench in my pocket garden in the evenings, watching the sunset through the maple tree, and listening to the water trickling over the rocks of the pond calms my nerves and renews my spirit. This is partly because of the general effect that nature always has on me and partly because my gardening provides me with an opportunity to see permanent order and beauty as a result of my labor. Well, comparatively permanent, anyway.

See, I have this problem. I have a need to see some result from my daily labor. I don't do too well if a day goes by and all that I accomplish is the basic household chores and duties. I feel like I need to leave some sort of mark on the day-- a testament to the worth-while-ness of the time I spent in that day. This is a problem when you have children. Children tend not to be conducive to rewarding monuments of one's selfworth. Or rather, they are in and of themselves a veeery long-term monument and a rather shaky bet at that, considering all the variables of a life. Children are, in fact, black holes of a sort, that suck in all the labor of a day and return very little that you can, at the end of the day, point to and say "I have accomplished thus and so today".

I'm being brutally honest here, so no comments about how can I say such a thing about my own children and don't I find motherhood a rewarding life. The truth is that motherhood is very often exhausting and somewhat discouraging in the short-term. Don't get me wrong, there are moments of unparalleled delight and I wouldn't trade my life at home with my children for any high-paying, self-fulfilling career.

But the truth of the matter is that God didn't give us children for our own self-fulfillment. And technically, they're only on loan for a little while. Our calling while we have them with us is to sacrifice our desires and "fulfillment" for their good. Our goal is their good, not our own.

But I still have this need to justify my existence by creating something of beauty or use each day that will out-live the next days meals (washing dishes) and play outside (laundry) and muddy shoes (vacuuming) and clutter of life (tidying, putting away, etc).

So I garden. But then there's always weeds....



The Sinks said...

I struggle with this too, not feeling accomplished enough at the end of the day because I have nothing to show for the entire day. I am a to-do list kinda person, and when I can't see that anything is checked off and done, it drives me crazy. I often have to remind myself that just playing with my daughter and training her up is in and of itself a huge accomplishment and like you said sometime more seen in the far future than at each day's end...

The Nolls said...

hi there! I don't know if I have commented before on here (i think i did a long time ago, the first time that Cristen linked you on her blog) but your post about your readers prompted me :) I really enjoy checking in with you all from time to time and getting to see your kiddos grow. I don't know if you remember us but we had Sofi in our class during Cov's parenting conference and I have you to thank for sending me to soon after Judah was born and you had him wrapped on you at church.
i was encouraged by this post, as there are times when i am burdened by my own insecurities about being just a mom. sometimes for me, my struggle is more in wanting others to see me accomplish things, and fearing that others see my life as a mom as insignificant. its good to remember the long-term investment i am making in my girls and that the rewards and fruit of it far outweigh these times of insecurity, even if many in the world do think my time is spent poorly. thanks for sharing your thoughts and being blunt :)

Rebecca said...

Wow...obviously I am not experiencing motherhood, but even so I have a very different perspective. With Ava, I see accomplishment every day - in every new learned word or skill or problem-solving step or emotional growth. (Perhaps that's because her mom has me keep track in a daily 'report card,' so I am ultra conscious of any and every tiny development.) I'm extremely proud of my part in each little aspect of growth I see on a daily basis. I guess in the scheme of things it really doesn't matter if she learns to say 'boo boo' or chooses not to throw her milk down on the floor this one time...but I think of all those things as adding up into one pretty awesome big picture, and I think it's awesome that I have a part in that.

And I guess I only imagine it being even more so when it's my own kid.

Rebecca said...

^Which I guess was your point, that the little things add up to 'accomplishment'...I just meant to say that I think it's easier for me to see the little things as meaningful accomplishments on a day to day basis.

OK, I'm done now... :D