Vicki Wentz: Nothing is about you anymore
My daughter, Louise, called yesterday. She sounded fed up and exhausted, but then she’s a wife and mother of three, so that’s her natural state. Georgie had been coughting for days and had a come-and-go fever, Gracie had the diaper rash from hell, and Charlie apparently has no idea how to entertain himself!
“Mom,” she complained, “when is it ever going to be about me?”
I was drinking tea at the time, which is now staining the entire front of the blouse I was wearing. “Never, honey,” I answered, sdly but honestly. “It will never be about you ever again. Not from the moment you heard your first little cry from Charlie. I’m sorry but at some point every mother, especially the stay-at-home mother, has to hear this truth, which is the bedrock of all motherhood since the beginning of time. It’s just that we all don’t want to tell our daughters too early, or we may never have grandchildren.”
“What?” she said, stunned. “What do you mean ‘never’? I mean, surely, some day I’ll be able to –”
“B-but,” she stammered, “What about –”
“Mom, come on!” she gasped. “It’s my life –”
“Stop right there,” I interrupted firmly (it’s better to nip the dreaming quickly, I’ve found, like ripping off a Band-Aid all at once.) “I hate to tell you this, but it’s not really your life anymore. Oh, sure, it’ll get better. When the children are gone off to college, you’ll be able to take a Zumba class once in a while, or maybe a bubble bath, or even read part of a book. But those will be only snatches of time, my darling. Nothing like before the children came.”
“But … why?” she whispered.
“Oh, sweetheart, the fact that they’re away at school will only bring temporary peace. Their needs are not the same, of course – they don’t need help getting dressed or eating vegetables or getting to soccer practice. But, they still have needs.”
“Like what?” she demanded. “I remember loving the fact that I was in college and didn’t need you anymore!”
“Hmm. And, yet, it still wasn’t about me,” I huffed. “You don’t remember calling me weekly to put more money in your checking account so you could ‘buy some normal clothes and not look like a freak’? Or, more money in your food account, so you ‘could, like, eat an actual meal and not starve to death’?”
“Oh, mother,” she started, “that’s nothing like –”
“Excuse me, I wasn’t finished,” I said sternly. “Remember calling me regularly in a panic about this teacher, that course, this friend, that apartment, this sorority? And, are you forgetting the papers WE wrote together, sometimes until 12 or 1 a.m.? The tests WE studied for? The fights with this or that boyfriend that WE sobbed about every couple of months late into the night?”
“Huh,” she sounded surprised. “Well, –”
“And then you graduated.”
“Yeah!” She was proud.
“And still – not about me. There was the need for a new car, a new job, a new apartment, and, of course, the pressing need for a new wardrobe so you’d look grown and professional. All needs that Mommy had to handle. Remember any of that? And, you needed to find new roommates, with whom you’d have arguments and call me in a tizzy; a new grocery store, a new hair salon … ring any bells?”
“OK, but then I got married, and … uh … well …”
“That’s right – here I am, on my lunch period (excuse me for chewing in your ear, sweetie) and how can I be of service?”
There was shocked silence on the other end of the phone for a long moment. Then, I heard whispered, “Wow.”
Now, Charlie and Georgie are healthy, brilliant and adorable, and Gracie, 3, is healthy, brilliant and simply Perfection-in-a-Dress. But, as every mother can tell you, that doesn’t mean that life’s road is empty of all potholes: Chuck had to have his gallbladder out last week, on the same day that Georgie was home sick. Louise had gotten a babysitter for Gracie, so she could stay with both children, but Charlie still had to get to school, and Chuck had to be at the hospital at 5:30 that morning, and Louise wasn’t allowed to leave while he was there, so she needed someone to take Charlie to school, and Georgie had a pediatrician’s appointment at 4 that afternoon, so if Chuck wasn’t out of recovery and settled at home in bed by then, Georgie was SOL, plus who would bring Charlie home from school?
Happy Mother’s Day, Louise. God bless her. I’m going to go read part of a book.
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com.