Moms are under a lot of pressure these days to pursue their passions. Is it because Gen X’s kids are mostly grown up, and today’s moms missed out on being latchkey kids? Perhaps. When I talk to people about how I’ve centered my life on my kids, they always get this look. I can’t tell if it’s pity, bewilderment, maybe even slight revulsion. But it’s clear that I am Doing It Wrong. I am supposed to be following my bliss. Writing my novels. Taking classes. Climbing the career ladder. Going on date nights and outings with friends. Asserting my right to my self and my interests — not spending my free time hanging out with my offspring. Motherhood can’t be ALL I want, surely.
The truth is that the moment I looked into my daughter’s sweet, perfect little face, I felt for the first time in decades that I had come home. The years of lonely aimlessness had finally led me to somewhere real. Everything I have ever worked for came together in that moment.
This IS what I want.
Is it all I want? Hell no. But I realize that this time is fleeting: Anya’s half grown already, and Kai isn’t far behind. I also realize that this time will color their view of me forever. We keep coming back to childhood in our memories because it is the era of firsts, the origin of everything — our sense of self, our approach to life, our understanding of home and love and life and family.
It often felt to me that my parents and I were isolated from the rest of our family. Tensions, history, circumstances, distance. But there was never a time when I didn’t long for a larger family. People with larger families often scoff at that, telling me stories of tensions and drunken arguments and battle lines. And yes, I’ve sat at more than a few tense tables myself. But in my heart is burned this image of a long dinner table for the holidays, piled with food and wreathed with stories and laughter. Of family picnics in the spring. Game nights and movie nights and Sunday brunches. Of an open door that kids walk through on a random Tuesday, just to say hi. I don’t want the first couple decades of their lives to be the only ones I am a part of.
This morning I slept in; a toothache has derailed all but the most pressing of weekend plans, and I thought the more pain I slept through, the better. So I snoozed my pre-dawn alarm, waking later in a sun-drenched bedroom to my children stroking my cheek and squeezing me tight. “Mama hugs,” my son said, beaming. I hope these are the memories they hold of me as they get older and begin to pull away — not me at my stressed-out worst, but the snuggles, the games, the bedtime stories, the impromptu parties, the holiday traditions.
If I were to vault up the career ladder, or become a best-selling author, or find some measure of success through any of my creative outlets — hell, all three, let’s shoot for the moon — but only saw or talked to my kids on major holidays (if then) because my calls were an obligation and visits were a chore, I would feel like a failure. If I die having achieved nothing more than having a close family, I will die a happy woman. Looking at my own family, I would say that a great first step is to put the kids first now. Later is often too late.
Maybe family isn’t all I want, but it is all I need. The rest is icing.
2 thoughts on “So what if this is what I want?”
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So lovely! I feel this. I have a friend and neighbor who has six kids and while I don’t think I could handle (or afford) so many kids, it makes her definitively a mom. She can’t work a part time gig like I do. She can’t divide her time between hobbies and her kids, like I do. With six, she is all mom all the time. There’s no other way. I think she loves it most of the time–like you said, at least for now, while they’re young.
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