Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Mother's Influence

That title is a big, scary one. I used to think I really should not have children, since I would surely botch it up in a large, crazy way. Now I can say with confidence...that I can only hope I minimized the potential damage I may have caused by how fiercely I love them.

More or less a third of my five children have been raised to adulthood now; math is not the best at this hour of the morning...or is it still night? I am home from a call to interpret in the ER and it is an odd hour to be contemplating all of this. Originally, I was thinking about working mother vs. stay-at-home mother. I remember being slightly scandalized and a little confused by an article when I was still in high school; the gist of it was that children of working mothers have more confidence in themselves because they see their mothers as empowered.

I grew up in a latch-key era, and I would have thought that a child in that situation would feel a certain part of neglect and loneliness, and therefore less confidence. No one is there to greet them, no one to make sure they are well, are fed, to know where they are?

The me that decided, along with my husband, that I could not ever conceivably leave my baby, ever, was more reassured by the second scenario than the first. Yet, the second lingered in my mind.

Now that I have been both mothers,  I can take a look at it from both sides. Of course, I never did get to be that kid with complete freedom when I came home from school, because my own mother was always there. Other 7th graders were sneaking alcohol out of their parents' liquor cupboards and dancing in the living room. I came home, ate my allotted 3 cookies, that my mother had baked herself, and left to take care of my paper route. If I wanted clothes that were not hand-me-downs, I could either earn some money or wait until Christmas. It built character and independence. As for confidence; I always knew my mom could do anything she put her mind too, long before she re-entered the workforce once the kids had grown.

I am so glad that I was able to be home with my babies and small children! I am still glad of a week when I work hardly a day or a day and a half. The time we have together could not be replaced by a great caregiver or even a grandparent, it just would not have existed, poof; hours and days and months of our lives lived apart. The play, "Ondine" comes to mind; Jean Giradoux. In it, a fish girl, who makes her way up from a neighboring lake one night, falls in love with a prince. When he goes off to take care of some princely business or other, she is aghast; time apart? Why? Why ever? Either you are together or you are not, in her watery world. I think children have that same mentality. Mama is here, or not here, and it is the end of everything. 

This is far from a judgement or condemnation. I well know that many families from Africa, from Asia, by necessity, leave their child to relatives back home for years on end. This does not mean those babies are any less loved or missed than my own. And...there is still that nagging doubt in the back of my mind that maybe they would have been better off  with a wonderful nanny, who could leave at the end of the day, thus convey less stress, less dismay when things got all topsy-turvy.  Spilled milk and sibling fights might not have put her in a tizzy. They might have experienced more calm and less chaos, it might have been better, who can say? But in the end, I would have missed them way too much.

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