There are days when it is very easy for me to identify all the places in my life where I could be doing better. This would seem like a good thing, not being blind to the need to improve. It would surely be worse if I woke after my kids, let them play on computers all day, expected them to forage through (well-stocked) cupboards for their own meals, and did not realize that this pattern of behavior counted as sub-par parenting. As a short-term rest from Mom always being in their faces expecting chores and homework, my kids welcome this laissez faire style, but over the long haul it is not good for them. They need structure, regular bedtimes, meals, or it can get perilously Lord-of-the-flies-ish around here. So I was noticing the need to improve my parenting game. I opted to take the kids on an outing. We went to a “Fun Arcade” to which we have passes. The kids did have fun there, playing laser tag, driving go carts, steering bumper boats. I had a sort of fun too while I watched them and took some pictures. Yet we all came home cranky and in dire need to be far away from crowds of people and noise. I brought home a lovely headache. Mission accomplished. Sort of.
The plan was for the outing to occupy the morning and I would get business tasks done in the afternoon. Yet I had real difficulty re-engaging my business brain. I’d opened up my long parenting thoughts, spent a morning thinking of the other outings and things we’d like to do this summer. I mused upon ways that I could spend time with my kids and enrich their lives. Those thoughts filled my brain and did not want to be tucked away so that I could answer emails. I was stressfully aware of all work waiting on my attention, but unable to focus on a particular task enough to complete it. This, of course, sent me into an existential despair. obviously I can not possibly be a good mother and a good business owner simultaneously. The best I can manage is a haphazard rotation. I would long for the return of school, when there was more separation between the parenting and the business management, but I quite clearly remember how much I was looking forward to having less schedule for the summer.
I spoke today with a friend about the state of publishing and her current strategy for revising and submitting books. Her assessment of how the business of publishing is currently running was sound to me, but rather discouraging considering the types of things that I write and the speed at which I write them. I don’t write best-seller material, or at least I haven’t yet. My publishing career may never take of because of a hundred factors out of my control. Yet only a few days ago I spilled angst on these subjects and decided to write anyway because I have stories that I want to tell whether or not they ever gain a wide audience. The size of the audience is not how to measure the worth of a story. So I focus on the work itself, not where I think the work will take me, or what public appraisal of the work will bring to me. It is me and the words, me and the story. Those are the things that matter.
After my friend left, I looked over to my kids who were wearing headphones and clicking with their computer mouses. I walked over and kissed the tops of their heads. They didn’t even flinch, because that is a normal thing for me to do. They live in confidence that they are loved, that the cupboards will have food, that we’ll all attend church together, that if they have a problem, or a scratch, or a random thought, they can find Mom or Dad and tell us about it. They usually have to dig in baskets for clean clothes to wear, but the clothes are clean, the dishes get done (mostly), and our floors are clear in the middles where people need to walk. All of this stuff is the work of parenting. It is the moments when I fit grocery shopping and laundry in between the business email and shipping. These things are done with out expectation of accolades, and certainly not because I expect my kids to remember it. The outings (which I’ve been feeling guilty for not doing) are the times that get the photographs and are chronicled as family stories. The true work of parenting is listening when a child wants to tell every detail of her dream. The dream itself is unimportant, but the listening is very important.
The heart of creation, whether it be a family, a story, a business, or a household, is in the quiet work done almost out of sight. When I readjust my vision to focus on those things, I think I may not be doing so badly this summer after all.