It’s funny, this thing called Motherhood.
I no longer run my life. Children, they are called. Both of mine are more than 35 years younger than I am and 42 years younger than my husband. Our lives revolve around them – their doctor’s appointments, their parties, their futures. Many children are decades younger than their parents these days. The lucky ones have two parents – a writer, a copy editor. When they’re older they’ll become doctors or lawyers, have kids of their own, take us to dinner. That’s if we’re lucky.
Most of us know raising children is impossible. Parenting has robbed us of the ability to say no, to objectively judge our children’s wants and needs. We love our kids; we don’t raise them.
My husband and I decided to have children. We want to raise independent productive citizens, but we know better. Our daughters are more likely to fall in love with boys we don’t like, spend money we don’t have, and make decisions we don’t support.
We wanted only one child at first and then reconsidered. There was too much room for spoilage, and we want to be taken care of when we are old. There’s no need for the two of us to be a burden on one child, and we figure they’ll need each other after we’re gone.
We’re still finding our way. One talks back; the other takes off her diaper at will. The grandparents don’t help. Just when I think we’ve got my bearings, one of them gives us some advice. The latest: Alternate between medicines to bring down a fever. They are confident because they’ve done it before. I guess that’s why they are called grandparents.
I’d love to have more time to myself, to travel overseas again. I’d love to come home late, take a long shower. I’d love to talk with friends for hours and hours about nothing.
I’ve learned to accept the loss of privacy. I close the bathroom door only to have my oldest daughter open it. As I take a shower or wash my face, she calls for me. She wants nothing, except to be with me and watch whatever I do while I’m in there. Sometimes she plays with the toilet paper or wipes the fog from shower door.
Meals are another thing I no longer have to myself. One of them always wants a bite, a pinch, a taste. When I gave birth, did I lose the right to have a quiet moment or meal to myself? Daddy – that’s what they call him – doesn’t have to put up with that.
No doubt, we will embarrass them. With our cars. With our clothes. With our old-fashioned values. On more than one occasion, we’ll be old. We won’t understand. No doubt, they will embarrass us. With their clothes. With their talk. With their loud music. On more than one occasion, they will want us to park down the street, drop them off around the corner or simply not show up at all.
I spend my time with other parents like me. On the playground. At birthday parties. In the waiting room. We swap stories like were caught in some endless battle of the wills. That’s nothing, one says to other. My fill-in-the-blank did this and so.
Have you ever watched children play? It’s brutal. One has something; another takes it away. The tears flow; an adult gives the first child something new. On and on it goes.
I don’t like what happened to my body. I don’t care much for a pudgy stomach, dimpled thighs, or wide feet. Somewhere between the first and third trimester, I lost the body of my 20s. I’m still thin. The difference is that I have to wear certain undergarments to pull it all into shape. I’m a fraud in my old clothes. I don’t have time to do anything about it. My husband doesn’t say anything. I thank him for that.
Why do people who don’t know me call me Mom? I’m more than a Mom. I have two degrees in journalism; I teach. At the doctor’s office, I feel like a child who can’t possibly understand what’s going on with her baby. There is no need for that condescending rise and fall of their voices. Is this how children feel? I listen intently, take my child home, care for her.
A typical day: Awakened by feet patting on hardwood floor. Potty. Cereal. Argue with oldest who doesn’t want to wear what I’ve chosen for her. Chase the youngest. Dress all three of us. Punt to Daddy for preschool drop off. Work feverishly. Count hours until I see my girls again. Speed to preschool. Pick up girls. Eat. Deal with mental breakdown of 4-year-old. Chase the 2-year-old. Then in a quest to beat the clock: Bath time, reading time, sleepy time. The week flies by. A common question: What day is it?
Back in the bedroom, I need a rest. Before the news comes on, I climb into bed and think about my husband. I love him. He works nights, and he’ll be home soon. I’ll be asleep.
Funny, this thing called Motherhood.