Sometimes I really worry that my children are not learning enough or receiving enough attention from me. This past year of graduate school has been especially demanding, and increases in outside-of-the-home-obligations like storytime, Joy School, Sunday School teaching, Relief Society, and the ever growing ranch have really drained and depleted me as a wife and mother. We have spent much more time watching TV this year, and far less time reading together, playing together, assembling puzzles, or doing something science-related. I have changed from the kind of mom who limited screen time to one hour per day maximum and read one hour per day minimum to my children, to the kind of mom who allows a lot more than one hour per day of screens and sometimes misses a day of reading to my kids. That’s hard for me to type! I really have skipped days of reading anything with my children, and skipped even more days of reading anything that was not scripture with my kids.
Now, believe me, I am aware that my children are very, very young, and that there are many more days, weeks, months, and years for them to learn and become well-educated human beings. But the reality is that my identity as a mother is one of reading aloud every day, playing with play dough (or something similar) every day, and being totally present and engaged for some period of time Every. Single. Day. So to admit that I have not been that kind of mother for many, many days over the past year is the admittance of my own failure to live true to who I am and who I want to be.
Alas, graduate school is nearly complete. I am eight solid pages into writing my forty page thesis and enjoying every moment of the writing/researching process. I much prefer writing-heavy coursework than reading-heavy coursework. Not that I don’t love reading, but I really, really love to write. But I digress.
My point is that graduate school is almost over, and with it, the stress of splitting my attention 5 million different directions is almost over as well! Sort of. You see, I am no stranger to the phenomenon which occurs right when you complete a big project which has consumed hours and hours of time. Upon completion of said project, you should now have hours and hours of free time, right? Nope. Not even close. Something, somehow always sweeps in and fills that time, in a matter of moments one big project is traded in for another. So while I am not counting on magically transforming back into Super-mom, reading hours a day from classics, baking cookies weekly, and teaching my children Latin, Spanish, and French before age five, I am thrilled to have my attention and my precious early-morning and nap-time to use for pursuits/rejuvenation other than graduate work.
And do you want to know something utterly mind-boggling??? Not all the changes and shifts from my self-imposed Super-Mom requirements have been negative.
What? My control-freak, self-exhausting tendencies don’t make the world go round? Ha.
For example, my busyness has led to more independence from my girls. Becca has learned to be quite content thumbing through picture books all by her little self. Henley has learned to “read” books to herself and to Becca, to peel carrots, to make chocolate milk, to set the table, to tend Becca while they are playing outside, and to do about a thousand other chores around the house. And, probably my most favorite, Ty has stepped up his game as Daddy and secondary educator in our family. Here he is teaching Henley how to make a collage and keeping Becca entertained with some light paperwork.
I cannot express how happy these photos make me. I am so happy that even though Becca is not receiving the same focused attention, reading, teaching, and guiding that Henley received at that young age, she is still ridiculously advanced, precocious, and in-love with books and learning. I am amazed at Henley’s growth since she became a big sister. She is a very capable little girl with a wonderful imagination, deep mind, and overwhelming intensity for her passions.
Most wonderful of all, Ty and I are more united in what we want from our family. He has been incredibly supportive all throughout school, and he was the one who encouraged me to keep going when I really wanted to quit. He has learned to read stories to the girls with all the right voices and inflections to suit their particular literary taste. He has listened to endless soliloquies about child development, and even longer rants about stress and exhaustion.
So many things about the past two years have been very hard and very discouraging. I have learned things about myself that I would honestly rather not know. And I’ve learned some things which amaze and inspire me. However, the principle lesson I have learned is that my family is full of remarkable people.
Also, I’m no Super-Mom and life is better that way.