A friend posted on Facebook, ‘What would you do, as a profession, if you had no restrictions?’ The comments that followed were ‘race car driver,’ or ‘travel show host,’ or, ‘beer taster.’ One friend, who is childless, just wrote, ‘mommy.’ My heart sank a bit. A thin finger of conviction wiggled its way into the hollows of my heart. I know that there are thousands of women that would give what they have to trade with me. I have wallowed in self pity about my status as a stay at home mom. Something I chose because I didn’t want someone else to raise my children, but once it started getting real I wasn’t so sure I wanted the job anymore. Feeling hands tied I have stayed.
The friend who posted ‘mommy,’ regularly fosters children from a local orphanage (she lives in Kenya), she takes in children for the weekend. This is done so that the kids can get a little more loving than they would from the overtaxed workers. I could drink some sour stew and say that she doesn’t know what it’s really like to have children. She doesn’t know how hard it is. But fostering certainly gives you a fair taste of what it would be like. Yes, there is nothing comparable to having a child of your own flesh, but I will chose not to sip that bitter drink.
You know when you’re grocery shopping and some nice elderly lady or gentleman stops you and tells you to enjoy every moment of what you’re doing? Or tells you that when their children were young was the happiest time of their life? And all you want to do is say,
“Hey, look lady, I have poop on my jeans,” I usually just smile and say, something dumb like
“Well, I like them,” and shrug.
This is hard, young children are the trenches of parenting. So many ways I have felt like I have lost my sense of self, sense of dignity, sense of space, sense of time, I feel tired in my bones, I feel holes in my mind… I don’t want to deny how hard this is, that would be unreal. In truth it would be lying.
I have thought and thought about this, maybe the key to all this is not to pretend that these people ‘can’t remember’ or ‘don’t know what it’s really like.’ To tip that other cup of bitterness to my lips and say ‘they’ve forgotten,’ or, ‘it’s different now.’
Maybe the key to loving ‘the now’ that we are in is to focus on the happy moments.
When I spread out a blanket on the lawn and they jump on my belly, don’t focus on the sharp knee banging against bones and the elbow in sensitive crevices, but focus on the sweet face just inches from my own. Focus on the feel of soft perfect skin under kisses, hugs, and tickles. Focus on the way that two sisters look at each other and then play. Focus not the fact that she brings me flowers when I am looking for keys with laden bags, and asks me to just stand there and hold them, but the sweet fact that she is bringing me flowers at all. Focus on the look of round cheeks and laughing mouths. If I sink in those moments and hold those more dear maybe the potty accidents, the long nights, the disrupted dinners, and the ruined clothes won’t matter as much. If I am alive in the good moments, make sure that all my senses are on, maybe when I see a young mother with child in tow I will remember early morning snuggles, and late afternoons where I said, ‘to hell with dinner,’ and sat down and played with my kid. Let the happy moments be the sweet music that punctuates and covers over the white noise of stress.
That’s what those people women who don’t have the children they want see; the little hands, the precious gift of a child, the deep love of ‘my own flesh and blood.’ That’s what those sweet people in the twilight of their lives remember; the giggles, the kisses, the laughter, the incredulity of raising a little human being.
I am going to try and see that now, so that I don’t poison this time with stress and frustration. I am going to remind myself that those who stop and tell me to ‘enjoy every moment’ might be looking back on their life and wishing that they did. It’s hard to enjoy poop on your jeans, but maybe in a few years it can be funny.