Best Christmas present ever?
I was with my grandchildren a lot last week, taking them here and there, to karate and to gymnastics, hanging out in waiting rooms with young mothers and loving it, amazed and impressed at all they do.
I met a woman who has three jobs. She’s a teacher and a nurse in addition to being a mother. Her days run into one another. She wakes up, gets her children ready for school, feeds them and her husband, packs their lunches, then off they all go.
She’s home from her teaching job in time to pick up the children and take them to karate or soccer or hockey, depending on the season.
Then it’s dinner and baths and homework and time to get ready for the next day. Weekends, she works as a nurse. This is her life. When does she shop and pay bills and do the laundry and call her sisters or her friends? When does she have any time for herself?
She doesn’t, she said.
She had time to host Thanksgiving dinner, though.
Another mother has three children, 6, 5, and 2 1/2. She heads for work every night when her husband comes home from his job. It’s a relay. They pass the children like a baton. She’s in charge of days. He’s in charge of evenings.
Movies. A quiet dinner for two? A vacation.
It’s not happening.
Another mother, who doesn’t work outside the home, said that movies and dinner weren’t on her dance card, either. She has two boys and a husband who works all the time. He doesn’t do things with the children. The boys are her job, he says. So she’s the one who takes them to their lessons and goes to all their school and athletic events.
None of these women was complaining. Each was just talking. But the conversations were all the same, and I found myself thinking about their words and remembering how it was for me when I was young.
Being a full-time mom — and all mothers are full time no matter how many other jobs a mother has — is not easy. But you forget this when your children are grown. You forget how for years you cooked and cleaned and chauffeured and mediated — “Can you please be nice to your sister?’’ — and begged your children to look both ways and wear their seat belts and worried about them and waited for them every day.
You forget all the afternoons you spent driving places to watch them field a ball or shuffle-ball-change on a dance floor or walk with ease across a balance beam. You forget until you find yourself talking to strangers who are doing the same kinds of things.
Both my grandmothers worked. My mother worked. I worked. My daughters and daughter-in-law work. Their friends work. Some people make it look easy. But even when it looks easy, it is not.
It is hard. It is exhausting. And all mothers need a break.
A day. A night. A weekend.
That’s what they want — someone else to call the baby sitter, to arrange a time, to make a plan, to be responsible for the children, to say: “This is for you. This is a chunk of time for you to do whatever you want.’’
Time with friends or time alone. Time to shop, to see a movie, to read a book, to have dinner. Time without guilt. Without looking at a clock, without hurrying home.
A tank of gas. A few dollars. A kiss on the cheek. And a “Here you are. Don’t worry about the kids.’’
It could be the best Christmas present ever.
Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at email@example.com.