by Kari Diane Pike
When the youngest of our nine children turned five, friends and family asked over and over again, "What are you going to do with all your spare time now that all your kids are grown or starting school?"
My what? At first, I assumed it was a rhetorical question, made in jest to tease me about the size of our family. Eventually, I came to the realization that many people held the opinion that I used my children as an excuse to stay home and sit by the pool. I remember slamming the phone into the receiver after this epiphany and exclaiming, "The next person to ask me what I am going to do with all my spare time is going to get their head pinched off."
Well, I heard that question many more times and, while I didn't really pinch anyone's head off, I was tempted to smack a few. Instead, I eventually found myself asking "What did I do with all my time back when I had just one or two babies? For that matter, what did I do with all my time when I had no one to care for except myself?" I started to beat myself up pretty bad with an avalanche of should've, would've, could'ves and a few boulder-size what if's. Not only that, but instead of brushing away the debris from all this negative thinking, I picked it up and put it in my back pack. The past few months, that burden continued to increase as our youngest child became a teenager and I sat watching a Primary program that, for the first time in twenty-eight years, had no Pike children participating in it.
Saturday, a little miracle came into my life that helped me shake out the debris and use it to pave a path of clarity. Grandchild number fourteen entered the world and I headed straight to Phoenix to meet little Gwendolyn and help care for her brothers and sister. This morning, as I sat cross-legged on the floor with baby Gwen in my arms, three-year-old Gideon exuberantly shared with me the fine art of Legos. We traveled to Infinity and Beyond, following The Map to Grandma's House. Of course we had a tool box to fix everything, which came in really handy when the bridge was out and the train almost crashed right off into the water. Sudden memories of playing just like this with Gideon's father flashed through my mind. Everything came rushing back: running through the house with super hero capes and leaping off the arm of the couch, playing with tools "just like Dad's" and figuring out those tools could open forbidden cupboard doors, and that time when he was four and got a hickey on his chest from trying help mom by "nursing" his new baby brother. I listened to Gideon's prattering and nuzzled Gwen's velvety head. I drank in her newborn smell and I remembered. This is what I did with my time. It is what I will continue to do. Whether in caring for children or grandchildren, aging parents, a child in a Primary class, or a neighbor in need, I will always, first and foremost, be a mother.
Each stage of mothering requires a different approach to how time is spent. A friend once pointed out to me that mothering is a lot like making bread. We do a lot of mixing and kneading and shaping, but then eventually, we have to set the dough out and let it rise on its own. If we keep trying to force it, the bread will never reach its full potential. While the dough is rising, we keep on eye on it, but our time is spent with other duties and preparations. So many aspects of our lives fit this analogy. So, instead of beating myself up, I think I will post this blog entry and go to bed and dream of all the things I am going to write in my spare time.