I love being a mother. I've been mothering since I was a small girl. I was always much older than my cousins so I grew up around babies. My twin half-brothers were born when I was ten years old. I remember coming home from summers in California with our father - summers spent caring for these tiny twin babies - and literally praying to God someone would leave a baby on my front porch.
I was positively phobic about being infertile. While I did postpone children long enough to go to law school, I remember the constant temptation to have a child. As I struggled with career choices and job searches, there was a huge part of me that wanted to bypass it all and start having children. I KNEW there would be none of the uncertainty and self-doubt when when it came time to be a mother.
I knew the job of mothering would be fulfilling. I knew I would be good at it.
Chaunie goes on to explain - despite all this she's still terrified to leave the baby stage behind. She hates thinking that this baby is her last baby.
I've had this EXACT thought so many times. Every time a sweet older relative or perfect stranger tells me to "soak it up" I can feel my chest tighten.
"I AM!" I want to exclaim in a panic. "But they keep growing up on me and I can't seem to slow it down no matter how much cherishing and soaking and enjoying I do!"
It feels like trying to grasp sand. The tighter I clench my fist the faster it all runs through my finger. After all, no one wants to lose their job - especially one they're good at and truly enjoy.
However, the bittersweet reality is that mothering is a temporary gig.
Now, don't misunderstand me. BEING a mother is forever. I think there's a reason there is no English word for a parent who loses a child, because you never STOP being their parent. I will be a mother until the day I die - no matter what.
However, the actual job of mothering is not forever - even Michelle Duggar will eventually have an empty nest. The intense poignancy of this thing - this MOTHERING - is precisely how fragile and fleeting it is. Every day they grow. Every day is one day closer to the day they leave you.
And THAT'S THE POINT.
We want our children to grow and become happy, healthy, independent adults - no matter how much it breaks our heart in the process. We all know parents whose children don't reach independent adulthood for a million different reasons and I know each of us who walks an easier path are grateful. Still, there is a type of sadness linked to that gratitude. I am always reminded of my favorite parenting quote from J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy:
In the midst of grieving, I try to remind myself that, even though mothering is a very special job, I believe there is real and true fulfillment found outside parenting. Oprah seems to be doing just fine. I don't think anyone would argue Gloria Steinem hasn't lived a fulfilling life. I think of my role models - women like Sandra Day O'Connor and Nancy Pelosi. These women were amazing mothers. They raised amazing children. Then, they went out after their children were grown and CHANGED THE DAMN WORLD.
I want to do that. I want a second act and my ability to do that is limited every time I have another baby. Every baby means less time, less energy, less money to pursue goals that are important to me.
And, as seriously as I take mothering and as much of myself that I pour into the raising of my children, I want more from my life then being their mother. I want my legacy to reach beyond what my children accomplished. I want to accomplish things in my own right. I want to leave my OWN mark.
And that's why even though I'm scared to stop having babies... I'm even more scared to keep going.
When did you realize you were done having kids?