When I was a young mother, it felt as though every minute of every day was somehow connected to the job at hand: providing for my children. Before any decisions were made, the first consideration was how it would affect the kids. My own identity disappeared into motherhood.
Can we buy that house we love? Nope, it is not in the same school district and we could never uproot the kids. Can we go see Cats when it is in town? No, that is the weekend of the recital. Can we buy a sedan? No, we need a mini van to transport the kids, their sports equipment and their friends. No indulgences or thought for oneself whatsoever. But, at the time, we are okay with all of the sacrifices because we love our children most—more than ourselves, more than a house, a theatrical production, a car. Also, there is this small gleaming light out there in the distance that says “some day.”
Some day, I can doze when I lay at the beach—or perhaps even read a book. Some day, I can buy a lovely trinket to display in my home without worrying it will get broke. Some day, I can plan vacations, buy the car I want, have a clean house, and spend time doing something I love (like writing).
I hate to be a downer, but I have to tell all of you young moms that ‘some day’ might never come. I think if I’d known that all along, maybe I wouldn’t have built my hopes up. I don’t mean that in a surly way—I try hard to constantly count my blessings and be happy that my family is healthy, loves me and wants me in their lives. There are so many people who do not have those great blessings and I want to give them their proper appreciation. But the truth of the matter is that adult kids have needs that are even more complicated than young children; when they need help, it is far more involved than it was when they were little.
Five of the six of our adult children moved back in with us after they had left home for varying amounts of time and for different reasons. One was because of an untimely pregnancy, so our daughter could finish college (3 years). The next was due to an internship opportunity at Johns Hopkins, where the pay was little, but the opportunity too great to pass up (1 year). The next was due to a break up in relationship (8 months) and then the one after that was due to a move back from California (6 months). I currently have another child at home, with her child, as she struggles with severe postpartum issues. Four of the five who moved back home for a period were married with children when they lived with us.
I find that no matter how old my child is, or whether they have children of their own, the minute they walk through my door with their suitcase I become the ‘mom’ again and my home becomes the home of old—the one that is filled with chaos, bottles, dirty laundry, no sleep…no thought of myself anymore. And if you think little kids make big messes, wait until you have adult kids living with you. For some reason, they assume that the way they were living their lives in their own homes is now acceptable to live in your home. The rules of the past are gone. And don’t even think of trying to tell their child what to do, or having a conversation with them about anything serious without permission…it might be your home, but it is their child. No kidding. I am sorry to say that every single one of my children has pulled (and continues to pull) this one on me.
All of this has always been okay with me to a certain degree. At least I accepted it. But for some reason, I’m not feeling very okay with it right now. Poor Ali—being the last child has always had its disadvantages. I think the best part of me, all of my tolerance and patience, has always gotten used up on the oldest four first. [Yes, there is one more between the oldest four and the youngest, but she is my anomaly—the one who never needs for anything, or asks for anything]. This time, ‘losing myself’ doesn’t feel good at all. I sometimes feel resentful of it, which I am ashamed to say. Maybe one of you readers will give me a good thrashing—tell me how selfish I am acting—and get me back on track at being a good mother.
I want to help—truly I do—but I seem to want it on my terms this time. I don’t want dirty bottles stuffed in between the cushions of the sofa. I don’t want pukey burp cloths bunched up with my crocheted lap throw. I don’t want to get up at 4 to write and instead have to watch a baby [my grandson] for three hours so his mommy can get some sleep…and this mommy desperately needs some sleep! She is battling postpartum depression. What is wrong with me? I get so disappointed every day when it doesn’t work out–I have been walking around near tears for a week now.
Maybe I feel this way because this time I really thought I was going to do it…have time to write. It seems I’ve waited a lifetime already. I have so many stories burning inside of me. But what good is a story about someone else when I have to neglect my own family—the people who count on me to always be there for them when they need me?
I guess there are some people who are better at this job than I am; people who can balance both: having a slice of life for themselves while still tending to their family. I have never been good at balancing both. In my [almost] desperate efforts to make certain my children always feel they have someone they can turn to, I lose myself…there is no middle ground for me.
This morning, I write; my grandson has slept the first entire night of his little life. He is six months old, and has no idea the gift he gave me by sleeping: time to write. The strange thing is, I miss him already. I miss his ready smile with the big dimples. I miss losing myself in him.