For years now, I’ve defined motherhood as the interactions throughout the day. I was their mother because I helped create them, yes, but that’s not the only defining element -- or else adoption wouldn’t exist.
Maybe I was their mom because I fed them, taught them manners, and rocked them all night when they were sick. But Steve was just as influential of a parent, even being gone long hours of the day.
So now, I am a working mother. I have always worked, since they were tiny, but not in this ratio of work-to-children time. I get to see what parts of me are still Mother, even with this new variable.
I’ve decided that motherhood is about bringing who I am, and what I’ve learned, into their lives. That my time with them is now less, but I bring something else to them.
I love my job so much. I have learned a bazillion things in the last few weeks. My brain is exploding from the incredible deluge of new information, and I feel a fiery excitement that I bring home. We all spend our days collecting experiences and stories and refining parts of ourselves, and then we bring them back to the dinner table.
For this moment, in this section of life, we are bigger and better for our time apart.
I tell them stories from work, like Joe, who is blind and runs the snack shop. How I tell him what I have (“Dasani water”), he tells me how much it is (“$1.35”), and then I put the money in his hand (“$2.00, sir”). And he gives me the change. I tell them about how much I love standing in line, watching the people ahead of me do the same routine. There is so much respect for Joe, and so much kindness in how he treats people. How great is it that a snack-stand cashier can bring joy to that many persons. That when they grow up and have jobs…whatever job it is…I hope they give joy to others like Joe gives me when I buy a Dasani.
Jack tells me that he learned the Russian word for “bat” is literally “flying mouse.” He asks to stay up a bit later, so he can practice writing in cursive. Andrew tells me about what he learned in his cooking class, or a new French word from school. And Simone rattles off her day in her typical chirpy monologue – detailing everything from why she chose her outfit to the girl she met at the playground.
I ask them questions, like: “Does everyone know that I love you all the time, even when I’m not there?” They look up at me from their drawings, nodding quizzically like I’m crazy, and go back to what they’re doing. Or: “Does anyone know HOW MUCH I love you?” And they answer in robotic unison: “A lot.”
As if it’s so foundational that it’s not worth discussing. I love this so much. Nobody is missing me. It’s as if I spent 4-8 years stuffing my presence into their little souls, so now it’s just There.
Maybe the best way to be there for loved ones is about what happens when we’re not there. Even on the days when Steve gets home pushing midnight, having worked on his Excel sheets for 12-14 hours a day, my day is changed because he is in my life. I walk around with this awareness that someone out there cares about my minutiae. Will be excited to see me. That if an emergency happened where I really needed him, he would close those Excel spreadsheets and come home immediately. There are these invisible threads between us, and I get to experience them in ways I didn’t understand before.
We had a complicated weekend as a family. Our incredible Saturday night, for one, and still smiling about it on Sunday. But also, tears over this being the final few days of Robin’s life. We talked about memories of her – like when she came out for 5 days to care for them while Steve and I were gone. The kids all shared Robin-stories and cried, and we had some difficult discussions about death and why bodies break. They decided to have a celebration for her, with Jell-O and donuts like she bought for Andrew’s birthday.
In the middle of the tears, Andrew said to me: “The best part about being a family is having any emotion you need to have, and knowing people will still love you.” I was amazed by the pure truth in it. That even as we go off and experience different paths in life, there’s this resting place in the middle of the chaos – where we can come home and be authentic, and yet still accepted. Have any emotion we need to have, and know people will still love us.
I think I like that definition of motherhood best of all. That I'm a place in my children's lives where they can be authentic...have any emotion they need to have...and still be loved.