I love being a mother. I didn’t think I would. I got a younger brother when I was 12, and took care of him so much he called me “Mom” until he turned 6. He still slips up on occasion. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often anymore. Maybe it’s because we don’t live very close and I just don’t hear it.
In high school and college, we had a slew of foster kids. By the time I got married, I wanted nothing to do with children. I’d raised my share, and didn’t want any more. People told me it’d be different when I had my own. I didn’t care.
My husband and I discussed children once before we got married. I said I didn’t want any and he agreed. We were done with that conversation. But then when we’d been married about six months, I guess, he asked me again. It was such a beautiful Saturday morning. We were still peaceful after sleeping in late and just enjoying listening to birds. Hubby says, “So how many kids should we have – three, four?”
“Uh, I was thinking maybe one, max.”
“Oh come on, hun. It was so fun when my cousins came over; we should have at least six.”
“Okay, then I won’t settle for less than an even dozen.”
“Then I guess we’re done here.” My hand had turned really clammy in his, and we both realized simultaneously that I was sweating profusely and was now chilled. I took my hand from his, and he laughed. I didn’t; I was shaken to the core.
It was two more years before he dared to bring the subject up again, and we stupidly decided then and there that we should have a baby. My life changed with that little boy. I realized that I could love more deeply and give myself more fully than I’d ever imagined. With time, I realized how much I had to give – way more than humanly possible. We had three more while I was busy taking care of him.
About that same time, I met a gal who taught me how to really take care of children. Following her advice, I found myself with the happiest children I had ever experienced. My children, like hers, had vibrant smiles and were confident in all situations. I wore them in slings everywhere I went. I slept when they slept, and played when they played. They worked when I worked. I was fortunate enough to not have to go back to an outside job, but could just be a mother. That was another thing I’d decided early in life – I will either be a career mogul, or a full-time mother. I will not attempt both, because in my experience, everybody is slighted in that situation.
In time, I got overwhelmed with too much responsibility, too little sleep, and constant interruptions. My husband traveled extensively, and I was alone to handle everything. I was counseled to take time for me, to read my Bible, go shopping, or whatever, but couldn’t reconcile that with who I am. I was on the phone with a lady once, while her children banged on her locked door and she ignored them so she could study her Bible or talk to me. She said it was imperative she spend time alone. I couldn’t concentrate for their screams. Since hubby usually wasn’t around to go anywhere and I didn’t have any excess money to go shopping or hire a babysitter, I didn’t see any point in going out “just for me.” Besides, I was a full-time mother and I took that seriously. I enjoyed them, they enjoyed me, and partly because I nursed my babies on demand, we didn’t separate well. Besides – doesn’t everybody say to enjoy them now, because they’re gone so fast? I took them hiking, swimming, and to lovely restaurants when hubby came home.
Sometimes I still don’t know what I’m doing. I was raised in a dual-income home, and don’t always know what I “should” be doing. But I have enough to keep me busy that I don’t think about it much. Someone asked me once if I truly wanted my life to be all about diapers and dirty dishes. It’s really not, even though I have had plenty of both. It’s about fresh, home-baked cookies every day. Buttermilk pancakes from scratch several mornings a week, and naps or playtime every afternoon. Laughing about how many different ways Mom has lit the kitchen on fire trying new recipes. Our favorite is still the banana pancake flambe.
My children laugh with me at what we all recognize as new mothers. I can’t believe I ever was one. The ladies in the park who call warnings to their little boys as they climb the solid railed, rubberized stairways to the tubular slides with thick padding at the bottom. So OSHA certified that no respectable kid could play properly, much less get hurt. Yet the mothers flock around the bottom, arms upstretched, calling, “Honey? Are you okay? Be careful…. Oh, baby, not up that high one – come back down.” I always hear Kanga calling to Roo: ” Don’t fall too fast, dear.” My kids actually intone it for me at times. But we rarely go to the park anymore. Now we gripe about mothers of screaming children in Wal-Mart and wonder why the mother doesn’t just pick the kid up. Or tell him NO? Maybe the mother should be spanked – she’s certainly not mothering. Maybe these aren’t the conversations I’m supposed to share.
But we talk a lot, and maybe therein lies the secret of something huge. My oldest son is a fire dept. cadet and he hears the calls on the radio of teenage drug overdoses and joyrides gone awry. He talks with me about why these things happen. Don’t these parents take care of their children? Why would anyone do drugs in the first place? Somewhere along the line, I filled the love tank of each of my children so full that they have no need to go look for drugs, sex, or joyrides to fill the emptiness. They still worry about going to college, and what career path or spouse they’ll choose like anyone on the cusp of major change. But none of them is affected by peer pressure that encourages them to go in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise. Each of my kids has come home and asked about what a friend was doing – that didn’t seem right to me, mom. My older son laughs about the vocabulary of his peers: do they realize that their usage per word is much larger than their entire vocabulary? Each sentence is only comprised of three or four words – which are synonymous – but each is used in ten different ways! I’ll claim these children. I’m proud of them.
My stepdad told me once that, as a male, he’d never experienced the sacrifice that goes into nurturing and therefore did not lose his identity in the service of others. That is profound. I did completely lose myself in this endeavor called motherhood. It was a huge undertaking when they were little, and I didn’t always handle it gracefully. I still have discouragement days. But it has also become my single most important achievement. I have yet to see the reward, but I already know that I’ve done well. And in doing so, I have gained the very thing I most desired out of life. A family. People I love who know me intimately and love me in return. We cannot ever truly be separated.