October 4, 2005

On Motherhood

It’s hard being the mommy. Especially when you’re not really the mommy anymore. I mean, harder-than-algebra hard.

In the span of six swiftly passing years, I have been a military wife with two young kids, a single mom (almost the same thing), a newlywed and mother to a blended family and now an empty-nester. I am thrity-six years old.

My now grown son is moving to Germany in a matter of weeks and my teenage daughter lives fifteen hundred miles away with her Dad and large step-family. I have a beautiful stepson but he lives with his mom and step-dad in a town 70 miles from our house so our hands-on parenting has been reduced significantly.

Funny thing, life. I became a parent when I was too young to know that I wanted to be a parent. I spent many years wondering when I would get to taste the freedom that my peers had in their late teens and early twenties. Many days were spent wishing I didn’t have to be the mommy. Sometimes I would curl up in a ball in my darkened bedroom and wish I could go back and do everything over the ‘right’ way.

Now, sometimes, all I wish is for time to go backwards so I can experience it all again, only this time paying more attention to the little things and this time doing it with a mate who wants to be intimately involved in each and every minute detail.

I know I was a good mom. I know I am still a good mom – as good as I can be from such a long distance. I know my kids think I am great and they know what a hard time I had and how I did my best despite the hardships and the challenges.

Mistakes were made (nothing too serious, I hope), but I did most of it pretty well not even considering that I was at a distinct disadvantage in numerous ways. I was extremely young (17), formally uneducated (high school dropout), and lower income (can we say 'poor, white trash'?). However, a combination of good genes and continuously improving parenting skills resulted in two very excellent young people, if I do say so myself. I guess being semi-smart and semi-bored helped me give these kids an interesting growing up experience. To say the least!

One thing I learned very well was how to be flexible. Part of that comes from being a civilian in the military world and moving every three years. Part of that just comes from being a parent – each new phase of development, each new school year, brings new challenges and new expectations. Now that my kids are basically out of the house, I’ve got all this “flexibility ability” and not that much to be flexible about. Sure, there is work and school and my fabulous husband and the cat, but they are all pretty low maintenance and not at all difficult. I don’t want the chaos that used to reign supreme in my life and in my house, but I miss the challenges. The frustration that comes from having a problem and needing to work (hard) for the solution.

I know I’ll get over it. There are so many ways in which I like having no (direct, hands on) parenting responsibility. It’s cool to come home as late as I want and not have to deal with someone else’s homework or issues. It's (really) nice to come home and see the sink not full of dirty dishes. Et cetera.

I’ve finally got the freedom I craved as a young adult and a young parent. Only now, I don’t really want it. I want to have more babies and raise them to be the beautiful, thoughtful and loving people that my kids are now. I want the craziness and the sleep-deprivation and the dirty diapers. I want the preschool and the dropping off and the shopping for new shoes every six months. I want to shed tears on the first day of kindergarten and I want the Saturdays spent at t-ball or soccor practice.

I want to go to a different classmate's birthday party every other weekend and spend a fortune in birthday presents, but get it all back on my kids’ birthday when all of those kids come and lavish ours with presents in return. I want to go to parent-teacher conferences and be slightly offended when they say “little Q is very bright but spends all day day-dreaming” but also slightly proud to know that our kid is thinking of something other than what they’re being told to think. I want it all. The good, the bad and the overwhelmingly hard.

This is all part of the adjustment period I am sure. Combine that with a loudly ticking biological clock and I think I might need therapy! And part of me wonders, seriously, if I hadn’t had my tubes tied at age 22, would I really want to start all over again now? Or would I have had 5 more kids with my ex and been committed to an asylum from the chaos that would have ensued? Would I be happy to quit my job and drop out of school yet again in order to stay home and be a mommy?

The answer to all of those questions is probably yes. YES. I would have wanted to start over. Even though I would have probably had five more kids with my ex and I would probably have been committed to an asylum. I would be ecstatically happy to start again now with the man I love, stay home, bake cookies and watch Sesame Street.

I am still a mom. I’ll always be the mom, right? I talk to my daughter nearly every day and our conversations are light-years better than when she lived with us. She’s 16. Need I say more? She has a job interview today! Good luck, Jojo! My son will be here in 4 days! My baby boy is all grown-up. For real. And I still want to cut his food for him and tie his shoes.

Motherhood is a journey. As Cosmo-grrl says, Motherhood is the only profession that, by the time you're really good at it, you retire! I miss my kids like crazy. I know they’ve just left the nest (perhaps a little prematurely) and that’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It just is. I know it was inevitable they would leave and move on and have lives of their own.

I just didn’t know that it would be harder to let them go than it was to have them in the first place.

 
 

12 Comments:

At 15:47, Blogger Veronica said...

Have another baby!

Or, if not... wait a few years for the grandkids! (Scary, ain't it?)

 
At 19:24, Blogger my imperfect offering said...

Oh, Ms. Q, I just love your posts! I think we have many, many things in common (including a cat named Pi...yes, I have one also). :) I only wish I had your mad writing skillz!

I agree with Veronica...wait a few years and hold out for grandkids. I'm still on the other side of the parental "grass is always greener" (one out of the house, two more to go), but all it takes is a few hours of babysitting someone else's younguns to remind me that I don't want to go back there. ;)

 
At 05:15, Blogger Bonanza Jellybean said...

You brought tears to my eyes with that one. I am already PANICKED about the empty nest. My daughter is 7. :)

My mom had another baby at 38, so that's an option. You could adopt a child who needs someone to love it. OR (and I like this one) you can wait on the grandkids and sit back and smirk at your own kids. That one sounds fun! :)

 
At 06:31, Anonymous mooalex said...

Timely post (for me personally). I want to have a baby with Chef, but I'm 40 and the clock is ticking so loudly my head hurts. Part of me wants to do it all again, and part of me wants my freedom. And throw in the child support problems I'm living with right now... arg.

But I digress... lovely post, Q!
LJ

 
At 06:44, Blogger Ty said...

Oh I so hope I am as happy as you sound about motherhood. I'm not there yet (as I don't even have a boyfriend at the moment...) but my mother was an amazing mother and she loved it, too. I hope I follow in her (and your) footsteps someday.

 
At 09:56, Blogger Ms. Q said...

Thanks for all the lovely feedback! I never know what people are going to think when I barf like that!

Veronica and MIO, you've actually got me thinking. Grandkids might be pretty cool. Play with them, spoil them, send them back to their parents. Even though I am wayyyy to young to think about it, I guess I should start thinking about it soon. Yikes.

MIO, you have mad writing skillz for sure so I don't know what you're talking about! I think we might be sisters.

Bonanza, my other sister, just squeeze Lil Cowgirl as much as possible and take lots of pictures! It goes by so fast when you look back. I HAVE thought of adopting. It's still not out of the question.

LJ, I hear you. What can we do? I don't think getting a puppy or kitten would be quite the same thing. Cheaper though! Does this feeling pass?

Ty, not only will you be an amazing mom, but your kids are going to be mega-talented and probably volleyball prodigies! You will love it. Motherhood is hard but nothing compares!

 
At 11:21, Blogger Cosmo GRRL! said...

It's nice to know that motherhood will never get easier, and as my dad has always said - letting go is the hardest part. Maybe there is a way that you can share your love of children - maybe become a faster parent?

 
At 15:01, Blogger Snidget said...

Good post - and definitely makes me sit back and try to slow down and enjoy Turtle more instead of rushing him here and there.

 
At 20:31, Blogger Aubrie said...

Ms Q., you always have a way with words. When I read something like this, I always think, "What if I were in her shoes?" All I can say is, you make motherhood seem like something to fear, but long for all at the same time. I hope when I have kids, I have the love for them that you exude when you write about your kids. And I hope I do (at least) half as good a job with mine as you've obviously done with yours.

 
At 10:07, Blogger my imperfect offering said...

I've added you to my links. Welcome to the family, sista'! :)

 
At 15:36, Anonymous Hula Doula said...

I found your through Spuddy Buddy.
I just turned 36 and have a 3 year old you can borrow! LOL
Actually I found this entry rather encouraging. Being a mom that did not intentionally wait until 28 to have my first I didn't miss out on my younger stuff but sometimes I feel I have no energy for the little man and his older sister!! (I have an 8 year old girl and a 3 year old boy)
It reminded me to take the time to enjoy them today.
Thank you

 
At 16:32, Blogger Richard said...

I was 33 when my first was born, 35 when my second born.

There are many times I wish I had kids when I was younger - I'd have more energy (but, of course, I hadn't met the right girl yet - and for single guys it is tough to have babies on our own).

When my daughter was born, I remember how proud I felt. I was in the delivery room. I helped he out, I cut the cord and ... she was the most beautiful and perfect thing I had ever seen. At that moment I felt like God, "I looked at what I had created, and saw it was very good."

You know you will always be their mother - even if they don't understand that now. Cherish it always and cherish the grandchildren you will one day have.

 

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