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.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
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: If you want more help in letting go of overwhelm, pressure, and perfectionism, make sure you check this out!)
Thank you. I needed this 🙂
Debbie Weymouth says
Beautifully said! Appreciate this heart-felt encouragement for mommies!
Maren Breitwieser says
And as summer begins, I encourage parents with children @ home (& can communicate in words) to ask their children what they would really like to have happen this summer. When I FINALLY started asking my children this question, I was surprised at what they valued vs. what I thought we needed to enjoy during the summer/freeing & helped me focus!
I know you didn’t write this article to get accolades, but WOW! Pretty impressive traits – many I didn’t know about! You do an awesome job on this blog and inspire many moms. I really appreciate your insight and thoughtful articles. This one has me thinking and came with good timing. Thank you!!
Love this line, “But the beautiful work of parenthood is much less short-sighted.” Great read to start my day of seed planting.
Thank you for the reminder that parenting is respectful, essential work! I love being home with my son, but can get frustrated, too, by the feeling that I’m getting very little done each day. Truly, the process and each day’s tiny moments of connection are why matter. I needed this today!
You’ve summed up exactly what I struggle with as a SAHM. I’m an “accomplishment junkie” too (as well as a mom of four, ECE teacher, children’s lit fan, and Wasatch Front resident. . .we are kindred spirits, LOL!) Thank you for this lovely post–the passion, eloquence, and wisdom with which you write are so refreshing and uplifting.
Patrice Gibson says
Wow! Awesome, as usual! From one accomplishment junkie to another, thanks for your inspiring words! Stevenson’s words are going on my wall and I’m sharing your post with all my facebook friends! This is a message that moms need to hear and buy into!!
Thank you so much for this poignant reminder that the seeds we are planting are as important (if not more) than the harvests we reap in parenting.
Love the comparison to toddler art. It’s not the product it’s the process. I will be keeping these words in mind as I work through my day tomorrow. Thank you
I struggled very much with this at the beginning. Second time around I want to try and enjoy doing very little. Everything else can wait!
I love this quote..
“It’s not a tally of daily harvests that matters, but the accumulation of seeds planted day in and day out.”
Nayeli Arias-Bedolla says
Thank you to remind us. Sometimes we forget how important is to plant this little seeds every day! I just end up exhausted at the end of the day looking behind and the chores that I did not accomplish again. But you are right, motherhood/teaching is a task of never ending just keeping up!
when u transitioned from your list of accomplishments to family I immediately thought of seeds but couldn’t connect them with anything besides fruits, vegetables and even trees….none of which hold up for long. When your beautifully written post brought in the cited quote I gave myself a pat and suddenly thought of flowers. That’s just what our children our……flowers. Thank you for the tears as I just lost one of my flowers last week. Bless you.
Stephen — Thanks so much for your kind words. (And I’m so glad I’m not the only one whose tears make typing difficult!) My heart hurts for you and your loss. May you always find peace and joy as you think about your flower.
The tears didn’t help tears either I see…..lol
Oy……the tears didn’t help my GRAMMAR! But at least my second bucket of tears was due to laughter. Thank you!
Alissa Marquess says
Thanks you! This is just the quote I needed this week; what a helpful change in perspective.
Thanks Alissa! It was perfect timing when I stumbled on it too!
Janine Halloran says
I’m right there with you! It makes me think of that quote – they may not remember what you said or what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. I try to think about that when I’m with my kids daily. Thank you for this, what great encouragement for parents!
What a great reminder, Janine! Thanks!
Rachel @ A Mother Far from Home says
Just scheduled it to share on my FB page but OH MY GOODNESS, as a 4.0 full ride blah blah accomplishment junkie like you… this is a total perspective changer.
Thanks so much, Rachel! I know it hit me just when I needed it most. I’m so glad to know it’s meaningful to other people!
Amy Webb says
Great reminder in our society so focused on “accomplishment”. Thanks!