There is the best and the not so best part of mothering. Its a mixture of nurturing, and terror. Every day you wonder, can I do this? It’s the most important and hardest job I ever had.
(DD: Wow mom, this whole post really made me tear up. If you only knew how your hard work and scrambling paid off and made me who I am today. I can go anywhere and be content because those hours in the car, shopping at Prairie Market, soccer drop offs, piano lessons and doctor’s offices spawned creativity. The car was our fort and our boxing ring. We invented ways to stay entertained if not at the expense of each other (upcoming blog post: Car travel: 70′s style”).
It’s not that I didn’t know what I was in for. I was the oldest of seven children and witnessed the exhaustion of my own sainted Mother. She did not have modern day conveniences and she didn’t work outside the home.
But I remember being happy for most of my childhood and I wanted to replicate the happiness.
When I met the man I wanted to marry, I told him I wanted six kids. It seemed doable. By the time we had the fourth however we were not on good terms. I had to stop at four. We had some good years and he was a big help. He loved those kids more than he loved me and I felt the same way. We were pretty good at co-parenting and with less tension in our lives we all muddled through and got the job done. (DD: Wow mom, you are quite kind. I guess it has been 36 years…. 😉. I am grateful to God my mom and dad are friends today. They pal around with my dad and his wife, Barbie. So amazing to witness this banter– especially when mom and Barbie rip on my dad — LOL!).
We purchased a big house. The Pine Lake house. It was in the country, on a lake with eight acres across the street. There was a barn on the acreage and other weird outbuildings. It was our dream house. (DD: Can’t put into words what this house and place means to me. I still have dreams about it. Our old house is still on the property but in a different place. Perhaps I will buy it back someday).
The house itself was a constant fixer upper. We lived there for six years before their Dad and I parted ways. He was the guy who liked to fix everything so I lost my maintenance guy, so to speak. He lived nearby and eventually we settled into a good relationship for the sake of the children. (DD: This happened around 1990 when my mom got sick and my dad divorced his 2nd wife. Dad encouraged us to help our sick mom. I was very proud of my dad for rallying us to help. A 12 yr sadness lifted.)
But I had to go to work. I finally landed a sweet job with benefits that afforded me a little extra money. I wanted my kids to have opportunities and that meant music lessons, ski lessons, nice clothes, haircuts, dentist appointments etc. I was cutting it pretty close every month on a pretty meager salary. The mortgage payment on the house was 75 percent of my income. I sold some of the timber across the street and paid down the mortgage to a reasonable 50 percent of my salary. We were together in that house for eight more years. (DD: At 41 I too muttered those words after AH decided to leave…or, I decided to leave him as I didn’t approve of his choice in girlfriends. I wasn’t going to wait around for him to support the girls and I. I couldn’t believe that 75% of mom’s salary went towards the house payment!! It was $1k, back in ’78!! And I never felt that. Life was rich. We had a great house and yard to explore (hence the $1k payment in ’78), plenty of friends, plenty of good family times. It’s amazing how great life can get when mom is in a good mood most of the time. My mom did give us everything we could want to make life good for us. She did drive all over the county to take us to lessons, sleepovers and trips to Tower Records – the SEATTLE store. Mom loved us, it was clear. :))
Even with the financial hardship we were pretty content. I commuted two hours a day. I left the house at 6:30 in the morning and was home by 4:00 p.m. The after school activities included music lessons, soccer and other sports. Two or three nights a week we were in the car from four to seven p.m. We ate on the run. I packed lunches for the drive or we stopped at Dairy Queen or for pizza. Actually sitting down in a restaurant for any amount of time was a luxury. Mostly we ate in the car. Drop a kid off for music lesson and rush another one to a sports practice. Pick up dinner or grocery shop, pick up the first kid from the music lesson and go to the sports field to wait for practice to be over. There were also doctor and dentist appointments and play dates. And Bluebirds and Scouts. It was dizzying and all accomplished after my ten hour working day. (DD: I remember those Tupperware plates with cooked dinner inside! Tots, beans and hamburger! And ketchup! Nice mom! I hated eating in the car but the memory is such a cool one. Pizza Pete’s was a popular spot – where there’s a PP behind every pizza. I believe this was after Dave’s music lesson. Also Shakey’s… Pizza and free balloons!)
On Saturdays there were soccer and baseball games and chores. Sunday’s we went to church and had a whole half day to do nothing. (DD: Really coulda done w/o the soccer. Parents, please don’t make your kids play a sport they couldn’t care less about. I despised Saturday soccer games. Mom finally let me quit in 5th grade).
The running around wasn’t the half of it. Catering to their physical needs was the easy part. The hard part was keeping them all happy and maturing in a somewhat zoo atmosphere. Tending to their emotional needs and breaking up fights. Soothing their developing psyches and teaching them values. But more about that another time. They grew up without too many scars and turned out to be great people. (DD: Mom, you did MORE than a great job. So much more. We are all law abiding, healthy working adults with thriving children. No life is without challenges, but I feel equipped to handle all of them thanks to what you taught me and the example you set as a working single parent. You set a high bar before divorce was a thing. Thx for the template to work from. When I read the title of this I cry because I realize how hard you had it, and only now truly realize the adversities you overcame. I am well aware bec I am now a single parent of 2. And folks trust me — that is the Bain of my motherhood. That constant reminder from mom that “I did it with 4!” Love you so much mom. Thanks to you and dad and that whole divorce fiasco, I’ve developed a good bit of grit.).
DD: PS: Love the zoo reference!