I have a history of accomplishing.
I graduated high school with a 4.0 and a full-ride scholarship. I had been an athlete, class president, and valedictorian. In college, I completed a dual major in four years and was set with an acceptance to graduate school and a teaching assistantship before closing my final term as an undergrad.
I’m not listing these things to brag. As I run through this resume, what I recognize is how much satisfaction I get from setting my sights on something, checking the to-do boxes, and accomplishing goals. For years, I rode on a wave of short-term accomplishments; enjoying the rush of goals set and completed within semesters, years, or seasons.
I was an accomplishment junkie.
Fast forward to life as a mom. As an avid box-checker, it can be hard to wake every morning to find every box unchecked once again. (And on some mornings, those boxes aren’t just unchecked but also tipped over and strewn all over the floor.) Does anything ever stay done?
I love being a mother, and count it among my most cherished of blessings. But I’ll confess that there have been days and seasons when I’ve struggled with the feeling that day in, day out, I accomplish….nothing.
No end of term rush. No personal best for the season. No scholarships, awards, or accolades. Because nothing is done.
The work is never finished. You can spend the day wiping tables, wiping faces, and wiping bottoms just to do it all again tomorrow. You may get a slight thrill as you fold the final piece of laundry, only to curse at the pair of socks staring back at you from the hamper as you walk by. Each day has its close, or at least we like to think it does, though a 2am feeding and a wandering toddler at 4am may cause you to wonder if the days all just blur together.
I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve collapsed on my bed at the end of the day and asked, “How can I feel so exhausted but have gotten so little done?”
It can be hard for a recovering accomplishment junkie to feel like she’s accomplishing anything in the day-in day-out routine of motherhood.
But I stumbled on a quote that changed my perspective.
The quote stopped me in my tracks. I had been trying to judge my days in the context of what had been finished. “Accomplished” to me had become equated with “completed”. But the beautiful work of parenthood is much less short-sighted.
It’s not a tally of daily harvests that matters, but the accumulation of seeds planted day in and day out. In fact, much like the early childhood philosophy of art, in the day-to-day work of parenting it’s most often the process that matters more than the product. Not just what we got done, but how we did it. It’s not a ledger of the number of diapers changed, meals made, soccer players shuttled, whys answered, or fights intervened, but it’s an accounting of how we do what we do, and what we teach as we do it.
Are we planting the seeds, sending the messages we hope to bury deep in the hearts and memories of our children? That they matter. That kindness matters. That family and home matter.
And that all of it matters more than a to-do list.
That daily to-do list may seem to be undone in the blink of an eye, but the seeds that we plant in the process are lasting.
When my old self tries to claim that I have accomplished nothing with my day, I recall that today is not for the harvest, but the planting of many seeds.
I remember that each smile that knits our hearts together, each deep breath in the middle of a meltdown, each ounce of genuine care that erases the monotony of care-giving, and each gentle but firm reminder when the boundaries are pressed, is planting a seed. And that work matters today. It matters every single day.
We are planting seeds. And doing that work, in itself, is quite an accomplishment.
(Psst: I’m working on something special launching at the end of 2017. If you’d like to start this next year, letting go of perfect and holding on to joyful motherhood, be sure to get on this list. I’ll be filling you in soon on all the details!)