Garden Guilt

Like most of you, I’m sure, I’ve been busy the past few weekends visiting nurseries and working on my garden. As I planted a few new shrubs on a recent raw, windy, drizzly Saturday, my neighbor across the street called out, “You’ll do anything to get out of that house, huh?!” He just likes to tease me but it got me thinking.

While I was outside digging, my 18-month-old was inside napping. My husband was home too, so if she woke up before I “finished outside” (I’ll never really be done gardening) they’d have fun together. But I still felt a twinge of guilt and my neighbor’s comment made that guilt flare higher.

Because, even though the baby was sound asleep, there were plenty of other things I could be doing inside the house—laundry, cleaning, sorting through any of the various piles of papers and things that just seem to appear over the course of a week.

So as I planted the shrubs, I came to realize gardening is the one pastime that I’ve been able to keep up since I became a mom and I think it all has to do with that sense of guilt. I love reading, knitting and other needle arts . . . anything crafty, I’ll try it. But I can’t really bring myself to do much of those things anymore, and it’s because they all involve me sitting still in the middle of our various messes.

Gardening feels more productive somehow; more of a contribution—though, just like with the sweaters I’ve knit, I’m generally way more interested and impressed than anyone else is with what I’ve accomplished in the garden.

Although—I may have a garden fan in our toddler. Watching her inspect a crocus this spring, complete with a little bee inside, made me more than glad that I took the time to plant bulbs last fall. Weeks later, she still points toward the window whenever a bumblebee appears in one of her books—as if to say “Remember when we saw a real one in that flower?” My husband thinks I should garden “for myself” but I don’t know whether that’s possible, or if I would enjoy it as much. Sharing my garden with our daughter makes it truly more worth the time I put into it. I know when our new dwarf Korean lilac blooms this May and she sniffs its flowers, all that guilt I felt while planting it will go “poof.”

Do you ever feel garden guilt? Where does it come from for you?

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4 thoughts on “Garden Guilt

  1. Thanks Patty, Mary, and Meghan for the salve I needed for my husband’s irritating criticisms on my time spent in my garden(s). I would be happy if he would share my interests but he was raised in a large city full of cement and cobblestone with no place to garden and never caught the fever. I have a third acre organic garden full of raised beds and containers (gophers) that provides most of our food, herbs, and flowers for us and the bees. I also raise chickens for eggs and have 4 cats and a dog. So you can imagine how much time that takes. George is almost 80 and in good physical health (cuts and stacks 5 cords of wood a summer). He should appreciate having the best food and herbs you can get without any pain on his part so he is able to do that.

  2. Well said, Meg. I can relate to the part where you don’t feel as guilty gardening because it’s not as if we’re just “sitting there” when there are so many other things to do! :-)

  3. Hello Meghan: I enjoyed your Blog on “Garden Guilt” – something which I also am afflicted with. While I do not have children, I work full time and have a husband, two cats and a household to take care of and I do all of the gardening tasks on our 1/4 acre myself, so there is just never enough time to do both. But, after a long and weary Winter, once the gardening season begins, I choose to work in my garden and, with some guilt, take a more easygoing approach to what has to be done inside the house. There will always be things to dust, clean, and vacuum (especially with 2 cats), so who cares if it waits a few days longer and I can always throw in a load of laundry while I am outside planting or weeding and somehow it will all get done. These chores are endless and not particularly gratifying, but when I work in the garden, I see an immediate result which does last and am happy and proud of my efforts. I also enjoy the positive comments I receive from neighbors and passersby. So, I can live with “Garden Guilt” and am glad that I am not alone. Mary Murphy, Tarrytown, NY

    • Hi Mary! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. The list of things to do is truly never ending, isn’t it?!

      I love your way of thinking. And another way I deal with my garden guilt is to bear in mind that once I’ve bought the plants, getting them planted and cared for is truly a matter of life or death. : )

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