“A Mother's Life- Her heart stretches. Her hands surround. Her soul surrenders. Her path is hope.” - Caroline Darlington Leonard
Significance in the Small Moments
There are so many things that I want to do as a person and as a parent, and it’s been hard to get to them all. One of the things that I have always wanted to do is to somehow find a way to capture all of the delightful, silly, profound, touching, beautiful, even mundane moments of my children’s lives and our lives as parents. Some people do this by keeping a journal or baby book (I have written in these, but sporadically). Some people write little notes about something adorable or amazing that their child did and toss them into a shoe box. I haven’t tried that yet. Some people take lots of photographs and video—I certainly have done that! (Thanks iPhone). Yet the sheer volume of photos and videos that I have (which are fairly jumbled on my computer), are sometimes overwhelming for me to even begin to go through, let alone try to curate, organize, or goodness forbid, print out!
There is one thing that I began doing about ten years ago that I have continued doing post-kids, which is to write haiku poems for our annual holiday card. This has been a fun exercise for me (I love the puzzle of fitting an idea into the tight parameter of 5-7-5 syllables), and it turns out to be one way to capture snippets of our lives—like my own version of collecting gems in a shoe box. With the birth of our daughter in 2009 and son in 2013, the holiday haiku poems have mostly been on the theme of parenthood, since the experience of being a mother, caregiver, and observer of my children has completely engrossed me and transformed my life in every way. The poems touch on things like nursing, sleep, playing, making friends, exploring, welcoming a new sibling, gaining independence, caregiving, and especially love. In the haiku format, these ideas are small glimmers, merely touching upon the great significance that all of these experiences have had in my life.
Stopping on our walk
We touch your kitten soft buds
Sweet Magnolia tree
Two car seats in back
I open the door to find
Our kids holding hands
Shovel, squish and stir
Pat smooth, top with leaves and twigs
As far as my own artistic journey goes, for years, I have been saying to myself and to others, “I really want to write more.” Writing is a pleasure for me—I find the craft of constructing sentences and choosing words to convey an idea to be an exercise with infinite possibilities. When I am writing, I feel that wonderful sensation of being in “flow,” where I feel transported out of space and time. I remember being in graduate school (for social work), and writing an essay while at my parents’ house. My mom couldn’t believe how long I sat writing that essay, without getting up or even moving. True, I wanted to finish it so that I could be with my family (and of course, it was due the next day because I always seem to wait until deadlines are up!), but I also didn’t even really notice how long I had been sitting. I was in the flow.
However much I love writing, I have not been terribly good at finding time to write over the last eight years of being a mom. Everyone—every friend, counselor, family member, and parenthood expert—says that it is critically important to carve time out for yourself and your own passions, especially during the frazzled years of early parenthood. I have not intentionally flouted this advice, but I haven’t followed it, either. How to prioritize my own passions and creativity when so many other responsibilities are beckoning? This is my challenge and my goal—I have a feeling that I am not alone in struggling with this. One thing that I have gleaned is that as life gets fuller and busier, spontaneous moments of solo creativity-time don’t just happen easily. A person must be fierce in scheduling these in, and then following through on the plan! I am not a planner by nature, but my goal is to be more of one.
First morning drop-off
kids swarming, parents fussing
brave girl takes her seat
Peaceful on the couch
They lift the flaps, flip pages
Reading the same book
Lying on my back
I look up at the ceiling
A moment alone
The Constancy Of It All…
Some of the many things that I am interested in writing about (through additional forms of poetry and essays) have to do with how being a parent affects a person’s own development over the life span. I know that for myself, I could never have imagined how challenged and stretched I would feel every single day by the experience of caring for little ones. My sister’s poem at the start of this piece really speaks to me—this notion of stretching, and yes, surrendering to the powerful caregiving role of motherhood. I am so grateful for the incredible privilege of being able to have children, and further, being able to choose to stay home with them during these early years. It’s a priceless gift to be able to walk the beach with my kids and collect moon jellyfish in the early afternoon, as we did the other day. To even have the time to reflect and write about the experiences that I am having as a mother is a privilege that most parents in the world don’t have.
Along with this tremendous gratitude, I also feel compelled to acknowledge that so many moments in this parenting experience are, for me, an endurance test requiring every reserve and sense of ingenuity that I have. “The constancy of it all,” as my husband and I say, is mind blowing. I recently read an article by a new mother, Laura Goode, who said that until she became a mother herself, she never realized that she had been surrounded by superheroines her whole life. I feel the same way, and have so much more appreciation for my own superheroine mother!
As every parent with older children tells me, the season of parenting young children is over before you know it. Watching how mature both of my kids are already getting (at almost eight and almost four), I am keenly aware of the paradox of the days being long and the years being short. Even though I know that I won’t always have the time/energy/resources to do all the things that I hope to do, (which is just fine, by the way), I seek greater balance, a discipline of pursuing my own passions and craft, and to continue to capture the wonders of this time of significant growth—for all of us—in all of the ways that I can!
Elizabeth has been a stay at home parent for eight years and is a licensed clinical social worker with a background in working in a home care setting with older adults and their families. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband Paul and two children, Eleanor and Arthur. She loves writing, singing in harmony, exploring new places, being in nature with her family, and playing sports and other games, all of which she endeavors to do more often!