But that quiet morning, as I looked through hundreds of old photos taken, tears just flowed from my eyes. I realized how fleeting life has been. One photo of the kids toddling across my bare wood floors with mischievous smiles stretched across their faces. Others of the babies smashing birthday cake by the fist full into their little craving mouths. It was a time, like all times in life where everything seemed constant. You are in that season, working what needs doing, and never seeing the end of it. It is the everyday grind, the over and over of tasks, the thankless labors, and tire of just living it. I remember picking up the phone, sometimes 8 or 10 times a day to call my husband. I was desperate and lonely. I was unsettled all the time. I felt like I was sinking on a vast ship of screaming passengers with no life vests to save us. Five children born in five years, all so close together in age, it was like a whirlwind. This child needs some discipline, while this one needs a diaper change, while that one needs a kiss on their “boo boo”, another just tipped over the plant, while the baby is eating the dirt. None of them could possibly understand how tired I really was. They could not help me and they sure did not hold an intelligent conversation that I so craved. I put all my needs onto my poor husband as if working 10 hours in construction just was not enough for me. I was tired, I worked all day. He would come home to a frumpy, crabby, woman in tears, desperate to take what ever he had left to give at the end of the day and draw what ever bit of life out of him until he could give no more.
I am ashamed of that time. But my husband was stronger. He could see that all I needed was more to do. And he was right. How could a mother give more? How could she possibly stretch her wings farther than the children she was working so hard to tuck under it's safety? I needed structure. I needed something to pour myself into so I did not get consumed with myself. It was then that I started brainstorming for ideas to keep me even busier. I took photographs of friends and family because I loved taking photos. People thought my photos were really nice. I had my mother’s old 35 mm manual camera that I used in high school photography class. It was in the age of film cameras. I used to work black and white photos in a dark room years ago, far before I was even an adult. I just loved art in its every form, whether it was painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpting, or taking photographs. My husband knew that I was an artist. He knew that my creativity was explosive. I started a photography business after taking a risk to buy a digital SLR camera. We did not have much money at the time, but I needed to get busy. I started spending my days taking hundreds of photos of the kids instead of pulling my hair out. I got a second hand computer from my dad and started learning Photoshop. The kids and I would play all day making up what kinds of pictures we could take next that would be added to my portfolio. Miles with a straw hat on, climbing up the big tree in the front yard. And Molly with her pretty dress on, looking out the window with her teddy bear clutched under her tiny arm. I stopped calling their daddy all day long. I stopped with the tears and frustrations. I built a good schedule so that I could have a couple hours early in the morning to focus on the computer work before the kids woke up and a couple hours while they napped. And when daddy came home, we would run to tell him what we did that day and show him all the pretty pictures mommy took.
Money started flowing into our home. The first year I made $12,000 taking photos of children, families, and graduation photos. The second year it doubled. The third year it again doubled. I would get calls from people who knew someone who had their photos taken by me and they were in love with my work. I would set up an appointment to meet their family at a park. My children would go along for the fun. They would help carry my bags and pack my minivan. We would plan out a picnic and play time at the park around my work. It was very much fun for all of us. My children had fun meeting other kids their age and when the other kids would throw fits, we had fun talking about how silly that fit was. It trained them more than if I was just home all day fighting against my own mind and discontentment. A few years later, the business grew to a six-figure income and my husband learned how to take videos at the weddings so we could work as a team. Life was good. We both stayed home and went to a wedding once a week together, just the two of us. It was like a date. We could talk on the way there, we planned the event, and all the excitement of the weddings would keep us busily coming up with strategies.
And as if that was not busy enough…we also had a homestead. We milked the family cow, made all our dairy products, canned all the produce from the garden, baked our own bread, and butchered our own livestock. Keeping busy was the answer for our family.
And now as I look back at those years, I see such joy. Before my husband encouraged me to work harder, I see a young mother who was once handicapped by her own mind. How that mind was so self absorbed in pity and frustration. And those years are gone. Lost forever. I am sad that I did not enjoy my babies and the husband of my youth as I should have. It is a miracle that my husband did not pack his bags, I know I would have if I was treated the way I treated him. To think what a burden everything was and how my husband had the wisdom I lacked, to get me busier. It surely did not make sense, but it was our perfect answer.
My children are almost grown. Miles has only three short years left before his is an adult. Soon all my children will move on with their own lives and it is just humbling to look back at all those years and see how fast they flew by. It is a sort of grieving to realize that those years of babies are gone now for me, and that the next time I get to push a baby in the stroller will be when, Lord willing, I have my own grandchildren. Each child that was given to me was given to me as a blank slate. I could have continued sowing frustration and discontentment into the pages, but instead I worked and taught my children about work. Just last evening I had a very nice conversation with my 11-year-old daughter who is now taller than I am. I told her about how I cried when I looked at the photos of her as a wee baby. I added about how much of those years I worked so hard and it seemed like I did not get to cherish every little mundane thing of life. She looked back at me and said, “Mom, you worked so hard that it makes me want to work hard, and you always said working hard is a good thing. I think we had a lot of fun together, working hard.” That glorious answer will ring into my mind 50 years from now when I am all wound down from life, and it will always give me a sense of real accomplishment.
To all you young mothers out there that are tired and lonesome, and calling your husband because you are worn out with life, get busy! Find some way you can work with your kids to fill a need.