Most of us fear that with motherhood comes a loss of self, a loss of value. That has not been my experience. This series has helped me see how much there is to be gained in looking through the eyes of children. After all, we are told that in this journey of faith, we must become like children. Rather than losing myself in this adventure of motherhood, I'm finding myself anew. And it is good!
We're obsessed with fast--with efficiency. It's a part of the culture we've created. Everything is about more and faster and better. With a toddler or baby, life becomes about less. It can be a hard change, but it's been one of the most crucial and positive changes I've seen in myself since becoming a mother. I am no longer obsessed with more.
I was always obsessed with getting the most out of every moment. I used my time productively for the most part and researched strategies to increase my efficiency. As a teacher, I was very clock-driven, focused on how much time I had left in one class period before the next one began. The clock usually stressed me out; I had less time than I thought to finish grading a stack of tests, or it took twice as long to create a PowerPoint as I had hoped. Honestly, I didn't even use my free time well once I started teaching. Because free time felt so fleeting, I usually just vegged out, trying to recover from the exhaustion that came with my job.
My first few months of motherhood, I still read the clock with my teaching schedule, amazed (shocked, horrified?) that I would have been teaching third period by the time we finally got out of bed after another 2-4am party.
But in becoming less clock-driven, I'm relearning delight in the little things--the fluffy hair of my boy, the crabapples on the driveway, the sight of a garbage truck. I notice those middle of the night times I never knew before--the stillness and beauty. I'm delighting in the extended view of time, too--in how many months it takes him to learn to crawl and how slow but steady the acquisition of language is. Not everything can be rushed or forced. Not everything can be more efficient or more productive.
In this new view of time, I am rethinking my entire life. I am better able to enjoy the tangible things around me that are usually free of cost. I imagine what it must be like to notice the stirring of the wind for the first time. I hear thunder and sense its power innately along with my son. I notice afresh the hugs, the touching of hands--not just of my son, but of others, too. I realize how important it is to have time to look into the eyes of others--to really look--when we talk.
Sometimes I wish I could go back. I wish I could make all my students feel as important, as valued as I try to make my son feel. I wish I could help us step off the wheel and rethink the system, giving kids time to love to learn. In this first year of looking through Liam's eyes, I have gained something I had lost. I have a sense of what matters again; I have perspective. I see time not as an enemy but as a rhythm.
We live in a monochronic culture, focused on the clock. This is why we feel so frustrated with lateness and why we emphasize timeliness and need to know a detailed schedule of events. I thought I liked this and that I needed this. I was wrong.
Having a child allows us to be polychronic for a while--to focus on people rather than tasks and time.
I've noticed that when we have days when we have to rush, I end up feeling a little less human. I know these rushing days can be inevitable, but for a child and for myself, I see the necessity of slow days and days that even allow for boredom. I taste food again.
I once wrote about the phenomena that we spend less money when we have ample free time to pursue our passions and take joy in the world. I am finding that to be true as I now use free time for things that bring energy and life. I write and read again. I walk. I create food again. I enjoy.
I also see the miracles in our lives instead of rushing by them. How incredible it is that we can have groceries--a fridge full--that we can stop and get more if need be! How amazing to think about how tape works, or the lawn mower, or the tiny, battery powered train! I stand in awe of the miracle of our brains and legs and hands as I watch my son grow. I see that having new blinds really doesn't matter, nor does a perfectly clean house. I don't want as much as I used to because I feel satisfied and focused on the right things.
Like a child, I have time for the important things again. I have time for play, time for learning, time for people--all these things we lose as we become adults.
In slowing down and stepping off, I'm learning that less is best. But I'm also able to take a long range view--to live not just for the short-term but for the long term, to imagine the generations after us (for they are right in front of me each day) and consider how my actions affect them.
I delight in seeing the world through my child's eyes. This necessary slowing down has been as healing to my soul as it is necessary to his growth.
Stepping off, slowing down, finding that what's best for another is ultimately best for me. There is time for what matters if only we will look.