“I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m not the mother I thought I’d be.”
I spent 45 minutes on the phone this morning with a good friend of mine. Like me, she’s a stay-at-home mom with three kids, each with varying degrees of special needs. The conversation started with a discussion about kindergarten next year, and whether or not she was going to have her child in a full day program or a half day program.
“I’m leaning towards full day,” she said, “because I just don’t think I can be home with them anymore. I’m just not cut out to be the mother I thought I wanted to be.”
I thought this was an incredibly brave thing to say. And it sounded very familiar.
I’m definitely not the mother I thought I’d be, either.
When Gerry was born, I had every intention of going back to work. But my job had long, unpredictable hours and the more we researched daycare, the more we realized that my entire salary would be going to pay for his childcare. And when his food intolerance issues cropped up, I knew it was going to be too stressful for me to leave him with anyone else. I had to make sure he was drinking the right formula and eating the right foods, and we were in the doctor’s office for constant weight checks. Financially and logistically, it made sense for me to stay home with him.
(now, I will interject right here that I know how lucky I am that I was able to make that choice to stay home. I know many parents don’t have that luxury, and would rather be home with their children than be at work, but they can’t. I get that and I am grateful to be in the position to make that choice. And my friend feels the same way.)
I told my friend that when I think back on that moment when I decided to stay home, I remember feeling excited and joyful and looked forward to all those milestones we’d reach together. But Gerry was a clingy baby who would only nap on or next to me. I couldn’t do anything for myself during the day. Not even shower. We were together 24 hours a day (he was also sleeping in our bed at night). So, at 15 months old, I put him in daycare two mornings a week.
(I know this was a huge luxury. But I was quickly going crazy, and with no local support system it was the only viable option at the time).
When Howie came along, things got more difficult more quickly. And again, when Howie was two (and I was pregnant with Lewis), I put him in daycare two mornings a week. I told myself that it was necessary with the new baby coming and he needed good peer modeling. Truth is, I needed some quiet alone time.
I told my friend this morning that if Lewis wasn’t the king of naps, there’s a pretty good chance I’d be looking for a daycare arrangement for him now too.
All this goes against everything I thought I’d be as a mother. Of course my kids and I were going to spend every moment together – playgroups, playgrounds, museums and travel adventures. The days would be filled with giggles and delight as we learned about the world together. The TV would never be on. I’d be incredibly patient and never yell. Each one of my kids would have my undivided attention and I could help them with any problem they had. We’d sit and read books and do projects and fall into a big tired heap at the end of the day.
In our own beds.
I didn’t expect to be the mother I am now. The mother who yells and shies away from playgrounds and museums because of the sensory overload. The mother who turns on “Curious George” so I can get some laundry folded and a little bit of quiet time. The mother who has seen machines and wires attached to her kids and spent hours with specialists. The mother who knows the Early Intervention number by heart. The mother writing this blog post in her pajamas at 2pm. The mother who sends her 8 year old to his room to do his homework so he’s not bothered by his siblings. The mother who worries constantly about her kids’ futures, not just 10 years from now, but 10 days from now.
As my friend and I talked, we realized that we’ve changed from the mothers we thought we’d be to the mothers that we have to be.
And for the first time in eight years, I decided I was okay with that.
I know there are mothers and fathers out there who are exactly the type of parents they thought they’d be, and I will admit that I’m slightly envious of that. But my vision of motherhood would not have worked with my family. I can’t be the perfect mom who can spend every moment with my kids.
So who can I be?
I can be the mother who is the first name called out in the middle of the night for comfort. The mother that cheers on one son at the baseball field while chasing the other two off the field. The mother that desperately tries to understand how to play Lego Star Wars on the Wii. The mother that would do anything for my boys. The mother, who every once in a while, needs to be by herself.
By being who I have to be, I’m the mother that my kids need and want me to be.
I wouldn’t want to be anything else but that.
“Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know“- Who Are You by The Who