For about three months, I've been struggling with a simple little part of life called monotony. I remember being six years old and taking a gymnastics class during the week after school. My mom would pick me up, we'd get into the car, and I'd ask, "What are we doing tonight?" She'd almost always say, "Just going home," which inevitably brought a sting of disappointment and boredom (oh the woes of an only child). In elementary school, I filled the front cover of my homeroom folder with countdowns to my birthday, the night before my birthday, and then the actual day of my birthday party. I lived for my trips to Oregon to visit my dad, holidays, three day weekends, class parties, sleepovers, and anything else that changed up the usual routine.
And now, as a mother of four young children, most of my life is routine. Now I'm the mom telling my daughter, "We're just heading home now." Some days (mostly Thursdays) I pack up the kids and escape to Great Harvest Bread where I can lose myself (or find myself) in their soup and slice of bread and chocolate chip cookies. Then I notice other people staring at me with my four year old begging for more honey, my two year old spilling her water onto the table, and my one year old baby yelling at me with his mouth open like a baby bird for more food. I remember that these escapes aren't as easy as they used to be.
After a particularly difficult week a while back, I called our babysitter. She was available. It was a Wednesday night and I told my husband that we were going on a hot date. We ended up agreeing that our "hot date" should probably be at the Brigham City Temple. There was that rush of getting dinner out for the sitter, quick hugs and kisses and a swift escape to the car. As soon as we entered the doors to the temple, I saw a painting that caught my eye. Before I tell you about the painting, let me give you one more detail to this lovely impromptu date at the temple. We had just returned from a wedding in Atlanta, where I had left my wallet (turns out you CAN board a plane without your license). My temple recommend--your ticket in--was in that wallet. My dear husband's recommend had just expired the day before, which is funny because he's in our bishopric, which means he's in charge of keeping those things current. So we got to stand in this lovely entry way next to this painting for ten minutes or so while we waited for permission to enter the temple.
Here it is:
It's a woman picking peaches, painted by Valoy Eaton. But to me it said A LOT. And I'm not confident that I can convey in this post what this painting said to me, but that woman was bending down, for probably the hundredth and sixteenth time, placing peaches into her bucket, and she was smiling. I felt a different perspective of my role as a mother. I felt the "Why am I not..." and "If only I could.." and "What if my kids don't..." and "Why can't I just..." melt away, because I am simply picking peaches. Every day. And yes it is repetitive and at times, monotonous, but my job is important and meaningful and even simple. I'm just here to pick peaches, and do it happily and peacefully. This woman seems so centered and content. There could be a storm of sibling rivalry, incessant messes, meals to be made, diapers to be changed, babies to be cradled, laundry to be folded, waiting for her in that simple home in the background, but she's present in this moment of picking peaches.
That's what I saw. And it has stayed with me. Since then, when all of my children are crying about something at the same time and my baby is clinging to my legs so I can't even move around to do all the things being required of me and I want to SCREAM, I think of her. I'm just picking peaches. One at a time.
And still, there are times when that "other woman" comes out of me, the one who starts throwing rotten peaches at everyone and curses the tree for making too much for one little woman to pick in one day. Tonight, for example, when my husband couldn't come home at his usual time to give me a break, when I had to do dinner and bedtime alone because he had a meeting (I know many of you do this on a regular basis; I bow to you), when my oldest made eye contact with me and acknowledged and repeated what I asked her to do and then walked away, forgetting immediately, this peach-picker had HAD IT. I succumbed to the storm and yelled at my daughters. I let out my frustration with my hard day that started off with not enough sleep, laundry, a project that was interrupted incessantly, bill paying, homework with a very bored kindergartner, and violin practice with a sweet and stubborn girl who needs more encouragement and positivity than I can sometimes muster.
I'm exhausted. I want to be left alone. But I did remember that there are fragile egos and tender hearts up in those beds and I went back and apologized and gave hugs. I hope they remember the good parts of today and not an angry, fire-breathing mother. I hope they remember my courage to admit that I was wrong to yell, no matter what they did, and that even good moms get overwhelmed and tired. Maybe one day when they are weary, with children of their own, they will remember me, and that most of the time, I had a smile on my face as I bent down, time and time again because mine is the greatest job in the world.