Almost exactly three years ago, I saw a post in the church group I belonged to on Facebook. A young mom was looking for someone to watch her baby girl because she needed to work. I was done with the bulk of my parenting, having one in high school who I was homeschooling. She was pretty independent in terms of school work and she adored little kids. I concluded that if I could watch this baby girl not only would it help out a young family just starting out, but it would also give my daughter at home the chance to be around a baby every day. I responded to the post, met the little family in our local coffee shop the following Sunday, and started a full time babysitting job the following week. The baby, who I affectionately nicknamed “my little monkey” was 11 months old at the time. She had the softest wisps of blond hair, big brown eyes, and a smile that lit up a room. I loved that little girl every day for five months. She stole my heart and became like one of my own family. Her mom quit work after five months because they were expecting another baby. I was very thankful that even though I was just the babysitter, they allowed me to stay a part of the little monkey’s life like I was family. A little over a year ago, the family moved to another state for employment reasons. Even then, we found ways to stay in contact. Stickers and cookies sent through the mail kept her from forgetting me. A visit in the summer and again in the fall. My little monkey was 3 by now and her little brother eighteen months. That was almost a year ago. Yesterday, I had the absolute joy of seeing them again. I couldn’t believe how the kids had grown, not only in stature, but in other ways–talking, playing, imagination to name a few. For two and a half hours I felt like life was good as I sat in their living room just soaking in the joys of playing with children.
In between coloring pages and playing catch, I was able to talk with their mom as well. (Dad was at school so we did not get to see him) She talked of how she now works part time nights so their income is supplemented and daddy can take care of the kids. She told of swimming lessons, ballet and tap classes, preschool, church classes, VBS, and the many other activities that young families are involved in that keep them busy. I remember those years. I’ve written about how busy we were over the years our kids were at home. I could almost hear the weariness in her voice at times. I understood it as we walked out and I found myself a little tired from playing on the floor with two preschoolers. When I was living that stage myself, I didn’t think I’d ever miss it. After all, how nice would it be to finally have time to do what I wanted to do?
I have that time now. To be honest, it isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought I remembered having lists of things I would accomplish when the kids were grown. Funny thing is, though, I can’t seem to remember what was on those lists. Instead of waking up excited for an empty day to pursue my own agenda, I find myself wondering why I even bother to wake up. As a stay at home mom, one works themselves out of a job. It doesn’t seem like that will ever happen when in the thick of child rearing, but it seems as though one day I was cutting crusts off sandwiches for toddlers and the next I was wedding dress shopping with this beautiful girl who somehow had grown up before my eyes.
Life doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I used to have a role–a definite purpose each morning when I woke up. There were more tasks than hours in my day. Now, it is just the opposite. I have more hours than tasks and I struggle to know how to fill them some times. Yes, I am still married and have a husband to care for. To be honest, though, his life hasn’t changed just because the kids have grown up. He still has a job to go to and tasks–too many usually–to complete. Work keeps him busy, often seven days a week. He says he needs me, but I wonder if that is really true. I feel like a fish out of water–floundering, trying to breathe in an environment that isn’t where I’m supposed to be. I used to have dreams for my future, but I now see that those dreams were unrealistic and will most likely never come to be, especially given the fact that my dreams do not match up with those of the one who provides the income for our family.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I am thankful for the years I had with my kids. I’m thankful I got to be a stay at home mom and that I homeschooled them. Those memories are precious to me! I love the relationships I have with them now as adults. I’m thankful that my husband has a job and thankful that he made so many sacrifices over the years for the kids and me…and continues to do so in many ways. Yet, there is an ache inside that in all probability will never go away. That ache tells me that I have no purpose anymore, that I have no reason to wake up in the morning. I look in the mirror and see an old lady where once a young mom used to stand. My body and brain don’t always do what I need them to do as disease has taken away some of my abilities. I see others and know I can never compete with them–women who are still young or who are even my age that are still able to do the exercises necessary to keep themselves looking trim and beautiful. The ache throbs more and I wonder again what my purpose may be.
For a few hours last night, though, that ache was forgotten, unable to be heard over the giggles of an adorable little girl who stole my heart three years ago. Just recalling her smiles and hugs and her little face in the window as she blew me kisses goodbye brings a smile to my face…and tears to my eyes.