Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 8, 2003
Hardest job I've ever loved
This thing called motherhood is messy and unscripted and awe-inspiring.
By definition, I'm an old mother. I had my first daughter at 32 and my second one at 39. According to some of the kids in my youngest daughter's class, I look old enough to be her grandmother - which, of course, I am. While friends my age are marrying off their children or already enjoying grandbabies, I'm still rearing my own daughters.
There are advantages and disadvantages to experiencing motherhood at different ages. Young mothers have more energy to run around and play in the dirt with their kids and they are still fairly young when their grandchildren come along. Older mothers have "done their thing" and perhaps are more ready to settle down with kids. For me, rearing children at this age seems to help keep me young.
When Mariya was born, I was inexperienced with children, not having had younger siblings or cousins or neighbors to babysit. But somehow I learned along the way, using a combination of advice from other people and my own instincts.
Motherhood certainly hasn't been all idealistic images such as those in magazines or TV commercials - mothers and daughters in white dresses romping through a meadow with their hair flowing in the gentle breeze. Those always-smiling people sit down on the lush green grass. In front of them is a beautiful embroidered tablecloth with crispy fried chicken, dainty sandwiches and pink lemonade. There's not a wrinkle in their clothes and there are no mudholes, bugs or skinned knees to contend with.
In reality, life is just too chaotic for such perfection.
No magazine or parenting expert or experienced mother could have prepared me for:
*Getting up every two hours or more to nurse a baby in the middle of the night with my breasts leaking milk all over my shirt.
*Handling a toddler's temper tantrums in the middle of a store while secretly wanting to join her on the floor, kicking and screaming myself.
*Worrying about whether high fevers, hacking coughs, diarrhea and other maladies were serious or just something that happened to every child.
*Feeling my heart sink when I found out my oldest daughter had a car accident.
Art had already been through those things and tried to help, but we moms are just never sure dads really know what they're talking about and so we worry anyway.
But along with the worries and the not-so-perfect parts of motherhood came the good things - rocking those sweet babies to sleep on moonlit nights when the house was quiet, hearing them say kitty or bankie (blanket) for the first time, reading "Goodnight, Moon" to them, encouraging them as they took their first unsteady steps, marveling at their first pictures of rainbows and clouds, helping them adjust to school days, seeing them develop into independent young women.
To borrow from the Peace Corps' motto: "it's the hardest job I've ever loved."
Katie, Mariya and I in 1995.