From the earliest time that I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. But when they asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I never answered with “a mother.” Because I didn’t think that was what they meant…they meant something real; a real job, that pays money and makes you a productive member of society. And so I would answer with something like “a veterinarian” because that seemed plausible…I liked animals and I liked science and so I could be a veterinarian. At some point in my little-girl life, I learned to feel that choosing home would not be acceptable. You take classes in middle school to prepare for high school to prepare for college to prepare for work in the real world. But there is no path to prepare for marriage and motherhood and making a home. So you follow a path – I followed a path.
In high school I met this boy. His name was David. All I wanted was to marry that boy and make a life, make babies, make a family with that boy. But that was not what I said. What I said was Psychology. I’ll study Psychology…I’ll be a Psychologist. So I did, because that was the path I was on.
And when I graduated, I realized that Psychologists, especially those without a Ph.D. are not really in high demand. So I got a job as a bookkeeper, and I waited for him.
When we were finally married, we were broke. We argued about money. We argued about buying little things like socks, or once I remember we argued about a broom – someone bought a broom and that was just not in the budget. Every penny we had leftover was saved for furniture or Hokie games (priorities). And when we had enough that we felt like I could stop working, we talked about babies.
And then we had some babies. And that bookkeeping job morphed into more of an in-depth accounting job only I didn’t have an accounting degree, I had a psychology degree which, if you ask me, is relatively useless when you’re dealing with numbers. But I kept at it, because it could afford us more…more experiences, more stuff, more savings, just plain more. And around here, “more” is the path most traveled.
But I felt like there was less of me. Less of me to go around, because in addition to all of the diaper changing and peanut butter and jelly making and book reading and potty training and preventing the untimely deaths of four little children and all that, I was working on that dumb computer in the wee hours of the morning, or late at night.
It drained me.
It drained me, because it was not what I wanted. But my life was not about me anymore…it was about doing what was best for my family. So I plugged away, and tried not to think about what I wanted. And as the kids got older, and the work got harder, I worked more. More hours during the day because they could make their own lunches and they could get themselves dressed and I didn’t have to worry (too much) about them accidentally killing themselves somehow.
And then one summer, Will broke his little arm. And we were cooped up inside. A lot. It was too hot for walks. It was too hot for shooting hoops…or playing catch…or riding bikes…or skate boarding. It was too hot for anything, really, except going to the pool, which we couldn’t do because Will broke his arm. So I spent a lot of time working, because that was what was best for our family. Except it didn’t really feel that way, because all they did was watch t.v. all day until I was done working. When I finally emerged from the den, it was time to run errands and when we got home it was time to cook and they would watch t.v. some more because the alternative to t.v. was fighting and no thank you. And when Ella wanted to play The Ladybug Game, I didn’t have time. And when Henry wanted to build legos together, I didn’t have time. I didn’t have time for games of basketball with Will, or painting toenails with Kate. I never said yes anymore.
I sat there one day that summer, wondering what happened to sipping coffee on the deck each morning. What happened to watching the kids play outside in the evenings? What happened to picnics and pool days and bbq’s and making lemonade and planting flowers and catching fireflies and roasting marshmallows and walks at dusk and all the good stuff we used to do? There came a point in each day that I gave up. I didn’t care anymore, and I just wanted the day to be over with so that I could try again the next day.
The only good thing about me working was the money.
And maybe the money wasn’t really worth my exhaustion and their boredom and me not having time for them…and me not caring…
One day this June I will spend my last day as a working mom. I won’t work at home, or at an office, or anywhere. It is the best thing, maybe not for everyone, but for us.
I wish I could go back in time to that little girl I used to be. I would be the voice that whispers in her ear. I would whisper memories of her own childhood to her, memories of her own mother…like the lemon love notes she made. Or the bookworms she knitted, or the stairs she scrubbed and waxed or the Halloween decorations she hung or the carnations she bought when I got my driver’s license or the beef stew she made or how she used to nap on the couch while The Guiding Light played in the background or the countless other good memories I have because she was my mother. I would whisper of the memories she made for me. I would be the voice that tells her that being a mom is a good dream — and not to give up on it.
Dreams do come true, you know.
(Someone should be sure to remind me of this in July when the kids are all bored and fighting and trying to kill each other and I have to separate all of them to the four corners of the house. Except for Kate, because she’ll probably be up in her room, quietly sketching horses or something…)