I can’t see a peony bush fully in bloom without feeling some sense of identification. I feel like that peony bush is a pretty great visualization of how it feels to be a mom, especially a mom in a large family.
I’ve watched those first tender shoots emerge from their winter sleep. They grow straight and strong and then beautiful globes of white or every shade of pink from blush to almost burgundy will appear. As they open up they release an amazing fragrance, but then something funny happens.
They just start to fall over.
At the height of their beauty, in their full bloom, they can’t hold up the weight of their own flower.
When we had peonies growing in our backyard, I couldn’t stand it. I would go and clip each bloom that started to lean down so we could enjoy their beauty in the house and I wouldn’t have to see the plant struggling under the weight of those heavy blooms. Now when I see peonies in other people’s yards I have to resist the urge to show up with some clippers and my gardening gloves. I hate to see those beautiful blooms touching the ground.
But when I drive past these weighed down bushes around town or see them on my walk to the park, I feel like they speak to my soul. If motherhood had a state flower, I think it would be the peony.
This work of raising children isn’t easy. It weighs us down. We worry and wonder about what the future will hold. Our finances cause us stress as we realize the burden of providing for children who never stop outgrowing shoes, eating endless snacks and popping bike tires. The carefree life we knew before we had kids has been traded in for one where we wake up panicked when we hear a small cry or a little cough in the night. We read cereal box labels and the ratings on all video games and about every potential side effects of that medication.
This life keeps us firmly glued to a location, a school district, a consistent church, a home. We used to feel like balloons– light and free, drifting through life. But now we’re firmly tethered to this place where we marked their heights on the garage wall and taught them to use the potty by themselves and that secret closet spot where they drew on the wall. All of this has become precious to us in ways we couldn’t imagine in the days before little people came into our world and owned our hearts.
There’s so much weight to this life– but the beauty! So much beauty. We are weighed down with beauty. We are overwhelmed with how much love we have in our hearts for our kids. The pride we felt at previous work or school accomplishments seems small in light of the pride we have in our kids just because of who they are. We are regularly brought to tears by their sweetness, delighted by their laughter, charmed by their funny phrasings and unique observations on life. We are overjoyed to get to be the mothers for these precious people, even though motherhood comes at a great cost.
I love this peony life. I see those daisies growing wild and free and I remember what that was like. It was fun, but I wouldn’t trade it for the beautiful weight of motherhood. I see those roses– cultured and persnickety and gorgeous and I remember when I thought my life might look like that. That wasn’t a dream that was meant for me and I wouldn’t trade my reality for that one. I need the daisies in my life, I need the roses, but I’m content with this peony existence. More than content. I’m grateful for it.
The journey of motherhood isn’t easy. Our tender shoots come up from the ground with all our hopes and dreams, but the reality is both more difficult and weighty and more overwhelmingly beautiful than our hopes and dreams could have ever prepared us for. And then someday those blooms will be gone. We’ll return to what we were, but we’ll never be the same. We know what it’s like to be needed and loved and to see beauty so up-close it takes your breath away. Just knowing how short this blooming season can be keeps us in the moment, appreciating the gift.