I’ve been quite sentimental these past couple of weeks…for not one reason in particular.
The other day I discovered an old blog I used to keep, and I got lost reading about all of the adventures of my past. My college days, fun with friends, applying for internships in NY, moving, making new friends, going to lots of parties and romancing with a few boys. I was struck by what a different life that was. My favorite were the times I wrote “I know I’ll never forget it” – only to realize that now, ten years later, I had, in fact, forgotten.
I had so much time then. Time to read, time to put thoughts down on paper about the books and articles I had read. Time to lie in bed, to take a stroll through Central Park, to go to brunch with my friends. I had a job that kept me busy. I learned so many new things, every day.
Now I cut sandwiches into shapes. I wipe noses and bums and countertops and just about anything else. I don’t have time to finish a book. The coffee I pour in the mornings is always lukewarm by the time I get to it. Three’s company when I pee. I can never eat anything without having to share it. Someone always crawls into my bed and interrupts my sleep. Someone always needs something. There is always something else I should be doing. Put away the laundry, clean the kitchen, sew Julian’s pants, dust, prepare dinner – or start by putting away the breakfast dishes.
The other day one of Julian’s teachers commented to me about how busy one of the other (working) mothers is. And how fortunate I am to be at home. I immediately became defensive – because I am busy, too, I thought. She said that the workload at home doesn’t become lighter just because you work outside of the home in addition, and I’m sure that’s true. After all, the dishes won’t put themselves away, right? But the comment still rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, I am fortunate. I know it. But it’s also a lot of work. Lots of carrying of things up our third floor walk-up. Lots of house stuff. Lots of raising kids stuff. Lots of repetition. Lots of patience.
So I’ve been thinking about my old life. The life where I could finish a meal without interruption. The life where I could wake up when I was ready. The life where no one’s needs were constantly more important than my own.
And then I was glad. I was thankful that I had that life. That I had truly lived it. That I enjoyed my freedom and had fun and lived with no regrets.
The sister of someone I used to know a long time ago recently passed away just a few weeks after giving birth to her first child. It really shocked me – to think that this beautiful, sunny person with the most infectious laugh does not get the chance to watch her baby boy grow up. I didn’t know her well and hadn’t spoken to her in 10 years, but just the thought of her husband and their little boy living on without her made my heart so heavy.
I am the luckiest. I had it all. The fun, the carefree living, and now this: what I always dreamed of – even though I had very little idea of the realities of my dream. This is truly the most demanding job I’ve ever had, the most exhausting, the most frustrating, and sometimes the most thankless job.
But I get to do it. I get to have a sleepy little boy curl up next to me at 6am and then touch my face when he wakes up and say, “Guten Morgen, Mama.” I get to hear my boys’ jokes and silly stories (yesterday Arthur had an imaginary bee in his pants!) and endless details about the subway. I get to dry tears and wipe noses and put on band-aids. I get to paint toe nails, set up train tracks and build legos. I get to ride our bike all over Brooklyn with my two sidekicks on the back. I get to go to “shows” on a daily basis; Julian is currently working on three songs: “Walk on Ice,” “Eye of the Runway,” and “Halloween Down.” I’m here for the hugs and the reading of books and for someone to steal all the food while I’m prepping dinner. I get to see my boys become the best of friends. I’m here for all the stories and all the laughs and all the magic. And I’m thankful.
I wish everyone would stop talking about breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, staying at home vs. working outside of the house, peanut butter & jelly vs. raw kale salad. Everyone is doing their best – and also making their own life choices, and they are really no one else’s business but your own. What I do is for me, for my children, and for my family, and I’m sure just about every other person will say the same for themselves.
So carry on, mamas (and papas). Whatever you do, you’re doing it.