I've been a parent since I was 23 years old--more years than I've been without kids. In a lot of ways, the time has flown by in a blur, but in other ways, it feels like forever, if that makes any sense. While my friends were out having fun, I was raising children. Having children was the most sobering thing in the world to me. Being carefree was a thing of the past. I stayed serious and determined because I did not know any other way to be. I learned to put myself last and that came easily because all mothers should strive to be selfless, right?
I can see myself from the outside looking in and this is what I see: I see someone who has been waiting patiently for a time when I no longer had to be last. It's like I was willing to be last as long as I knew that there would come a time when it would be over--knowing that made everything bearable. It was a light at the end of a dark tunnel. It was a star I was inches from touching. It was a pot of something splendidly wonderful at the end of a sun-kissed rainbow.
I'm not sure what this says about me. I'm afraid it says that my heart couldn't have been fully into parenting if I was simply waiting for the time when it would end.
I mention this because I have days when I'm not sure I will ever get the chance to have a life outside of being a parent. I was fortunate to be able to stay home with all of my children all of their lives and this is what I know better than anything. While other women were establishing careers which paid them for their hard work, I was home playing Chutes and Ladders with my kids. I was repeating nursery rhymes a million times. I was pushing them on swings and building sand castles. Their lives became my life.
Whenever I start to get excited about gaining part of the old me back again, something happens and the date gets pushed back even further to the future. I get sick of the fact that it appears my life is about living with the decisions other people get to make for me. My oldest child is moving back home again and I think a good mother would be happy about that, but all I can think about is how much more work that will be for me. I think of the extra laundry, the extra meal preparation, the extra person I will have to always consider before thinking about myself because that is how I am wired now. I feel resentful and hateful. I'm convinced that a good mother would not feel this way.
And the hardest part of all, the most confusing thing to me. is that mostly I am happy with my life and I don't know how to reconcile that with the fact that I long to be free of taking care of other people. My children only know me as a mother and I'm sure they never stop to think that maybe there is a part of me I've sacrificed for them that I'd like to reclaim at some point. I don't think they want anything for me except this and I can't say that I blame them since I've made it perfectly clear that it's ok to think of me last.
I wonder, sometimes, how long I will have to wait.
I've always been good at waiting.