Tending to Our Own Gardens - A Mother's Day Reflection

by Meghan Fitzgerald

This past week would definitely not win me a nomination for mother of the year. Between falling asleep on the couch and forgetting the tooth fairy (tragic!), causing a playdate scheduling snafu, and sending the wrong lunch with the wrong daughters, I’ve batted well below average. 

By Thursday night, I was super low and started reflecting on how similar mothering and teaching feel. Both jobs are so close to my heart, so intertwined with my identity and so much “the reason I’m on the planet”—that the stakes feel really high in either. When you err in work like this, the self-judgment and guilt come on swift and fierce. 

I wallowed in this for a minute (or several), then started listening more to the teacher in me. It occurred to me that I ought to think less about my mothering and more about what I want my kids to learn from me. Suddenly, the game shifted a bit. What do I want my kids to think about parenting? Do I want them to feel like bad parents someday when they fail to nail every detail? Absolutely not! Universe willing, I’ll be there to remind them that their kids are loved and happy, and that life happens. But, I don’t have to wait. Right now, I can model rolling with my own imperfections and focusing on the things that really matter—the quality time and all that love. 

Why wasn’t I patting myself on the back for the morning cuddles or for the fact that I got them to school with any food when daddy was traveling all week. My oldest was totally satisfied when the tooth fairy came the next night instead and shared, “Maybe she just had too many house calls the night before?!” Playdates can be rescheduled and sometimes, well, you get the wrong lunch. It’s not bad for kids to learn to cope with disappointments and the inevitable twists and turns of life.

On a roll, I dusted off a favorite book by Nancy Rosenow, an inspiring educator and human being. In Heart Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature, she shares, 

In my fifth decade of life, I began to realize that my inner garden was choked with so many “weeds” that it was hard to nurture the strong and healthy “roots” I needed to keep myself grounded and flourishing. Learning to understand myself better has helped me remove some of those weeds—the self-judgment and criticism that used to keep me from fully savoring life.

Thank you, Nancy, for just the metaphor I needed. If I don’t tend to my own garden, how can I enjoy this amazing mom job? More importantly, how can I tend to the family garden if my own soil is depleted? Self-care falls so low on the to-do list these days, but without it, nothing will get done well.

Starting with Mother’s Day, I make a promise to myself to make a self-care goal every day, whether it is the chance to take a walk in the woods by myself, time to call an old friend and really catch up, or just the chance to put lotion on after the shower (yes, even that gets skipped many days!). Cheers to making time for ourselves—it will be a lifeline to us and our kids.