(For those of you following the Cloth Diaper Guide, don’t worry, part three will be done on Monday. The next part of the guide is a big one!)
Once upon a time, there lived a gardener, who had a beautiful garden. Every day, she worked diligently, giving each plant what it needed to grow.
One day, she bought some new seeds to grow. They were a brand new flower, which she had never grown before, and she thought they would look lovely in her garden. She carefully planted them in a corner bed and sprinkled water over them. She had a daily routine, in which she would first aerate the soil, then water the plants, then do the weeding, and so on, until the work in the garden was done for the day — but the new seed addition threw off her schedule slightly. No problem, she thought, she could handle it. As the new seeds were small, they needed to be watered more often, and needed a bit more attention than the other established plants.
As she stood, looking at her impressive garden, she noticed all the weeds popping up, and set to work removing them. She was about halfway through when she noticed a mouse digging at her new seeds. She quickly ran to scare off the rodent, and then went back to weeding. When that was done, it was time to trim and remove the dead flowers from the garden. She set to work, but soon noticed that there were aphids in her garden! She removed the aphids she could find and was about to go back to pruning when she noticed another mouse in her new seeds! She drove it off and realized that the scorching midday sun had caused the soil to completely dry out where her new seeds were planted. She went to water them and then remembered that the lawn needed to be mowed. She scrambled to get it done before dark. By the time she had finished mowing, she was ready to call it a day. She was too tired to put away the pruning shears — she decided to leave them out as a reminder to finish the job the next day.
In the morning, renewed with energy, she tilled the soil, watered the plants, and set to work on the pruning. But look, there was another mouse in her garden! She ran to scare it off, then started removing weeds around the garden. Like this, her day continued — flitting from one task to the next, painstakingly trying to give each plant its needs.
A week went by, and the gardener’s new seeds had not grown yet. Her plants were not blooming, and some were starting to wilt. The pests were getting out of control. It seemed that, every day, there were more garden tools left in her garden than the day before. Her rest was becoming less restful. And she was starting to wonder why she bought those seeds. She was starting to dread gardening.
That gardener is me — and, possibly, you. That gardener is anyone who has bitten off more than they can chew — anyone who feels like they’re always putting out fires, but never getting anything done.
I certainly felt that way this past week. I’ve been trying to write the Ultimate Cloth Diaper Guide, which is more work than I imagined it to be, while caring for both Merry, who’s going through some kind of unscheduled growth spurt and having separation anxiety to the nth degree, and Pippin, who doesn’t much like when I spend 90% of the day with Merry. Our home is a mess, there are at least five loads of laundry that need to be done, Merry can’t use her playpen because it’s full of the clean laundry waiting to be folded, and Pippin has been eating far too many cookies because sometimes I just don’t have the energy to enforce the rules — but I’ve miraculously managed to cook dinner five days in a row. That’s a plus, at least.
The hardest part of it all is that I’m busy all day, and yet by night, nothing is done. Days go by, putting out one fire after another: cleaning up this mess, dealing with that tantrum, comforting one child, putting a bandage on another child… and in the end, nothing is done. Everything slowly degenerates — not just the state of the house, but also ourselves. Our patience is shorter, our tempers are quicker, our minds are filled with stress. But this has become day to day life. It happened gradually — so gradually that we didn’t realize it was happening at all.
Yesterday was something of a breaking point for me. I need to change things in my life. I wrote this story to share with Merry and Pippin, hoping that they learn this lesson earlier than I did.
As she stood, looking at her failing garden, she tried to remind herself why she gardens. She reminded herself of the joy of watching a plant grow from seed to flower, the joys of harvesting her own fruits and vegetables, and the joy of simply being outdoors and working the soil with her hands. She loved to garden, and it showed — at least, it had, before adding the new seeds.
She realized that her routine, which had worked so well for her in the past, wasn’t suitable anymore. She no longer had enough time to give each plant her full attention, and she no longer enjoyed the menial tasks involved in raising a garden. She decided to make changes, rather than continue taking half measures. First of all, she noticed that there were some plants in her garden that she no longer wanted — she hardly ever cooked with mint, and it was taking over the whole garden plot — so she removed them. Then, she set up a sprinkler on a timer to handle watering the plants, and she put up chicken wire around her plants to stop rodents and pests from getting in. She took steps to improve the placement of the plants and the quality of the soil, to prevent the aphids from returning. She automated or delegated whatever she could, so that she could focus her energy on the tasks that needed her gardening skill.
She focused on the things in her garden that mattered the most. She freed up her time to truly enjoy her work. Now she was still busy, but she was getting things done.
Her plants grew and bloomed, and her garden was lush and beautiful. She was no longer too busy with garden work to truly be a gardener.
So if you’re a mom, or a dad, or an entrepreneur, or a student, or anyone who has a passion in life but is overwhelmed by the workload — figure out what you love doing and what you don’t. As Socrates said: “beware the barrenness of a busy life.” If something is unnecessary, stop spending time and energy on it. If you’re doing something tedious, find a way to automate it or delegate it. Focus on those things that you are truly passionate about. If you’re a parent, don’t let the menial labour of parenting overwhelm you and prevent you from really being a parent.