Leann Sweeney’s beautiful Mother’s Day blog got me to thinking about the generations of parents before us – and what parenthood meant to them. My husband is fond of quoting his father, a native Greek who raised six children, ran three small meat stores and, with his wife, fed and housed the children plus one set of in-laws in a three bedroom flat above one of the stores. As you can imagine, with six children, there was always something brewing. With a weary sigh and a shake of his head, this man would say, “If I no have kids, I be king.”
For years, I thought that was a selfish attitude. Surely he wouldn’t have lived his life differently if given the choice. He loved his children, didn’t he? But then my children became teenagers who drove, and then students who lived away from home, and finally independent adults. Okay, semi-independent. Those promising post-college jobs just haven’t materialized, have they?
Anyway, there is nothing like a late night phone call from a distressed child in the midst of a situation not easily remedied to give a parent sleepless nights. Relationship problems, job crises, car breakdowns, emotional meltdowns, financial woes . . . . the list goes on.
Now I get it! “If I no have kids” . . . I wouldn’t have as many sleepless nights or angst ridden days. I wouldn’t hold my breath when the phone rings early in the morning or late at night. I wouldn’t shed tears privately for the heartaches my children must endure.
When I had my first child, I naively believed that once the children had grown and were living independently, my job was done. Yeah, right. My mom, who I miss terribly, used to tell me a parent never stops worrying. Ever. Now I believe her. On her death bed five years ago, Mom was fretting about my health (I was recovering from viral meningitis.)
Would I change things if given a do-over? No way. Until my children were born, I’d never felt such a profound love for any human being. I would sacrifice my life for them in a heartbeat. Without them, yes, I might live like a king, but it’d be an awfully empty castle.
And besides, my cats refuse to buy me flowers on Mothers Day.
What are the best and worst things about being parents – or not being parents? Would you do things differently if given a chance?