A year ago I had so much to do in a day or a week that I began to feel like an actress playing out the part that was my life. I would show up on time, take my stage directions, say my lines and leave the performance exhausted and drained. There was no place for ad-libbing. There was no time for randomly breaking out in song. There was not one tiny second in the day to call my own. There was the cooking, the dishes, the packing, the commuting, the shopping, the barn chores, the cleaning, my job tasks, getting the permits and licenses updated, the banking balanced, the right size shoes, access to proper clothing in season and on and on it went…
I don’t imagine my list varies greatly from that of other women.
This period was all a blur for me yet I do not think that I did anything different than I do today – I just seem to do it all differently. I run the same route these days excluding the addition of driving into the city to my job but somehow I am able to do it all with much more awareness. I hug my children and tell them I love them as I always have but both of us seem to hold on a little tighter, with a little more meaning and a desire to hold onto the moment rather than get to our next post.
The model that I once used to get through the day was one where I separated getting things done from time with my children. I always made sure that I was totally on when spending time with my kids. In addition, if possible, I would include them in my work. This would mean surrendering to the fact that things were going to take at least 3 times longer to accomplish. A lot of the time this was fine, in fact it was the desired way in the world. My children had the opportunity to learn how houses are made and where their food comes from. If I could let go of my goals and not concern myself with how much I got done, we would usually have a pretty good time. We might find ourselves jumping around on hay bales in the mow of the barn instead of crunching numbers for the budget but such is the real stuff of life.
Trouble came when the goals at hand were non-negotiable (which they often are) and had to get done in a certain time frame – also when there were just too many of them for any normal human to get through. The laundry needed to be done, an email needed to be sent, a meal made, rat traps placed, roads traveled... Finding the balance between appreciating my children in the moment and still covering off the business of the daily grind seems to be what this whole mothering thing is about. The very thing I want to befriend through writing.
Sanity arrived as I began to discover the possibility that the children could be in day care and I could get work done separately. The folks in my office cubicle probably really appreciated this. In fact, I’m sure it was key to keeping myself employed. Eventually I also figured out that I also did not have to have an infant on my hip while loading two by fours into a truck. I learned that climbing a ladder to put siding on the house was not a brilliant idea with a toddler running around below (the lure of that ladder was just too great – that is before you get to falling object safety issues). But there was no peace for me in gaining sanity by having to separate from my children on a regular basis.
My 4 year old daughter has become afraid of the chickens. She won’t set foot near the barn without me carrying her. I think it is related to one surprising her as it flew past her face one day. She will stand pretty close to a cow without getting nervous but the chickens around her just won’t do. My 2 year old son likes to go into the mow and never come down. I mean never. Of course not, why would you want to leave such a play haven? The cats that live up there make it even more impossible to leave. So filling a water trough would take around 15 minutes from boots to barn and back without kids. It can be a 2 hour affair if I bring the tots. And can I add extra time in order to work in the degree of tantrums that we may have all endured?
I don’t expect that any of these roadblocks to efficiency will ever change. But what can change is my frame of mind. I can remember that not everything is a race, especially not the act of watching your small children grow up. I can take everything in stride, do what I can and drop the rest.
I realize that I have been asking my children to run on a schedule the way I was as a crazy running around mother/worker/farmer person. My children. Children. Isn’t the very definition of being a child about taking the time to learn about the world and enjoy simple things?
I have finally come to a place where I feel it is no longer necessary to keep my children in regular day care hours. This means I am no longer afraid I will lose my sanity again with all that I must accomplish in a day. Next week I will be scaling back their hours and keeping them home with me more often. Since I left work they have pretty regularly attended 3 days a week. In those 3 days I did mostly barn, field or greenhouse work or caught up on house renovations (I don’t mean redecorating, but getting the thing built in the first place). Sometimes I would do deliveries to the city without the kids. With this decision comes a new faith that I will be able to still continue to get things done around the house and farm, but we will learn how to do these things together.
My children already understand what we do on this farm. I want more of that. A few weeks ago we had to convince Gabriel to drink his milk at day care. He stopped when he realized it was not Bonnie’s milk (our cow). I explained that some other very important cow had brought this milk to him and that he should be grateful for that milk as well. He began drinking it again.
I also think this new ability to work alongside each other is a function of their ages as well. We managed to begin our major addition when Jasmine was only 10 months old and Rob was off working many days in the week. At that age you can kind of schedule convenient naps while you make a trip to the hardware store, gain some hang out time in a stroller or let them crawl around the pile of nails and hammers while you finish the flooring. Something changes when they start to walk, yes?
I also believe that it is important that children learn that their parents are available for them but are not ready at every moment to be their every bit of entertainment, their servant, cook, bath or clothing maid.
Just to prove my point I have written this blog entry over the course of 5 hours. All the while my children have circled around me steadily singing loud, made-up songs, playing with the new train track that we built together over the holidays, eating our leftover turkey for lunch, helping me clear off the pond for skating, romping with the dogs, rushing to the potty… All the while our lives ticked along the way I think they should.