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Not every one knows what they want to be when they grow up. I knew from the time i was six. Even more unusual, I think, is what I knew my chosen 'field' was to be.
(Photo is of the Author and her Children)
I knew from the time I was six years old that I wanted to be a mother. My baby sister had been brought home almost a month after my sixth birthday and as I watched my mother feed, change and sing to our new family member, I saw a glow. There is no other way to describe the beautiful, peaceful aura that I saw surrounding them. And I wanted that for myself. To feel calm, relaxed and happy. To hold a precious life in my arms and feel that overwhelming love.
I am the oldest of four children. I am also the oldest of all my cousins and have been one of the eldest children in each of the two neighborhoods I grew up in. In other words, I was a built-in baby sitter. At home. With other family. With our neighbors and with friends of my parents. And I took to the job like the proverbial duck to water. I loved it. If I were to have entered diaper derbies or other such competitions, I had a good chance of winning. I love that new baby smell and reading bedtime stories and giggles as we wrestled on the rug. Despite any number of frustrations, I have always loved taking care of the little ones.
As I got older, the desire of my six year old self grew and developed. A simple childhood wish turned into a life goal. A career goal, if you will. I grew up going to church every Sunday. I attended Sunday school and later catechism classes and finally went to an all-girls private school. My religious upbringing did not necessarily insist that I become a mother nor to seek out motherhood as my only goal in life. But I did feel a stronger and stronger pull towards it all the same. I felt it was something God was calling me to do.
My teachers, who were mostly nuns, and various friends in high school were alarmed at my decision. Despite being Catholic and a girls only campus, we were in a progressive enough time that it was expected that all of us would move on to college and work at obtaining degrees and then substantial careers after high school graduation. I had no such goals. I was artistic and creative, but had been warned that I couldn’t count on making a living off those talents, despite a lot of encouragement to develop them.(Talk about your mixed messages.) My grades were good enough that I could have gone into medical or law school, but I had no desire at all for any such career. All that schooling and other concentration, let alone the hours at the job once I graduated with a degree, would not have left enough time and energy to devote to the family I knew I was going to have. Even before they were so much as conceived, let alone born, I was devoted to my children.
All of that practice as a babysitter never prepared me for the real thing, of course. Nothing can prepare anyone for the job of actual parenthood. It is arduous. It is full of tears. It can wear a person down until you think you can’t take any more. And then you plunge back in anyway. Because these are your precious babies and no one else is going to care for them or advocate for them the way you will. And the position of mother or father or other legal guardian is full of rewards, too. Joys so high you will wonder how you ever lived without these wonderful, crazy young people in your life.
I know it is unusual for someone to know what they want to do with their life from the tender age of six. Many people upon reaching adulthood have no idea if they want children or not. I have read countless articles that show me what kind of angst others may go through as they struggle with whether they feel up to the task of overwhelming responsibilities, sleepless nights and messier lives. Many choose not to have children. I have no issues with this or most other such life choices. To each their own. Some people know that they want children and go to great lengths via fertility clinics and other means to achieve parenthood. But I suspect that very few of them knew from the time they were a child themselves that having children was something they would seek out. Usually such thoughts occur to us in our teens or maybe pre-teens, as we try to look ahead to that ‘glorious’ state of adulthood that awaits us.
I honestly feel that I was given a special vision that has guided me to parenthood. I did not expect to do it as a single mom, as I have for the last fourteen years. God rarely reveals such details to us even when he deigns to give us any clue at all as to how our future may evolve. I originally thought I wanted six, but stopped once my fourth was born. My eldest has had issues with depression since pre-pubescence, my second daughter is ADHD and my youngest son is Asperger’s/Autistic. These conditions, too, were surprises.
What has not been a surprise is that I have found that glow, the one I saw all those years ago. Each time I held a brand new daughter or son in my arms. First words, first steps, first day to school and all the other milestones. Graduations, first jobs and getting their own apartment. And many, many times for no reason at all except that they are my precious babies, no matter how old they get, and I love them even more than I thought was possible. I am lucky enough to count each of my progeny as like a friend, too. I have regretted any number of other choices and events in my life, but never my motherhood. Not once.