Today I had the opportunity to pass on some heart earned wisdom to a frazzled, overworked mother of a 2 ½ year old child. Later as I reflected upon that conversation I began to suspect that other women...other mothers might also be ripe for a little sisterly love and wisdom.
This past August as I drove to my sister’s house after having left my one and only daughter, then 19, in her tiny little white walled dorm room of a college 3 ½ hours away from home a wave of nostalgia mixed with a ting of regret washed over me…where did the time go, when did she grow up, when did she become so responsible…how can her childhood really be done….
See I consider the absolute greatest joy in my lifebeing my daughter’s mother. This has been the truth that has propelled me forward since the very first time the nurse placed her itty bitty body in my then 16 year old arms….she was so perfect.....she would become my very reason for existence. I would give her everything that she needed…she would never go hungry…she would never feel abandoned … I would always protect her with the ferocity of a lioness…my baby…my princess… I began to build a life for her and for me with great determination and energy.
It was high school at night so as to free up my day to work, followed by 5 years of college leading into entry level jobs and then into my current career….in retrospect…I think that it’s quite possible I missed the forest through the trees… I worked so hard to care for her as a young mother with little support that I missed much of …..HER… Phrases like “I am so sorry baby, I can’t tuck you in, mommy has to work tonight” or “I am sorry baby, I am not going to be at your ball game, I have to work late tonight” or “baby, we will go to the park later, I have to get the house cleaned” were common place. When I was entrenched in finishing high school, getting a degree and building a career I thought I had all the time in the world…I was young and had no concept of how very fast time goes and that when it is gone…there is no way to get it back.
This is not, I suspect, a phenomenon unique to teen mothers….In today’s world where the more you can multitask the more valued you are…where there has been an explosion in the energy drink and coffee sales …where “sleep deprivation” and “anxiety attacks” are household terms our young mothers struggle to put in 15 hour days and their babies grow years in just a blink of their mother’s eye…..Our society has become one in which our young mother’s feel pressure to push out that last monthly report and suppress their inner yearning to just lay on the floor with their toddler and play blocks…is our society producing an ever increasing number of mother’s who won’t be able to see the forest through the trees???
My daughter is wonderful and responsible and as patient as the day is long. She became that way waiting for me. She is driven. She is hard-working. She learned much from watching her mother. I am her best friend and she is mine. I am so proud of her. She willingly accepts, even with gratitude, that while she was always number one in my heart and mind…she wasn’t always with my time. She tells me that she understands that I work hard. The tears choke in my throat even now knowing that she had to “accept” or “understand”. I would give almost anything to have those moments, those hours, those evenings spent being “driven” back to spend with her…
This afternoon I sat meeting with a disheveled and very obviously overwhelmed new worker who has been trying hard to learn a new job with impossible demands. She talked about working late the night before and missing time with her son. She has begun to sense, after two whirlwind months on the job that the only way she can hope to stay above float is to work several “at home” hours. I sensed the discouragement …She looked at me, her eyes begging me to give her hope that when she finally grasped her job better it wouldn’t be like this. Unfortunately I was unable to provide her the hope she so eagerly desired. As her manager my agency would have had me reassure her and somehow inspire her to work harder and longer in order to get the work done. My mother’s heart just wouldn’t do that….Instead I brewed her a hot cup of coffee…gave her 5 minutes to catch her breath and told her that in 10 years she will not remember what document she completed or what deadline she met giving up her time with her son …I pleaded with her to establish now dedicatedtime untouchable by work and devoted only to her child and her family…I gently explained to her that in 16 years when she leaves her son at his college dorm room and drives away…the only thing that will matter to her are her memories of him that she will draw upon in order to comfort her broken mother’s heart….
Through this journey I have grown immensely. Today I try to remember balance. I value my relationships more than my career; I invest time in my daughter, my family and my friends.
My sisters and friends….my heart’s wish is that by sharing my experience others might benefit…..maybe even give themselves permission to meet one less deadline to instead build one more sandcastle and by so doing seize a once in a lifetime opportunity….