Ever since I learned to stand on my own two feet, I've been walking up and down a particular hill in the city where I was born. This hill, which happens to be on a university campus, is one of my special places in life. I now live thousands of miles from it, but anytime I can return "home," I retrace my footsteps there. When the hill isn't covered in wintertime snow, its green grass is so soft and pristine that nearly everyone who has time to lie down on it, does.
Although it's steep, it's less than half a mile from top to bottom. At the top of the hill are flowers; lots of red and white flowers to represent the university's colors.
For the first time today---many years after I took my first baby steps on campus---I saw a woman planting those flowers. In all my years of looking at them, I never thought about the effort someone makes to put them there. They've been an ever-present part of the scenery, like the trees and the grass itself.
However, as it turns out, the flowers require a fair amount of work. The gardener took at least a few minutes to meticulously remove each plant from its respective pot and gently dig and prepare the soil for planting. Finally, when all the preparations were complete, she could embed the flower in its new home. It wasn't a quick process.
As I saw the gardener there digging and sweating (and continuing regardless), I was struck by how much her work is like motherhood.
It's not quick. People assume we're just going to "be there" doing our job, as if we we've always been there doing it---effortlessly and without sweat. The flowers will grow because we're tending them. Our job is to tend them, so we keep on nurturing and feeding and pruning and caring for them every single day. We watch them closely throughout each season to see how we need to adjust to keep them growing well.
Those who don't know from the wisdom of first-hand experience might assume we never feel like the flowers---that we're not fragile; that when we're struggling, we just pop right up again, at will. We're mama, so we keep on going.
They guess it doesn't take much work to keep these flowers in bloom; but sometimes, it's far too hot or too cold and we're just doing our best to help them make it another day.
Some days, that's all we can do; it's the balance for the sunny days where parenting comes easily. As for the other days, well, our work is far from martyrdom, and I'd never imply that it is. It's simply our labor of love.
I walked up to the gardener and thanked her for planting the flowers. The result of her painstaking effort was so beautiful that I'd always assumed nature itself were responsible for the outcome.
She nodded politely and just kept on doing her important work as if it's all she's ever done, because that's what we all do with our love, isn't it?