85: First, Feed the Heart

85: First, Feed the Heart

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

First, Feed the Heart

The seat of knowledge is in the head, of wisdom, in the heart.

~William Hazlitt

I’ve heard the saying before: It takes a village to raise a child. I understood that in the abstract, but it wasn’t until I forgot my son that the reality of the phrase took root in my heart.

I was a young mom. My son was in preschool, and I worked a part-time job at a local college as an academic advisor. My husband and I spent our mornings making sure breakfasts were made and lunches were packed before we dropped our son off for his half-day of school. I went to work, my head full of thoughts for the day, and my husband drove to his office at the church where he was a pastor.

I was fortunate. I had a great career at a local college and was able to work a schedule that allowed me to still be a mom — the other job I loved. During my hours at the office, I stayed busy helping college students with the tasks of choosing a major and selecting classes. I attended meetings and planned projects. It was a career I had invested considerable education in, and I loved the focus and challenges it offered.

This particular day was especially packed with appointments and meetings. I glanced at the clock several times, mindful of my need to pick up my son from preschool. But an impromptu meeting occurred right before I had to leave. Giving my full attention to helping the student, I stopped watching the clock, caught in the flow of the conversation and the student’s needs. By the time the appointment was over and I thought to glance at the time, I was almost twenty minutes late. My stomach sank. My little boy! Was he waiting alone outside the school? It was cold! Would the teachers notice he was alone?

Quickly grabbing my coat and purse, I flipped off my office lights, offered a hasty goodbye to my coworkers, and flew out to the parking lot. I closed my eyes. How could I be so stupid? What was more important than my son? Was he frightened? I quietly thanked God that we lived in a small town.

With a sick stomach, I pulled out of the parking lot and headed to his school. Tears stung my eyes as I berated myself. How could I ever let anything take priority over my child? By the time I pulled up to the school, I was in a full-blown panic.

Had I been thinking more clearly, I would have been less upset. I stopped my car and saw my son sitting on a bench in front of the school, his short legs swinging back and forth and his backpack sitting next to him. Beside him, another mother sat waiting with her own daughter, her arm around him, a big smile on her face. I rushed up the sidewalk. “I’m so, so sorry. I got stuck in an appointment…” I started the explanation.

“No problem,” she said with a smile and without a suggestion of reproach. “We knew you were just running a bit late, so we thought we’d just wait here together.” She stood up, took her daughter’s hand and smiled at me. Not another word, a hint of guilt or an implication that I was a bad mother.

“Hi, Mommy!” My son was so completely at ease in the company of his classmate’s mom, I doubt it ever occurred to him to worry or notice I was late. Taking my son’s hand, I climbed back into the car, my heart finally at ease. I offered him an apology for being late, which he barely had time to acknowledge as he rushed to talk about his exciting day at school.

Still, the day haunted my conscience. It was so difficult to let myself off the hook. Why was it so much easier to extend the gift of grace to others and not myself? I knew being a little late picking up my child wasn’t evidence of terrible parenting. But maybe it was a manifestation I had let myself get over-busy.

I had let myself go on overload without taking a little time for exercise or meditation, for nurturing my soul. Was I eating well? Did I explore hobbies or interests? Or had I been so busy meeting all the demands in my life that I’d neglected to feed my heart and soul? The lessons I learned that day didn’t go unheeded. I decided to take more hikes with my dog, nurture my friendships, and even took a few classes at the local arts center. As for my little boy, I’m happy to say he grew up, graduated college and has managed to successfully thrive… despite my mistakes.

~Julie Luek

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