When I became a mom, I started to see the world in a whole new way. I became more patient, understanding, and instead of quickly summing up a situation, I began to think more about both sides of a situation and empathize. While a few of the changes that came from being a parent weren’t the greatest, like my newfound worry, most of the changes were enlightening. All along the way, I think that being a parent has given me the chance to really get to know myself more and contemplate life from a mom’s perspective. Through it all, one of the most unexpected ways that being a parent has changed me is that it helped me become a more appreciative daughter.
My mother was a single mom. She didn’t just work one job; at any given time she had two to three jobs at a time while raising my sister and me. When I was very young, I knew she was a nurse but I had no idea what stress and strain she went through as she traveled each morning to her hospital in Spanish Harlem, taking five trains each way back and forth. All I knew was that 5pm was the happiest time of my day because my mother would come home and Batman would come on TV. There was no better combination.
While I stayed with my grandmother all day before I was old enough to go to school, I would sometimes wake up at 5am to grab a few minutes with my mother before she left for work. When she finally did come home, she cooked, often grocery shopped, walked the dog with me after dinner, and was the typical mother. I had not one inkling of how exhausted she was, sometimes not getting a day off for more than a week.
On the weekends that she had off, we would bike ride, have a picnic in the park, walk around Coney Island, and go to the playground. I had so much fun I didn’t realize that my mother had no money for recreational activities and carefully picked fun things to do that were free. All I knew was that they were fun.
Once in a while she’d scrounge up the money to take us to a movie or buy a new pair of jeans. Yet I never felt any less than my friends or that I was lacking anything. Material things never meant much to me and honestly, they still don’t. Throughout our childhoods, she sacrificed buying anything for herself.
When I was sick, I would sometimes call her at work and she would tell me what medicine to take and then ‘brag’ to her co-workers about what a good girl I was, knowing full well I could hear her. Then she’d tell me to draw a picture and fill up the whole paper, fill in the sky, birds, sun, make sure I had every corner colored just the way I wanted, knowing full well this would take up a lot of my time until she came home. If I was really running a temperature, she would skip lunch to leave an hour early, not wanting to leave her elderly mother with a sick child or her sick child too long without her mom. Never once did she get angry when I called her at work and I tended to call her a lot.
When I was teenager, I still had no idea of her sacrifices she made. It wasn’t until I had my own kids and realized how hard it was for her leave my sister and me each day to go to work. My mom tells me she still feels that she misses out on a lot of our lives. But she had no time to think about work life balance back then; she simply had to work that much to provide the basic necessities. She instilled a work ethic in me and a goal to always do my best that still serves me to this day.
My sister and I used to sing that song from the 70s, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in pan…..cause I’m a woman.” Later on we’d say our mom was Donna Summer in the She Works Hard For The Money video. She worked, took charge of the house, paid the bills, cooked, cleaned, and a million others things, and pulled it all off in such a way that as kids we had no idea that what she was doing was even hard.
Now as a mom of three, compared to my own mother, I am spoiled. My husband and I have been always been able to juggle our work schedules so one of us has been home with the kids for most of the day. For years, we worked split shift so as soon as I came home, he left. I have only had one job at a time. If we want to order a pizza or go out to dinner or a movie, we can. We don’t have to budget it in weeks before because we simply don’t have the money. I can take my kids to school and pick them up- something my mother only got to do on rare occasions. Yet there are days I am frantic with work, deadlines, sick kids, and a host of other insignificant problems that pale in comparison to my mother’s struggles.
I am truly inspired by how my mother gave us the gift of our childhoods throughout all the stress and turmoil she endured. I am so appreciative of what she has done for me and it’s only now as a mom myself that I realize how very lucky I have been.
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