We mothers wear a lot of hats, and it’s no wonder that we quickly lean into multi-tasking. Sweeping a floor while taking a business call or scheduling a play date. Wiping down the bathroom counter and sink while potty training a toddler. Mentally listing and categorizing the needs around us (including our own––um, shower?) while we drive a carpool or stir a pot or push a swing. Add in homeschooling, and you may find yourself with books or art supplies or papers in any one of these scenes. There are so many things to keep up with as a mother, without considering the emotion, the tantrums, the stories and snuggles. So here is a little lesson I’ve learned in the ebb and flow of this life: efficiency and presence as a mother rarely co-exist. They can complement one another, co-exist by taking turns with the other, but rarely would I consider presence––attending to the emotional or abstract needs of the home––efficient.
This week has been a series of those days, the sort met with heavy sighs, shrugged shoulders, even groans from my children, particularly my younger ones. Why? or I don’t want to do that. or simply –– Ugggghh. The gift of walking this mothering/homeschooling journey for long enough is knowing these sort of days and attitudes do come, but unless I allow it, they do not define me or my home. Life with a three year old can be equally hilarious, delightful, and emotionally exhausting. The same is true of a thirteen year old. As one who loves the accomplishment of doing, I can assure you it is worth your time, patience, and even emotional endurance to be present with your children in the hard places of motherhood.
These hard days are a moment to pause the efficient, multi-tasking button and cast vision for your child again. You may need to step outside or shut yourself in the bathroom temporarily to breathe and encourage yourself first, but after doing so, step toward them. Step into their hard emotions to be with them and remind them who they are and where they are going. We are visionaries. We see our children uniquely. We know their quirks and idiosyncrasies. We know their soft spots emotionally and their tickle spots physically. We know their insecurities and gifts. We are uniquely positioned to speak to all of it. And while we can offer them the best music lessons or clothes or education or travel experience, learning to be present with them in the hard places is where they will grow the most. It is not efficient. It takes time, sometimes 302 times in a day! But it is worth it.
I realize this all sounds lovely written on a screen and entirely different when you’re dealing with an angry child/teen/preschooler. Or when you’re holding a hard and unwelcome no. Or when a child is firmly holding their no or weeping with hurt feelings. I promise you: I have been there. This week, when my daughter told me she didn’t like reading or want to practice reading any more, my heart felt a zing. My impulse wanted to respond, are you kidding me?! But instead I stood up and left the room to get a glass of water, took a deep breath, and returned to her and her point. We talked about some of the topics we’ve read in history together––how women didn’t always have the right to education or political/cultural voice, how it was illegal for women and men in slavery to learn to read at all, how it perpetuated systemic and social control. I asked her why? This led to a conversation about reading leading to independence and freedom to learn anything. It led to a conversation about taking initiative in your life and doing the work. It was brief, five to ten minutes, and then we finished her lesson. I commended her perseverance (and secretly my own) and we both gladly shifted to do something else. This was just one example, in one particular moment, with one particular child. This may happen with each child over a different topic, with a different emotion. With a toddler or young preschooler without much reasoning, the vision-casting may look more concrete: This is how we use our hands. This is how we use our words. This is a sign you need a nap. This is a sign you are hungry. Mothers, do you understand, why at the end of it all, the question we ask ourselves or must sometimes answer to others of what did I do today might be the wrong question altogether? If you must answer, simply tell yourself, today I refreshed our home’s vision.
Our work as mothers requires us to look a bit down the road, to gently lead. There is much meandering along the way, but our work is always to remind ourselves and our children (emotionally and physically) of where we are going, and when it is time, to let them go on their own. We are mothers, practically meeting needs and finding the ways to accomplish all the things for our homes. We are visionaries, making time for wisdom and nurturing of hearts. And just in case you’re needing the reminder, it is worth it.