I remember it being a fun game, something my sister and I would look forward to all day. We’d plan it much the same way I imagine a general and his soldiers plan their battles, huddled together in the trenches, shoulder to shoulder, tracing our fingers through the shag carpeting, the same way the general would do so in the sand, leaving an indentation detailing the optimal route of attack. Although, I’m sure the soldiers did it with far less giggling.
But the game isn’t as fun now, now that I’m on the receiving end.
Having a newspaper smashed in on you while reading the latest article on the state of the economy or vetting through the list of local candidates for public office isn’t as funny as I remember it.
But listening to the sheer joy in my sons’ giggles instantly takes me back to a time when it was the highlight of my day. And I am thankful that my dad tolerated it as well as he did.
This thought occurred to me as I pondered the month of November and the overwhelming sense of gratitude this time of year thrusts upon us. During a month that begs daily reflection and thankfulness, it’s impossible to ignore the important role that perspective plays in our lives.
All too often, when I answer the obligatory “what do you do?” with “I stay at home with my children,” I oftentimes get the inevitable look of pity followed by the sometimes well-meaning “oh, that must be hard.”
I’ll admit there was a time, when the boys were young and I was brand-new to staying at home, that I would hurriedly follow the statement with an explanation, almost pleading my case, explaining that I indeed worked from home as well, something – anything – to justify my place at home with my children. One quick glance at my children seated in the grocery cart or running through the playground on our playdate affirmed the foolishness of my knee-jerk reaction.
Although most of the statements or questions are said in jest and are well-meaning, they can be tough to shake off. I won’t bore you with the never-ending list of things that make being a stay-at-home mother hard because I’d only be rebuffing my own point, which is that being a mother (or better yet, a parent) is a tough job. Regardless of how we choose to do it, whether it’s in the home or as a working mom, all forms of the job description comes with ups and downs, judgments and opinions.
But this isn’t about politics or gender roles. Our kids never should be boiled down to something as simplistic as that. It’s about them, our children. My children.
And much like the newspaper that keeps getting smashed into my lap, motherhood – whether it’s as a working mother or of the stay-at-home variety – is all about point of view and how we choose to react to the limitations we impose on ourselves.
So during a month that everyone is listing the things they are most thankful for, I have settled on one that encompasses them all: my overwhelming sense of calm I feel nearly every day because of my children. I feel accomplished and content, like nothing else matters. Because they are constant reminders that nothing else does.
There are other things I plan to achieve, of course, but those goals can wait. They simply pale in comparison to being here now, with them. You hear a lot of women worry about losing who they are as a stay-at-home mom. For me, it’s the opposite: I’ve found myself.
The column was originally published in the November 9, 2011 edition of the St. Maries Gazette Record.