Every Mother’s Day, I think of my mom. At the end of her life, at 86, I remember her asking in a painful whisper, “Where has the time gone? »
We’d be in her Chicago kitchen, and she’d be looking at a picture of my infant sister, brother, and me. I think of these words when I see the portrait of me and my little boys by artist Moe Delaitre that adorned the cover of my first book, “Surrender to Motherhood”.
These silky-faced boys are now 32, 30 and the twins are 28.
“Surrender to Motherhood,” published in 1997, chronicles a work-family struggle that many women, and your mothers and daughters, have faced. That is: how can we balance a career and raising children, giving each other enough time while remaining centered and sane. My own choice as a young mom to leave the workplace for a while to stay home with my fidgety tribe prompted the subtitle of my book: “Lose Your Mind, Find Your Soul.”
I often miss those new mom days, my soul brimming with purpose and love.
On this Mother’s Day, I reread the first chapter of my first book on the act of abandonment after having a child. So, at 40, a mother of four children under the age of three, I wrote: “As long as I can remember, I have struggled to find something that would give meaning to my life, something to nourish my spiritual hunger. , soothe my bubbling psyche, to anchor me in the present. I’ve always been the person who, wherever I was, thought I should be somewhere else.
When four sons were born in quick succession – especially the 11 minutes between giving birth to my twins – I became a woman who knew she was right where she needed to be, and that the right place was home. Decades later, I’m content with the choices I’ve made, to surrender myself to that fleeting moment when we all have our children under one roof. This magnificent period of hugs from little people passes in a snap of the fingers.
“Where did the time go?”
This morning, I wonder like my mother wondered, as two of the four boys tower over me in the kitchen, where they came to celebrate Mother’s Day. They are hoarse-voiced men with relatives and jobs and luckily they live nearby. The kitchen, like my mother’s, is filled with photos of their youth, on swings, on ponies, huddled together at Disney World.
When I’m alone in this kitchen, I become melancholic like my own mother did as I fixate on these images from a lifetime ago. Overwhelmed with some sadness, but no remorse, I’m glad I left a job in daily journalism to spend time with needy kids who now tell me to “chill out” when I get too motherly.
I’m also glad that between diaper changes I kept the pulse of my old life, launching a career as a freelance writer and becoming a journalism teacher when the kids started school. Because now that the all-consuming phase of motherhood is history, I still have an identity to lean on beyond the “Mommy, Mommy” self.
No one calls me “Mom” anymore; in fact, one son calls me “Iris”.
I’m now that gray-haired grandmother in her 60s who is quick to remind dewy young women elated with new babies to savor every second of playtime and “Sesame Street,” which enters its 52nd season this fall. I am the oldest woman who knows you can always go back to work. You can never go back to the glowing phase when the kids cling to you like monkeys. Soon, too soon, they are stubble teenagers, hooked up to headphones, then autonomous adults.
When “Surrendering to Motherhood” was published in 1997, it was criticized in staunch feminist circles. I’ve been accused of pandering to the 50s housewife model. I’ve told my critics that my brand of feminism means we can shape our own destiny as women, depending on our financial needs. and individual emotions. While it’s possible to avoid the office for a while, that doesn’t make us less powerful as women. There is no job that takes more courage and strength than doing our best to raise kind and confident sons and daughters.
On home visits after college, I used to give my own stay-at-home mom bullshit, saying she should be there to work and be a woman of the world. Today, I am grateful to her for having been there for all these years: she gave her children structure and stability. I could count on my mother.
This gift of predictability is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.
During my 20s, I was hooked on the rise of journalism, culminating in the position of National Feature Editor for United Press International. There were constant ego rushes of exotic adventures and a signature that went around the world.
I smoked camels with Yoko Ono in Dakota, nibbled almonds with Queen Nor in her palace in Amman, read the Bible with Billy Graham. The highs were intense, but they were short-lived. I remember eating take-out sushi alone at night in my apartment near Georgetown, the phone tucked under my chin, complaining to my dad that I was sick of spouting copies on stars who would forget about me the next day. .
“Do you have any new boyfriends?” he would ask.
I moaned back, “Oh dad, women these days don’t need men like they did in the 50s. What do you want me to do, quit my job and go away.” married ?
And he always answered, “That wouldn’t be so bad.”
No, it wasn’t that bad. Even if at the time, I pushed back. How could I, me, enlightened follower of Ms magazine, return to the shackles of the housewife? Yet then came the ancient yank of the womb, prompting marriage at 33 and hatching four children at 39. Tied up like Gulliver, I had a revelation about what really matters. Family above all else.