Motherhood is the only way I can describe my life. It is who I am. Every part of me and each chapter of my life, from childhood to now 62 years old, have been marked by the mothering role I have played. There is nothing that I feel I can do better and there is nothing that has brought me greater joy than being a mother, and now grandmother.
I grew up the oldest of six children. Both my parents were very important people in our community and worked outside of the home, which was very unusual in the 1950’s. But because they both worked, our family was somewhat wealthy and my brothers and sisters and I grew up with the best clothes, the newest cars, and the finest of educations. The downside, though, was that we hardly ever saw our parents and as such I don’t remember much of my childhood. Instead, I became a mother to my five younger siblings and practically raised them by myself. I was the one that rocked them, read them books, kissed their boo-boos, and tucked them in at night. I didn’t know anything different; I enjoyed taking care of them and they adored me. By my teenage years, when many older sisters are complaining about their bratty younger siblings, I was making their lunches in the morning, dropping them off at school before my classes, and then picking them up and feeding and entertaining them in the afternoon and evening.
I had come to accept my big sister/mother role as just part of life, and I never despised it or my parents for putting such a heavy burden on me. In fact, I loved it. And so, for the rest of high school and into college I began to watch other families’ children and work as a part-time nanny to make extra money.
I met my husband at the university I attended. He was a smart, quiet, and somewhat austere man that rarely opened himself up to anyone. But he pursued me and since I was young and never thought much about what I expected love to be, I allowed him to take me out to movies, dancing, and to the drive-in. After all, he was kind, from a reputable family, and I knew he would make an excellent provider.
After a short courtship, we were married, and I dropped out of the university to tend our home. Not too long after, I found myself preparing for the arrival of our first child. As much as I had enjoyed taking care of my younger siblings and other families’ children, it felt as if my life and heart were finally complete when our son was born, and then, three years later, our daughter. I enjoyed every moment of motherhood; from the glowing pregnancy months to even the late night feedings, the wonder of first discoveries, and the milestones of baby and childhood years. Life had never felt so complete until I held and rocked a tiny piece of myself in my arms.
My husband had a very stable, well-paying job so we were able to comfortably live while I got to stay home and cherish every moment with my sweet babes. As our children grew into toddlers and preschoolers, I found myself almost always home alone with them from his frequent late-nights at the office and numerous out-of-town business travels. I was so busy and content with playful games, baby snuggles, and nightly bath times all day long, that I didn’t really notice how lonely I was until the children were gone in school or asleep in their beds at night. As the years passed, the excuse of work kept my husband away more and more, but I had no reason to feel like I should complain nor expect anything different. After all, my own parents growing up were almost never around. So, to fill my hours when the kids were in school, I volunteered for everything I could; PTA, quilting bees, bridge club, neighborhood committees, and even took a driver’s education course and got my license!
The years blurred together and before I knew it, my son and daughter were teenagers. It was at that time that my husband came home one night and asked me for a divorce. He had met a younger woman at his work, and amidst all the late-nights and out-of-town business trips, there were actually NUMEROUS young women. The truth of his betrayal hurt me deeply, but I had grown so accustomed to parenting and living life on my own, my children hardly even knew their father anyway. Miraculously for the time, I got custody of our son and daughter, and we moved into a tiny little house of our own across town. In addition to alimony and child support, I made a little extra money by watching other people’s children, and eventually, I had so many requests that I was able to open up my own little daycare when my own children left the for college.
I owned my daycare business for many more years, watching hundreds of children come and go, until I retired just a few years ago. And just in time, too, for just last year I got the privilege to take on a new mothering role. My own kids are now grown and married and both just had their first children, who I get to watch each week at my new “Grandma’s daycare” job! And, while it may be unpaid, being a grandmother and getting to hold, rock, and play with my children’s children is different and yet even more wonderful and rewarding in its own way than decades ago raising my own kids.
And so, mothering truly has followed me my entire life and I whole-heartedly believe it was what I was born to do. I really was made to mother; first my younger siblings, then other people’s children, my own precious babies, then many other young kids through my daycare business, and now my amazing grandchildren. Each role has brought more joy and new experiences and learning for me and I have cherished each one in their own way. And, although I know it is still very far off, I cannot wait until I get to experience being a great-grandma! There is truthfully no other part I was destined to play in this life, nor would I go back and trade for the chance to be anything other than a mother!
Beth lives in San Francisco, California, is a proud mom to Peter and Jennifer, and a very happy grandma to five little joys. She loves to travel, quilt, and attend every dance recital, little league game, and chess tournament she can!