Before I had children I desperately wanted them. I walked out of a gynecologist’s office at 19 years old absolutely devastated because I had been told it would be difficult, maybe impossible. Of all the things I was told that day — the lifelong pain I could expect, the weight difficulties, the cosmetic difficulties, the emotional difficulties of facing a life with polycystic ovarian syndrome and other issues, the only thing that set me on my heels was the mention of fertility difficulties.
I got married and started trying right away, aware that I wouldn’t get help from the medical community until I could prove with months of trying that I needed it. Three months later I was pregnant.
I wanted five children. The first three would be 18 months apart, the last two spaced just a little more, or maybe they’d be twins. I considered making the last two adoptees, as I thought for every child I brought into the world I ought to take an unwanted child into my home.
I planned my life around having children. I would wait until the youngest was in school and then would start reapplying for some courses, get some refreshers, write my MCATs and go to medical school. It would be a bit tough in those elementary years but once I graduated I would set up a family practice, preferably in the Gros Morne area where the kids could enjoy the outdoors and my teenagers could find summer jobs easily.
I would split the practice with another mom, both of us working half days or short weeks so that we wouldn’t fall into the doctor’s trap of never seeing our families.
Needless to say, none of that worked out.
Instead, I’m a single mom of three children struggling and stressed about everyday bills with hardly the time to read a newspaper article, let alone study. My youngest is heading to full-day school this year and the concept of quitting a full-time job to attend school myself is so ridiculously unpractical as to be insane. The idea of having another child right now, let alone two more, gives me a panic attack.
What also didn’t work out was my plan for the kind of mother I’d be — selfless, patient, nurturing, fun. Instead, I’m constantly complaining that the children are so selfish they never think of me. I’m on edge from the moment they awake me in the morning with their bickering. I yell too easily at things that aren’t yell-worthy. And my kids declare I’m no fun at all.
At least I’m still nurturing ... sort of.
This last week as we prepare for back to school and I plan around a job that seems, after three contract extensions, to be turning into something kind of permanent I’ve been thinking a lot about how our family life will play out. I’ve been meal planning, activity planning, trying to budget to pay down my mountain of debt yet still afford an occasional splurge with the kids.
I’ve been thinking about how the school schedule will facilitate other schedules, including chores. And I’ve been thinking about the kind of life I want to live with my children.
I’ve been thinking back to when my eldest was under two and I was massively pregnant with my second and we would dance every evening for exercise and bonding. I’ve been thinking about taking the two older ones for walks, one strapped to my belly, the other trailing at my hand while talking about their baby brother on his way.
I’ve been remembering the way people used to smile at our family, tell me how patient and nurturing I was, praise the children’s manners. I remember that feeling of enjoying the moments.
I’ve been remembering the mother I always wanted to be, the mother I have been, the mother I still am occasionally. And I’ve been forgetting the life I wanted, the life I’ve led and instead concentrated on the life I have.
Lately, the past few years, I haven’t enjoyed being a mother. I’ve blamed it on situation and circumstance and stress and my kids’ idiosyncrasies. But none of those are to blame. It’s just my attitude. It’s hard to let go of all your perfect plans and expectations for yourself and your children.
But until you do that, you can’t embrace what you actually have. The more I understand that the here and now, and how I and the children feel, matters more than the past or future and how others perceive us, the more I enjoy being a mother again. And the more my children enjoy their mother.
I’ve been thinking about new beginnings that aren’t the start of anything more than living the life I have with the patience and grace I want to have. And I’ve been discovering that it’s not really that hard. And I’m starting to enjoy being a mother again, which is, I think, the best gift I can give my children in this life.
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