The baby is sick. He has a fever, and his mommy doesn’t know what to do for him. It matters not that the baby in question is in his early thirties and I am the mommy who is nearly thirty years older than that; Mommy still worries.
I’ve been reading a lot of “mommy blogs” lately, written by young women who are in the very early years of motherhood with new babies and toddlers and blogs written by mothers with children in elementary and middle school. One theme seems predominant: Raising kids is stressful. The underlying supposition is that once these kids are raised and on their own, the stress will essentially be over.
I agree. Mostly. Trying to juggle orthodontist and doctor appointments, extra-curricular activities, homework monitoring, volunteering, housework, grocery shopping, cooking, quality listening time, and maybe even a job outside the home and still have time for yourself and your spouse seems like an impossible task and is both physically and emotionally draining. I’ve been there, so I get it. I can say, “Cherish these moments because they will vanish before your eyes,” even though some of those moments aren’t worth cherishing.
One day they do grow up and leave home, and the physical exhaustion that comes with motherhood does leave you. Your life is more in balance. You have time for yourself and for your spouse. If you had a good marriage to begin with, it becomes an even better one when the children leave home. You find romance again.
But motherhood doesn’t end when your children aren’t under your wing anymore. You still worry about them, about their health, their job, their marriage, their children, only this time you have no control over any of it. You can’t ground them or talk to their teacher. You can’t send them to bed early. And you can’t order out for pizza, rent some movies and cuddle on the couch with them on a Saturday night, especially if they live far away, like in Michigan or Boston, while you live in Virginia. You can’t sit down with them over a glass of milk and a plate of homemade cookies and find out how their day went or what is really on their mind.
Yes, I read these mommy blogs and I smile because I can picture my life as a young mother, but sometimes I am overcome with a feeling of loss for those days. No, I don’t want to go back and relive that time of my life. Just the thought enervates me. But don’t tell me that the stress of motherhood ends when the children are raised, because I am emotionally drained at times with the longing to be as much a part of their lives again as I was when they were little.
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Believe it or not, I miss watching Days of Our Lives and eating Lays Potato chips dipped in homemade french onion dip. I miss coming home from school and smell fresh bread baking in the oven. I miss falling asleep with the contentment and security of knowing you are just in the next room. However, I cherish sharing a glass of wine instead of milk or a bag of salt & vinegar chips instead of cookies while being encouraged by you that “this too shall pass”. My children complete me because I see them the way you saw us – blessings to be cherished and lavished with love. They are a joyful addition to my life because of the examples of motherhood you continue to shower upon me. Thank you for being my mom – and I know you are only a phone call (or blog post) away.
Okay, you’re making me cry. What a privilege it is to be your mother.
The word “Stress” actually relates to wear and tear as when the rubber meets the road on a tire or the brake pads pressing up against the rotor in the wheel. The term as it applies to living organisms was first introduced by Hans Seyle in the 1930’s who defined it as the consequence of the failure of an organism (human or animal) to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined. Thus stress symptoms are the manifestation of a chronic state of responses to stress triggers that are actually benign. Even a thought can set off the same response mechanism that would be in play while standing in front of a hungry lion. Hence, Seyle’s definition still reaches to the heart of stress management; the idea of the response being inappropriate and engaging in a process of altering ones misperception of pending disaster or imminent danger.
And in raising kids, you are constantly warding off perceptions of impending disaster!
Your post is beautiful. I’m one of the mom bloggers with young kids (4 and 2) and I feel as though this has got to be the best time of my life. Frankly, I’m terrified of what I’m going to feel when they’re grown and out of the house! You’re completely right. This time is so precious, and we have endless opportunities to be a part of every aspect of our children’s lives. It makes me so sad when I see moms toss up their hands and ignore their tiny children. Yes it’s hard! It’s stressful. It’s messy and some days you’re so covered with poop and oatmeal and juice that it’s hard to find a part of you that isn’t sticky.
But the smiles. The grins. Storytime — oh boy I’d better stop. I am so thankful and happy and grateful for my beautiful children. And they’re not quiet little things. They yell, they climb on the table, they break things — but it’s because they’re kids. And you’re right. It goes by so fast. I actually love having the toys all over the floor and stepping on the little army guys (which hurts!) because I know it won’t be like this forever. Sounds like you were wide awake to this realization too.
I once tried to explain this to a friend who doesn’t have children. That I feel this unyielding drive to — and I couldn’t get the words out right. Or maybe his ears just weren’t ready. He told me that’s a bad way to live. But it’s a drive to let them mix all the playdoh together so it turns brown. Jump in the puddles until we’re soaked. And take all the heartache and stress and missed sleep because it means I’ve got something so important. Two tiny children.
But when I get sad about the future — I just look at my own parents. And see the delight on their faces whenever I bring the grandchildren by. And I hope someday I’ll get to wear that same expression.
Thanks for the thoughtful post!
You are one of the moms who “gets it.” I hate to read the blogs that constantly bash their kids or complain about how they never have time for themselves because their kids are so needy. Why did they have them in the first place? Yes, it’s hard, darn hard, and it wears you out, but my gosh, it is so worth it! Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. One caution, though: Every day has to be the best time of your life. Otherwise, when the kids are grown and out of the house, you can really get depressed.