I have one of the typical symptoms of motherhood – I think – that I feel guilty doing something for myself when I could be doing something for/with my children. I am getting better, I’ll admit, but it takes a lot of psyching up on my part.
But last week, we put our foot down, (“we” being my husband,) and asked our nanny to stay on until six every evening to help with the children, as he is under a lot more pressure at work of late. She was more than happy to oblige, as she loves the girls and said that she had heard me ‘losing it’ in the evenings and she wondered why I had never asked her to help. Grrrr. Nevertheless, this has happened and it has been a rather nice adjustment to our home. The girls bath while I cook supper and my husband can come home from work to a far calmer household.
Tonight while I was chopping and peeling for a Monday night detox broth, I missed my little girl’s hands finding their way into everything. We often cook together and I wondered when we would do that again. I also wondered if I would ever do these special things with my second daughter, who is already cared for by the nanny in her short seven months than the almost-three-year-old has been in her entire life combined. I guess that is the guilt talking. Because I know that the girls prefer it when I am calmer and happier with them, which I often am not, at about ten-to-six in the evening while I am finishing supper, bathing girls, exhausted and wondering when hubby will be home!
That’s when I thought back to my childhood memories. Among my favourites are my mom telling me that even if I went to jail for murder, she will always bring me chocolate chip cookies and come to visit. That instilled such an unconditional acceptance from her – I knew Mommy would always love me. My dad and I had special times too. We would also cook together: home made deep fried chips, a firm favourite. As were cucumber with salt and vinegar seasoning, and lettuce dipped into cottage cheese. Yum. I remember doing it with him so clearly. We also made peach jam, chutneys and loads of other things, but I remember these moments so clearly. Yet, when I moaned about yet another hubby business trip to my mother, she reminded me that my father was seldom home before seven at night, often out of town for court cases and away for hunting or fishing. I had kind of forgotten this. My memories of him were so clear. But clearly, there were times when we were under someone else’s care. Probably my mom’s, or my nanny’s.
The point to this is that, this insane guilt we mothers carry is exactly that – insane. Do we really remember every absence from our parents as we grew up as a gaping hole in our childhoods? Of course not! My parents made their presence felt. Although they both worked long hours and my dad was away a lot, I don’t even remember that. I have a treasure trove of memories and securities provided in the times we were together.
Parents have two important roles in a child’s life, I think. Firstly to be their provider/protector. This role includes loving them, feeding them, caring for their health and wellbeing, giving them a sense of security. The second role is that of teacher. Only tonight, my daughter lifted a bowl of soup to her mouth and slurped it up as though it were a mug. When I reprimanded her, she told me confidently, “But Daddy do dat.” They absorb everything.
Which is why, this running thing, as I have stated in an earlier blog, is a necessary evil. You see, not only am I a better mom when I have some time out for me, (which is what happens when my feet hit the tar and the iPod is plugged in,) but I also need to make those moments that my daughters will remember forever. They had one on Sunday, when I finished my first race. Or at least I hope they did. My almost-three-year-old saw her mom run among a few thousand other women and finish something I started. She was so excited to see me and so happy that she spotted me among the masses. And I doubt she understood what I had actually done, but she realised that it was cool because lots of people were there and we looked so excited when we crossed the line: because I honestly was. I hope she absorbed a sense of purpose. It didn’t matter to her that I had beaten my goal time. It was the actual moment that she enjoyed. To me, it was more than just the fact that a year ago I scoffed at runners, saying “I’m a swimmer, not a runner,” and now I am forced to eat my words. It was more than the fact that six months ago I set out to run five kilometres and I had done that and now wanted more. I was setting a good role model for two little girls who mean the world to me. I was creating something that maybe, one day, we could do together. And best of all, I was making a moment happen.
My “team mate”’s husband is an ultra-athlete. He was so proud of us. His words, “Finishing this race for you girls is as momentous as finishing Comrades was for me,” (Ya right, his finish potentially felt roughly twenty times better!) made our accomplishment really hit home. Because it actually doesn’t matter the distance. Nor does it matter the sport or the activity, but setting a goal and seeing it through – THAT takes some doing. Showing our children that we are committed to something enough to do it even when we don’t want to and then taking pride in completing it – THAT is special and important. That is teaching.
Tomorrow night I may bath my girls and let my nanny peel the veggies, so that I get to share that moment with them. Or else I may make supper a little later and share the cooking with them instead. Either way, I know that somehow we will spend time together and hopefully they will take something from that that makes them feel loved unconditionally and secure. But like my cooking sessions with my dad, or my security boosting sessions with my mom, these things can't be forced. I can’t stop what we’re doing and announce: “Watch this! This is a moment you will remember for the rest of your life.” Sadly, they have to happen and mean something spontaneously. Which means, the more they happen, the more likely they are to be remembered.