A little over 27 years ago, I gave birth to a 7lb. 10oz. baby boy. I was a young bride and a young new mommy. My husband and I loved that little boy so much. Over the course of the next five years, that little boy would welcome (kind of) 3 siblings into his life and would watch with confusion as his mommy and daddy mourned the loss of one that went straight to heaven. While I worked on and off through their growing up years, the majority of the time, with much sacrifice, I was just a mom.
Our little family, though not little by today’s standards, would face some very tough times. The little firstborn boy would be diagnosed with a speech disorder that necessitated putting him on a bus to attend a language development program 20 miles away. He was two. Back then, speech therapists and doctors were not as familiar with autism as they are today. It took 12 years to get a diagnosis as to why our beloved little boy struggled in so many areas. Meeting his needs was not always an easy task. His younger siblings often had to do something or didn’t get to do something because it would just not work with a child who has autism. One event that families look forward to doing together is attending fireworks. It only took one time doing that for us to realize that our son could just not tolerate the loud noise of fireworks. Vacuum cleaners and the Midway at the state fair brought the same reaction…his hands would fly up to his ears with hope that he could stifle the noise that actually physically hurt him.
So far, you may think this post is about my now grown son. It isn’t, but I will say one more thing about him. He has grown into a wonderful young man who is learning to find his way in a world that is loud and scary. I’m not sure he thinks that of the world, but this mom sure does. What this post is actually about is my reflections on being a stay at home mom for many years.
My husband worked, and still does, in corporate America. His job involved commuting to a downtown city, travel, and long hours, and days, away from home. I vividly recall one project he was assigned in a different state. That project was ten weeks. He would drive home and arrive late on Friday and leave either Sunday night or Monday morning. Our kids were in the busy elementary/middle school age at that time. I remember getting to about four o’clock and wondering how I would ever make it to their bedtime. I was homeschooling them too during this time. Let’s just say Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon were my best friends. Yes, I still feel guilty for the amount of screen time I allowed. Because my husband worked in a professional setting, he was obligated to attend company events. Some of these events weren’t too bad, especially the family ones. I remember a family picnic that was catered by an amazing BBQ company. There was also one at the city’s minor league baseball game, and one at Valleyfair, our area’s big amusement park. Not all of these obligatory events were fun, though. The hardest ones for me were the Christmas parties at the home of some wealthy colleague of his. This stay at home mom lived in jeans and Nikes. These get togethers weren’t exactly the kind that I could wear my normal clothes. I hate dressing up, but did so because my husband felt I should go. Dressing up, though, wasn’t the hardest part of these. By far, the hardest part for me was when someone, usually someone’s wife, would ask me what I did. I would sheepishly reply with, “I homeschool our kids,” or “I don’t work outside the home.”
I was just a mom.
Looking back, I wish I had said those words more proudly. Being “just a mom” is nothing to be ashamed of. I poured everything I had into the four kids that God blessed us with. Yes, there was sacrifice. We didn’t get vacations. I wish we could have done that for them. I didn’t even have a decent vehicle most of those years. I remember one time when my husband was out of town, the purple minivan I drove was parked in the driveway. It needed brakes so badly that, before my husband left for his trip, he asked me to please not drive it. Since he had rented a car to drive back to his clients, his little Kia was there. It was a tight squeeze getting 4 kids in it, but we did so. I dropped one off for something at the high school and the other 3 went with me to a 4H meeting. I left them there to go back to the high school to get our daughter. She finally came out. I turned the key only to have nothing happen. Nothing. Not even a “I might be able to start” turning over of the engine. I ended up calling a neighbor to come get us and driving the van with no brakes to get the other kids.
Our family never got to Disneyworld. We didn’t go to Florida or California to see the ocean. Being “just a mom” cost us financially. BUT, I have so many memories with our kids. Since I homeschooled, I was with them 24/7. We did lots of nature walks, science museum visits, and zoo field trips. We even went to a cave and mined for rocks. I look back at the pictures I took of those times and I see smiling kids.
Maybe being just a mom was a good thing after all. I got a front row seat to the best years of their childhood. It meant sacrifice of not only money but also time. I sometimes grumbled about it then…okay, I often grumbled about it then. But looking back, I wouldn’t trade those days with my kids for all the money in the world. IN fact, I wish I could go back and do it all again.