Treasure the moments that nearly kill you

There’s a wonderful article called “Don’t Carpe Diem” that’s been making its way rapidly around social networking sites, whose author beautifully articulates something that surely almost every mom has felt, which is, to put it less elegantly than she does, “Stop telling me to savor every moment of motherhood when I’m barely surviving motherhood.” She also says that the joys of motherhood are mostly found in fleeting moments rather than sweeping expanses of time.

If you haven’t read the article yet, and if you’ve ever been told to savor every moment of a really difficult stage of life, go follow that link and read it. You’ll love it.

I don’t have anything new to add to what she said, but since I’ve had my own version of almost the exact same point as an imaginary blog post for quite a while, reading hers prompted me to get mine written down. If you only have time to read one post today, read hers. But then if you have a little more time (or a particular wish to put off some unpleasant real-life task a little longer) please feel welcome to come back and read mine.

In a General Conference talk in 2008, Apostle M. Russell Ballard quoted author Anna Quindlen:

The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. … I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

(Loud and Clear [2004], 10–11).

Before I go on, let me say that I love Elder Ballard’s talk, and it’s another great one to read if you haven’t yet, or if you just feel like leaving this post twice to go read other articles. But I have to admit that the Anna Quinlen quote stuck in my craw. I love the sentiment of it, the reminder to treasure moments. But I also thought this:

You know, I am treasuring motherhood. There’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t stare at one or another of my kids and think, “Your existence is a pure miracle, and I’m the luckiest woman alive to have been the one to carry you into this life, and to shepherd your way through its beginnings.” I do treasure the beautiful and hilarious moments, and sometimes I even manage to run to my computer and write them down before I forget them.

But, dang it, SOMEBODY does have to make sure that dinner and baths happen, that homework is completed, rooms get cleaned, dishes get washed. Somebody has to make sure that things get done. It’s not fun. But it’s my job. And I just don’t think that I’m going to look back years from now and think I didn’t enjoy it enough. I’m going to look back and be proud of myself for trying so hard, for pushing through when I was tired and would have rather just sat back and enjoyed the moment–but instead I got up and made those baths and dinners happen.

(Since my own self-quote is as long as Quindlen’s, I indented it like hers, because it amused me to do so. Formatting humor!)

Then a year or two later there was another General Conference talk about savoring the brief special moments of motherhood, which I thought made a nice balance to the Quindlen quote–and which is also what the author of the Don’t Carpe Diem post goes on to say–that motherhood is a long slog most of the time, with occasional brief breaks in the clouds, or beautiful vistas.

(Does anybody remember who gave the treasuring-the-moments talk? I didn’t find it yet. If you know which one it is, tell me and I’ll link it here–so there will be not just two, but three links to other things to read instead of this post!)

In the Don’t Carpe Diem post (I would just refer to the author by name, but I only see her first name, Glennon) I love her comparison about people telling you to enjoy every moment of hiking Everest. But I will also say that my own motherhood experience isn’t quite like Everest–mainly because with all the snow and cold and bleakness, I’ve never been the least bit inclined to climb Everest, and I can barely stand to watch documentaries about people who do. But I usually do enjoy reading about others’ colorful experiences in the wild terrain of whatever their motherhood landscape looks like. And I’d compare my own experience to, say, hiking on a beautiful but treacherous mountain in unpredictable weather. Sometimes you come upon a field of wildflowers that’s stunning, but you’re so winded you barely have breath to comment on it. And other times blizzards come up and you can’t see anything and you almost die. And then other times one of your kids falls into a deep crevasse and you can’t think about anything else until that kid is rescued. Yet other times, you’re the one that falls into a ravine, because your kids push you in. And another time your child is climbing a cliff wall and you’re the one below, belaying him, even though you don’t even like rock-climbing or heights.

So, that was my little addition to Glennon’s wonderful words. And now Henry needs help choosing some church clothes, and Mabel’s been trying to tell me about a school assignment, and it’s time for me to get off the computer and go get some things done. Maybe I’ll even enjoy it.

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4 Responses to Treasure the moments that nearly kill you

  1. Marusia says:

    Sometimes, I also feel like climbing a mountain, with its beauties and challenges… how interesting metaphor.

  2. Cynedra says:

    Sometimes you come upon a field of wildflowers that’s stunning, but you’re so winded you barely have breath to comment on it. And then you discover it is full of bees, but your children have already ran into it, and you can’t stop them, and you pray hard that you aren’t about to find out that one of them is allergic to bee stings.

  3. Jason says:

    An inspired and inspiring post, Z. Thx.

  4. Jennifer Hansen says:

    Thanks Zina. I enjoyed both posts. I am in the midst of teenager mothering right now. It is just as hard as infant and toddler mothering. I think the easiest time was ages 8 to 11. There are definately moments of joy, even though most of the time I feel like I am sweeping water uphill. 🙂

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