As children we imagine it, as teenagers we think it’s over rated, as new mothers we wonder at our own mothers, until one day we look back and we know exactly what it took to be a mother.
This day twenty four years ago my first born child arrived in the world and I became a mother. That was the end of my life as I’d known it. I’d given away my identity when I’d taken my husbands name a year earlier, but this was different. Becoming a mother changed me completely. In that moment, as I held my daughter for the first time, the girl I used to be, the young nurse and wife, was gone forever. Now I was ‘Mum’. As I spent hour upon hour gazing at her. I couldn’t imagine loving anyone ever again, as much as I loved her. In that moment I thought I knew what being a ‘mum’ was.
As the years passed I added to my brood three more children and minded others who became as important to me as my own. As you can imagine with a large brood motherhood was busy, but it was not always easy or enjoyable. At times I will admit it felt incredibly lonely and I felt unfulfilled. Was this going to be my life forever? Surely there was more to this role of ‘mother’? Was this what school and my nursing studies had been for? Restless I believed I’d much more to give the world. Looking around at others in the workplace I’d think ‘I could do that’. I read of friends of mine doing well in life and was jealous as I stood with a crying child in my arms, supervising homework for many, while keeping an eye on toddlers, stepping over toys, cooking and wasting my time trying to tidy up. Somedays, especially in the winter, time ticked by very slowly.
The years passed and despite my doubts and frustrations I stuck with it, for even though I believed I could be successful in anything I did, I couldn’t imagine not being a full time mother, watching someone else caring for my crew. The days got a little easier as they got older, but no less busy.
Then, it seemed without warning, the day arrived when one by one they left. The children I minded no longer needed full time care. Even though we stayed in regular contact my house became a whole lot quieter. It was only then I began to fully appreciate the many wonderful days we had shared together, the fun, the noise, the madness. I mourned the baby I’d never again feed, the little arms raised to be carried, the endless quarrels, the rush in from school, the noise in the back garden and the continuous requests for food or drinks.
Sitting here today I feel a mix of sadness, joy and pride. Being a mother was, at times, a hard slog, but now I have time to reflect I’d not change a day of it. The house is still full but in two weeks my eldest pair will head back to college, leaving two siblings behind. This time next year another will join them, leaving just one at home. The busy house, filled with children will be but a memory.
Twenty four years ago today as I held my first born child and caught my breath, I thought ‘I’m a mother’. As I reflect on the past many years, the joys, fears, frustrations, pride, anger and exhaustion they brought to my life I understand what being a mother really means. There was a time when I hated to admit being ‘just’ a mother. Now as I look back at what it took to be a mother and see the wonderful young adults this gang have become I couldn’t be more proud.
Happy Birthday Sweetheart.