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?