I didn’t want to be a mother. Then I changed my mind, and I’m so glad. I give the credit to Philippe.
Ex-hubs and I were camping in France, which is a very civilized business: our patch of neatly-mowed lawn was separated from the surrounding sites by hedges. The couple in the site behind us had a toddler named Philippe. Maman had a piping voice reminiscent of Julia Child’s, and all day long we heard “Philippe, viens!” (Come here), “Philippe, alonge-toi!” (Lie down), and “Philippe, non!” (self-explanatory). Maman seemed to be having a hard time—understandable if you’ve ever camped with a toddler.
We finally met Philippe when he poked his head through a gap in the hedge and grinned at us. Dark-haired with huge brown eyes and an impish grin, Philippe called out, “Madame!” Before I could answer, Maman tugged him back through the hedge and admonished him not to bother the neighbors. Too late—for the rest of our stay, we played peekaboo with Philippe. And ex-hubs repeatedly asked, “Are you sure you don’t want one of those?”
Well, as it turns out, I did.
Now, I would never criticize women who decide not to have children. Let’s face it: there are already too many people here, and too many parents who neglect or mistreat their children. It’s not selfish to admit that you’re not cut out to be a parent; it’s smart.
But most of us do take the plunge, obey our hormones, and reproduce. And what a transforming experience. For me, motherhood required significant sacrifice. I’m a semi-introvert and require lots of me-time to be healthy and happy, and small children don’t get that concept at all. But I wanted to make that sacrifice most of the time. My daughter had (still does) such a winning personality that I was helpless before her cuteness. Playing Barbies or building a fort with a small child when you’re tired and just want to read a magazine: it’s like that party you don’t really want to attend, but then you force yourself to go and end up having a marvelous time.
Motherhood: I’ve never before or since been so firmly on someone else’s side, rooting for her success and happiness, as I’ve been with my daughter. When she succeeds, I bask in her success. When she doesn’t—well, she should’ve listened to her mother. (I’m kidding, but only partly.) And watching the fascinating, smart, talented young woman she’s becoming–marvelous!
My own mother taught me many valuable lessons, the most important of which is a no-nonsense work ethic. Just get the unpleasant stuff done, she says, and don’t give up if a job is difficult. Whining won’t make the work do itself; it’ll still be there when you’re done whining. We lost my father suddenly five years ago, and Mom’s strength and courage in the years since have been inspiring. She’s filling her days with friends, and with activities that she loves. She travels, helps out in her community, and treats herself with kindness. She’s a good role model.
I’m not sure I’ve always been a good role model to my daughter, but I’ve tried, and continue to try. Here’s to mothers. And, if you’re a young mother, go ahead and let Philippe poke his head through the hedge.