At the young age of 18, I experienced the orphan-like loneliness of abandonment. My mother died of an aneurysm and I was the one who found her. I still have that image lodged in my mind. My father moved back to Italy when I was the age of 5 with no further contact. He died eleven years later. Being an only child, I grew up having simple wishes- a father and brothers and sisters. My mother was my only parent for as long as I can remember. Losing her was tragic to say the least. After her death, I experienced depression, excessive weight gain and an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. My longing for family propagated as I entered my twenties and thirties. I understand grief, loneliness, sense of not belonging, and survival. I know the associated unrelenting pain. I was faced with the choice to survive in the face of adversity or throw my life into a downward spiral where I was the only one that would lose. I chose to survive with the hopes that someday I would be happy.
As a young girl, my plan was to go to college, then get married and start a family soon after. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and work part time so I could be with my kids. Life never seems to go as planned. I had to quit college to work full time to support myself. I spent ten consecutive years of my adult life developing my career while going to college at night to complete a M.B.A. as I decided to focus on my career until I met the right guy to marry. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 36 yrs old but, not for a lack of trying. A few years later we were blessed with a baby boy and I had to make a hard choice of whether to continue working or become a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM.)
I cried the whole time I toured a daycare adjacent to my workplace while pregnant. I knew in my heart that I would not be able to leave my newborn to go to work. Blame it on hormones, but I knew leaving him was not an option for me. Nonetheless, I made a hard decision that left me feeling anxious about what would become of my career after leaving the workforce for a few years. I asked myself: “Can women really have it all?”
While still feeling guilty and anxious, I resigned my position at work and took on the role as SAHM . We blissfully welcomed our first born son and I was never so happy. Our next baby boy arrived seventeen months later. It took four years for me to transition from career woman to SAHM. It was difficult to let go of my career and the comfort of my previous familiar lifestyle to become financially dependent on my husband while my kids depend on me for all else. I felt guilty that I was wasting my education, talents, and skills being at home. I learned a lot about patience, altruism and multitasking. I bonded with our boys and felt an abundance of love to give and receive. I wasn’t staying home because I didn’t want to work, I was staying home because I wanted to be with them. I waited too long to start a family and wasn’t willing to give up this time with them.
One day while I made a comment about motherhood being difficult at times, a mother of adult children told me, “You don’t know it yet but, this is the best time of your life! Everything changes. It constantly changes.” She went on to explain that as soon as you adapt to one stage of your children’s development, it changes as they transition into the next stage. Only weeks earlier to making these statements to me, this woman lost her 23 year old daughter. After thinking about it, I decided she was right. This is the best time of my life! We are a happy, healthy family who enjoys and depends each other. We prioritize our family time. Everything changes and parents have to adapt to each subsequent stage. One day, they will want to spend more time with their friends than with us. Because we don’t know what our future holds, I want to spend as much time with our boys as I can.
As I’m getting older, I am realizing how fast time passes. The last twenty-five years feels like ten.I’m now more selective of how to spend my time and with whom I want to spend it. Why do I have this strong desire to be with my children as much as possible? Is it because I’ve experienced a tragedy when losing my only parent, when I was merely 18 yrs old.? Am I forever scarred? Perhaps I just understand how precious the time is between a mother and her children and how it feels when it is cut short.
Maturing has made me realize how precious is our time. Having experienced loss, abandonment and longing for parental guidance as a young adult, has given me a different perspective on my life than it probably would have if I didn’t. Time passes and we can never get it back. Wouldn’t my mother have done things differently if she knew she was only going to be in her child’s life for the first 18 years? Wouldn’t any mother do things differently?
This article Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity. written by Brigid Schulte, a staff writer for The Washington Post, concludes a study performed by Melissa Milkie, a sociologist at the University of Toronto and one of the report’s authors, that “building relationships, seizing quality moments of connection”is what’s most important in the well being of the parent and child more so than the quantity of time spent together. It is an interesting article for mothers who stress about the amount of time they are not spending with their children.