From the time I was a young girl, I wanted to be a mother. The urge to hold and to love a baby, my baby, was a conscious one. I also had professional ambitions, so in those days, before women expected to be able to do it all, there was a bit of a conflict in my head. Curiously, while I don’t remember telling anyone about my maternal urges, I did mention it on my first date to the man I eventually married. He told me that he too looked forward to having children, so the rest is history.
When I did have my first child, I was quietly terrified. I was the caboose child in my parents’ families, meaning that my parents were older, and everyone in my generation was already born before I came on the scene. There were no babies for me to practice on, I had never given a baby a bottle nor changed a diaper, and I was afraid I was inadvertently going to do some terrible harm to a helpless infant. It wasn’t until the baby’s one-month checkup, when the pediatrician exalted about how his development — size and weight — were “off the charts,” that I began to relax and believe the baby would survive my ignorance.
After that the parenting urge was so fulfilling that we did it twice more in record time. Judging from my friends’ tales of their children, we had it easy with three boys. They were exceedingly energetic but never moody, didn’t hold a grudge for more than three minutes, weren’t particular about what clothes they wore and could be entertained with a generous supply of miniature trucks on rainy, “indoor” days or any ball game on “outside” days. Baseball on our dead end street was their favorite, and I became a pretty good pitcher, if I do say so myself.
They didn’t much like it when I started the first newspaper and was away from the house a great deal. They were all in elementary school by that point and they came to accept the new arrangement, even were infrequently pleased with my new occupation. And since my office was only some five minutes from the house and three minutes from their school, I felt I could get to them quickly if they needed me. I was able to look in on them in the course of each day. In fact, I had more trouble convincing my mother than my
children that it was acceptable to work both inside and outside the home. I just could never understand how all three unfailingly picked friends who lived on the farthest ends of the school district and had to be driven back and forth. That and the constant car pooling for games and music lessons made me grateful that I had learned to drive — not a typical skill among my urban classmates when I was growing up.
I weathered their teenage years as best I could, sometimes marveling that only my children could make me scream (and my mother). At the same time, my husband and I vicariously enjoyed the children’s various successes: academic, musical and athletic. They were blossoming into young adults and we were regularly irritated by them and immensely proud of them.
As the children reached their later teenage years, the family dynamic shifted. My husband was terminally ill, and the children were forced to deal with death. My mother and my father had both passed on by then, and the boys had been deeply touched by their loss, but the death of a parent at a far younger age than expected for either their father or themselves struck me as a cruel trick. Somehow we had not lived up to our part of the parenting contract.
I guess that was when my children started to become my friends. It probably would have happened around that age anyway, but we became allies in the face of adversity. And then life’s wonderful joys unfurled. … They graduated, got jobs, found their loved ones and eventually made me a grandmother. That’s a club one can’t apply to oneself, but having arrived there, I can endlessly sing its praises.
Bottom line: How ultimately satisfying it is for me to be a mom.