Years ago, early in my marriage, I was smack dab in the middle of babydom. My boys were 3 and 2 and I was a couple of months from the birth of my first daughter. I'd wanted this, prayed for this, hoped for this, and now that I had it, it was, well...tough. I'd had four very young sisters when I'd knelt across the altar from Hubders and so I knew that little ones were relentless. But I'd been the helper, the sitter, someone to give my mom a respite. Now, they were mine. I was the mom and it was just what I wanted, except for those moments when I thought I'd go nuts.
Hubders was wonderful. I loved the time of day when he'd walk through the door, with his smiling face, his adult conversation, and his joy at playing with his two little boys. But, he did have to bring home that bacon, and so, days were just me and the kids: the diapers, the runny noses, the laundry, the endless messes, the rashes, the tantrums, the lost shoes, the spilled milk; they were all constants in my life.
Usually I looked on the bright side, and fully enjoyed the sleepy snuggles, the faces that lit up just for me, the giggles, the wonder as they watched a bug at the park, the shrieks of delighted terror as I chased them round our little apartment, the absolute trust in their eyes, the joy of watching them learn new things, and the reading. It had become one of my passions, reading to those little guys. Where the Wild Things Are was a favorite and they never tired of hearing it. Who knew that making a story come alive for your kids could be so much fun?
Most of the time I was able to focus on the good things, but the relentlessness of the hard stuff would gang up on me some days and then it would bother me. Oh, not enough for me to feel like it was a mistake. I firmly believed that being a mother was the most important job on the planet; literally a sacred trust from God. I still wanted this as much as ever, but it was a harder gig than I'd imagined, and in the midst of the necessary drudgery, it was sometimes hard to remember how important being a mom was.
One morning, Sally, a friend from church called. Her babysitter was sick and Sally asked if I would watch her 18 month old daughter, Molly, for the day. I agreed. The day was uneventful and Sally eventually returned to pick her up. Sitting on the couch, she looked at me and said, "You don't know how lucky you are. I wish so bad I could stay home with Molly!" I replied that I did feel very blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, and after a few more exchanged pleasantries, Sally took her daughter home.
After she left, I couldn't get her comment out of my mind. I did feel blessed, but something was nagging at me. I mulled it over until I came to a realization. Sally was also very early in her marriage and I'd been to her home. It was a brand new, nice sized house, tastefully decorated with new furnishings, and there were two cute sporty little cars parked in the garage. On the other hand, Sally had trudged down the stairs to our basement apartment, sat on our hand-me-down furniture and walked past our one and only, on-it's-last-legs car. And it hit me. Sally could be where I was; struggling to make ends meet, with little in the way of material goods, and home, full-time, with her kids. She had chosen differently than I had, which is just fine, but it was a clarifying moment for me. The life I had chosen was more important to me than anything else. Owning a home and new furniture and nice cars would come once Hubders had a few more years of full-time employment under his belt; but they could wait while I did more important things.
I wasn't judgmental of Sally. This wasn't about her. It was the realization that this was the only acceptable way for me to live my life. I firmly believed that no one else could love those boys and give them what they needed like I could and I would have happily given up a lot of things before I'd give up full-time momhood. There was something liberating about seeing clearly why I'd made those choices and that, given the chance, I'd make the same ones all over again.
That realization was important, later on, when Hubders faced a long-term illness and money got even tighter. Although we knew that I may, at some point, have no choice but to enter the work force; together, we decided that until we couldn't even put those twenty-five cent boxes of macaroni and cheese on the table (yes, years ago you could by off-brand mac & cheese for a quarter), I wouldn't start looking for a job. Somehow, that day never came and I'm, happily, still at home preparing to send number six, my baby, off to kindergarten.
Although I may at some point get a job, I don't think I'll ever have a paid career. My past dreams of traveling, teaching in a school for the deaf, serving a full-time mission for my church, performing with impressive choirs, and writing gripping novels, all happily gave way to being a wife and mom. I'm entering a new stage of life now and I'm thinking about dusting off a few of those old dreams, but they will never mean as much to me as simply being a mom.