Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Country Bunny and Seasons of Mothering

It had been many, many years since I had read The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward, when we got it out of the library last year.

And I was like, "GET OUT OF MY HEAD, children's book from 1939 about how to become the Easter Bunny!" Because, seriously, I find this story quite applicable to my real life. Except for the absentee daddy bunny part. We have a very involved daddy bunny around here. Also, I don't have magic shoes.


Everyone is on her own journey, and we don't all have the same aptitudes and motivations, and things don't work out in quite the same way for any of us, but I have to say, in my particular case, the country bunny really is a model of living out seasons of mothering.

When I was a mom of only little kids, writing wasn't even on my radar. It's something I had enjoyed in my younger, unmarried, days, but -- and those of you with only little kids can back me up here -- having only little kids is really, really time consuming. And exhausting. And, somehow, even with all those hours in the day, and a house that didn't look much like I had spent a lot of time on it . . . there wasn't time to even think of anything else.

But the country bunny made me realize . . . I hadn't had to give up entirely on having some side pursuits in my life. I had just had to put them off for a bit. Just like the she did. And I've found that, quite against all conventional wisdom, a handful of my creative-type friends would tell you just the same thing.

My friend Hope is a very talented musician, my friend Molly loves theater and costume design. But each of us found ourselves married and with a family to take care of, and the important things had to be our sole focus.

I felt (and still do feel) strongly that I have a vocation to motherhood. That, first and foremost, is what I am meant to be doing with my life. There was a time when I knew that if I wanted to correspond to my vocation, I needed to give myself to it to the exclusion of outside things.

I spent the first handful of years trying to survive (and, ideally. . . eventually, thrive) while doing this mothering thing. Like the country bunny, I really tried to encourage independence, self-sufficiency, and helpfulness in my kids. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision at first . . . there were just so many of them, that I actually needed their help.


Over the years, I realized that the more I taught them, and the more I calmly and consistently required them to help our family, the more they were able to manage small tasks and remember our routines and help each other without constant supervision and input from me.

Then one day, when I had five kids and my oldest was nine, my spiritual director told me I should write a book. At first, all I could think of was all the reasons I, of course, could not do that. I had ALL THESE KIDS. I wasn't a writer, I was their mother. There wasn't time for that.

Or was there?

I realized that I did have some freedom again. Even with pregnancies and babies and toddlers. Even with homeschooling and homemaking. I realized that, perhaps, I actually did have the time and the energy to devote to projects outside of my first responsibility of mothering. My kids weren't out of the house, they weren't even all out of diapers, but we had systems and a routine going such that it would mostly still function even if I stepped out of the picture every now and again to work on writing.

And writing turned out to be a good fit for my aptitudes and for my family.

So I wrote that book . It got published. I started writing a blog. People started reading it. And it's been manageable because I'm no longer in that season of all little kids, when it seemed like I was barely treading water. I have big kids now, who are very helpful. I have routines and systems and confidence in my mama gut, also very helpful.



My friend Hope has had a similar experience. As a mother of seven, with her youngest not even a year old, after many years away from music, she and her husband have an awesome band. She writes award-winning songs, they've released multiple albums. The husband and I are going to their concert this weekend.

My friend Molly worked in theater before she had her son, but gave it up because she didn't feel like she could dedicate herself to both in the way she would want to. But as her son gets older, she's starting to work towards organizing her life so that some work in the theater would be possible for her again, because it feels like a possibility again.

Maybe you don't have the luxury to pursue outside interests, because you need to work to support your family, or maybe you just don't have any interest in doing so, or maybe you've been able to manage it the whole time, even with all little kids. Each of those cases is completely legitimate. But, for me, being able to spend time on something outside of my primary vocation was something I thought I had given up. For me, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is a reminder than I can let go of childhood hopes and plans, and give myself completely to mothering, and that is enough. But then maybe, those other loves I had lived without for so many years, might just find a way back into my life. Even without magic shoes.

How about you? Anyone else finding a moment here and there for some long lost pursuits alongside mothering?

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34 comments:

  1. I really, really appreciate this post. I currently have 3 little ones, and I love your blog (and some of the other lovely blogs in the neighbourhood). But sometimes despite myself I scratch my head and think, "how do they even?!". I try to avoid comparison when possible but sometimes it sneaks up on me. This was a very healthy and welcome reminder that we're in different seasons of life and that I'm allowed to cut myself slack for not doing all of the things. Eventually I'd like to do some sewing again. But for now I've got a newborn to snuggle, and a toddler's diaper to change, and a preschooler to read to and and and... and that's okay, that's enough.

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  2. Oh how I LOVED this book when I was little. This just reminds me of what I thought about when you did your detailed "Day in the Life" post. What stood out to me was that all day long, you just had to remind the kids what to do. You weren't doing all the things they did (chores, etc), but merely reminding them to take care of it. And they did - because they knew how to do it and what the expectation was.

    I just heard a great podcast talking about productivity and the idea of training someone to do something you normally do yourself. Yes, it is faster for me to sweep up the crumbs after each meal than for me to teach my three year old to do it. But after she can manage it on her own, the "investment" of my time will pay off.

    One of the things I love about your blog is that you take the ideas and concepts and then show how they play out in your daily life. And that, to me, is priceless. Thanks so much!

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    1. Yes! I am Chief Officer in Charge of Reminding around here. :0) And thanks for your kind words

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  3. I also greatly appreciate this post. I am a young, unseasoned mother of mostly littles: an almost 6 year old who was pretty spolied during his many years as an only child, and brand new twin infants. I am not to the stage of taking back up old pursuits, but rather probably the stage of should be back burning them, but desperately want to be able to do it all despite its obvious impossibility and detriment to my sanity. I keep comparing myself to you, and other mommy bloggers with seemingly much more on their plate than me, and I think I love to write, I should be able to, too. It's so important for me to firstly remember seasons of life, and twin infants is a for sure tread water season. But, maybe more than that I need to remember circumstances and aptitudes. I do have to return to work soon, and i am sure twin babies plus full time job, plus husband, 6 yr old, and home to care for will be even harder than just brand new twins are now. And that's ok. I am only 27. I will have plenty of time to take up writing again once this season changes. I certainly wouldn't trade my babies for more time to write, especially since it's never been a career goal, just a passion. I would however, trade my job for more babies and possibly more time to write if it were possible, but that's another story. Thanks for reminding me to stop comparing!

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  4. I am so glad you wrote that book, and that you write this blog. Thank you for your generous investment into my life and the lives of your other readers.

    Blessed with five lovely and necessarily-helpful children aged eight-and-under, parenting has been my full-time task and then some for quite a while now. My spiritual director asked me at the end of our first meeting the other week whether I felt like I was ready to start thriving. I had to ask, "what does thriving look like?" What she described is the sort of thing you're talking about here. I'm encouraged to hear that for you it started when your oldest was nine. I'm six months away from that milestone and probably two or three months away from my 8-month-old moving out of my bed and into his own. I think I'll be ready for something extra to do when the time is right. :)

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  5. Not yet, but this lady whose blog I read promised that ten is the magic age...so I'm hopeful it will be happening soon! :-D (And I'm seeing hopeful signs of increased ability to help in my older children.)

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  6. Oh yes….. by the time my oldest was 10 and could be trusted not to burn down the house or let her brother escape I was off and running, literally. Four years later I'm running marathons several times a year, ultra relays, and next year will be training for an Ironman attempt. Yes, it is hours (sometimes days) away from the family if they can't come with me to a race, but I love the sense of accomplishment, the healthy lifestyle choices I'm teaching them, and the fitness level I've achieved at age 48. Plus they've discovered a love for competing too - both are on swim team and they've started running 5ks!

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  7. My favorite Easter book! I love your reflection on it!

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  8. I feel like this post was an eye opener for me. I'm a musician and I'm doing all these outside jobs, including participation in an orchestra which meets weekly and has concerts monthly. I've been feeling like it's too much lately, especially with taking care of my 2 yr old and 8 month old. I've been too scared to quit, worrying that it will be shutting a door for good. But maybe I just need to trust that God will open that door again for me when the time is right. Thanks Kendra, this was a great post.

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    1. Ashley - trying to figure out family and a career in the arts is hard and not always understanding of the family! For me I had to decide what part of it I really enjoyed and if I could do that later or after a break.

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  9. That was very well said and I agree that many moms need to maintain their outside interests. I did that through my job which I really enjoyed most of the time as it took me to such interesting places. The more fulfilled a woman is the better mother she can be.

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  10. This exact thing has been on my mind for the past few weeks. I'm just getting into mothering, and things are still pretty manageable, but as Darrow gets older it's getting harder. There are interests that have needed to be put aside for now. As more children come I know having the time, resources, and energy to pursue outside interests will not be as easy. It makes me nervous, to be completely honest. I often feel overwhelmed with our one child; my respect and admiration for those with 3, 6, 15, however many children is enormous. It gives me strength to watch you. It helps me to think that maybe I can do this too.

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  11. I feel like if I don't manage things now, they will be lost to me forever...and I'm NOT managing things now, so thank you for this!!

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  12. I feel like you just put into words something I have been trying to explain to myself and others for years. Thank you for this post, I needed it.

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  13. Time for something outside of mothering... No not yet lol. I have a ten month old and I'm four months pregnant and this week was the first time I've been able to really clean my house since I got pregnant, much less do anything fun. Well, I read your blog and that's fun so I do get to do some fun stuff. Your blog gives me a lot of hope for the future so I'm sure things will get better.

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  14. So good to read this. I had a baby two weeks before graduating from my fiction MFA program, and twins a year and a half later, and though I now could probably find the time the thought of it just exhausts me. But I often feel guilty for not writing, and anxious about losing my ability too. Thankfully I've been given editorial opportunities so I feel like I've at least kept my toes in the water of the literary world.

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    1. I don't think you'll lose it! It will be still be there when you need it. :0)

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  15. Gosh, Kendra this is so good. I have a 3 and 2 year old and would love more kiddos but also have all the other little things floating around. It's beautiful to be able to read about yours and other's lives on how they are accomplishing goodness in their vocation as mothers as well as venturing out here and there to enjoy a few other little things that are good too. Thank you!

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  16. I love this book, and your extrapolation. My 6 year old is going to be more useful. He IS. Today my 4 year old informed me that the (18 week fetus) baby is not ready to be born yet because my helpers are not 5 and 7 yet. Which is one way to look at it.

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    1. Hah! Well, he sounds like a very wise young man.

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  17. I don't think you should give yourself 100% completely to mothering for any season. Even with a newborn, there's time for a few of your own interests. At the very least you get to pick the book you read and the show you watch while stuck on the couch nursing a baby.

    I just have friends who don't try to sleep train or anything and they seem like they're drowning. They haven't done anything by themselves or gone on a date with their husbands for three years. YEARS. Meanwhile, I have only babies and toddlers as well and I feel like I have a perfectly manageable amount of time to myself and with my husband. I may not be writing a book anytime soon, but I still have time to be me.

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    1. Even in the busiest seasons I did usually mange to find time for a book and a bath, and even making birthday cakes and a sewing project here and there. But I didn't feel able to handle sustained, involved projects that weren't my kids. But there has seemed to be time for those lately. That's what I meant to convey.

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  18. I found your blog via a friend's facebook like that showed up and I'm so glad I did. My oldest is 10 and despite his sometimes feeling that being the oldest is the hardest, he is so incredibly helpful. I'm almost 30 weeks with the fifth baby that we're (hopefully) going to get to hold and keep and having someone else reasonably responsible is why I'm still sane. Also, I love Boden clothes and was unabashedly excited to see your Easter pictures. Thanks for blogging and sharing your family with the world.

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  19. <3 I think I love this a whole lot. And I'm really inspired to keep on keepin' on with teaching my kids to do things well and independently. This book has always been a favorite of mine, and now I love it more.

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  20. Thanks for writing this, Kendra! It's on my mind all.the.time. And, when I start to pursue other things, I feel completely guilty...and like I'm not giving enough time to the kids. Honestly, some days I'm not. It's so hard to find a balance, yet also hard to let go. I might need to step back for awhile - thank you :)

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    1. You're welcome Britt. :0) Thank YOU for your awesome IG feed.

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  21. Thank you for this post. I am a working mom to an almost nine month old with a wonderful stay at home dad husband. We talk all the time about how we are just in survival mode right now. Good to know it gets better! There are so many hobbies I really miss and often wonder if I will EVER have time for them again.

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    1. I hope you will. And I really do think you will.

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  22. Oh this post. I needed it. I am a musician and songwriter and have been since I started high school. It was a HUGE part of my life. But I got married, and I have an almost three year old and a 1.5 year old, I've moved four times to follow my husband's missionary work and now job, and I haven't touched my guitar or written any music since before we we're married. Honestly it's hardly on my radar at all, and I'm not mad that I've given it up for the time being for the worthier pursuit of taking care of my kids, but when I take the time to think of it it sometimes makes me sad, because I DO miss it. Even though I haven't pursued it in almost four years, it still seems like such a big part of what makes me, me. Thanks for giving me some hope that i might be able to reintegrate that back into my life someday.

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  23. Thank you so much for this. I was just talking to my husband about feeling like I wasn't doing enough or that I needed to be doing something to 'improve' myself. He was trying to point out that I really don't have much free time now. This kind of explained it all perfectly. I definitely needed this perspective!

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  24. Hi Kendra,
    Have you ever written about your first weeks/year as a new mom? As a new mom of a 2 week old, I found this and your 'Vocation to Motherhood' posts especially helpful. I stopped working and stopped half-way through my master's degree and now I am ...home. I love my son, but being a stay-at-home-mom still feels rather terrifying. Any advice or wisdom on your transition to motherhood? What was most helpful to your spiritual growth during your first year as a mom?
    Thank you for your insights, and for always pointing us back to Christ!
    Margaret

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    1. You're welcome Margaret. :0) Here's the post you mention: A Vocation to Motherhood. The other one that comes to mind is this: An Introvert's Guide to Stay at Home Mothering , which has a lot more of the logistics and day-to-day stuff that helped me transition.

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  25. Wow I needed to read this right now! My daughter is 11 months and my "free time" activity (besides blogging) is baking. I'd love to turn it into a side business that I can do from home but have been struggling with the fact that as much as I desire it, it'd be dang hard right now. When baby girl was only a few months old, I was hired to do a large order of decorated cookies and was so stressed. Mostly I'd wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, add some photos to my portfolio, and put the experience under my belt, but looking back, I don't know how I got it done. This post is such a great reminder that it's ok to put those goals on hold for a bit (or just take it slow) until things are more manageable. Thanks and God bless+

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