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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Becoming a mother is so different from the process of un-becoming that full-time, around-the-clock mother you became. One day you’re this individual person just vaguely aware of what it’s going to mean when that purely hypothetical (to your own way of living anyway) child leaves your womb and the next day you are IN CHARGE—of EVERYTHING. This now real world child is depending on you to feed it and keep it safe and for you to figure out what it’s trying to communicate in its nonverbal state. And so you muddle along being in charge, even though this separate being is not you and not even yours in the grand scheme of things.

Oh yes, your children are not your children and they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing itself (paraphrasing Kahlil Gibran), but at first you’re the one who must try to figure out what it is they might possibly need and want. But after a while you were more than happy to try to hand over some of those decisions—because it’s exhausting enough figuring out what you need and want, let alone what someone else needs and wants—until you tried. When “do you want juice or milk?” became a little game of “I want whatever I did not tell you I wanted”, you realized this task of handing off choices was a lot harder than it sounded. If they said they wanted juice, you found out pretty darn quickly that they were likely going to scream for milk when you handed them that juice.

But still, as a parent you are pretty much required to make a lot decisions for many years for these little people who grow into big people. There’s always a tension between helping them too much and helping them too little, no matter the age.

I find myself in the awkward position of being done with that hands-on mothering phase while still living in the same home as my now-adult children. I want to say “it’s the economy, stupid”—but economy or not, that’s a fairly common experience for many of us right now. The truth is they can choose their own milk or juice now, but sometimes I mistake a statement for a request for help and rush in as if it’s up to me to solve the problem.

But it’s not. I just need to stop. It’s not my job to figure out if a grown person wants a solution and I should remember that I probably have little idea what someone who isn’t me really wants or needs.

Besides, just as I am un-becoming my always-on-the-clock motherhood role, my kids are settling into what it means to be IN CHARGE of themselves—and that means figuring out if they want juice or milk—or bourbon for that matter—and doing whatever it takes to make that happen.

Ask a farm mother if she worked . . . my great-grandmother Mattie (Dickson) Jones and my grandmother Elva.

Many years ago I decided I had plenty of my own stress in my own life and made the decision not to listen to the news or talk radio—no more pundits talking at me. The more I see or hear things, the harder it is for me to get them out of my head. So after the Oklahoma City Bombings and Columbine, I backed off.

No, I get my news from the paper edition of The Denver Post, the text from the online edition of our local news, or from what my friends post on Facebook—which might lead me to read the information from more traditional resources.

This means I’ve missed quite a bit about the uproar regarding Ann Romney and our revisited “Mommy Wars”—has nothing changed since Hillary (Clinton) said she wasn’t a cookie-baking woman?

Heck, I’m not a cookie-baking woman, but I took that MBA knowledge I had gained and applied it to school accountability committee work, managing my mother’s financial and health affairs, and fighting to get our insurance company/providers to do the right thing. Not very lucrative, I know, but I had the ability to do so because Sherman’s job covered our expenses.

But that’s not to say we didn’t have to worry about a budget. In our family, as in many in the middle, our choice had many ramifications. When my kids were young, most everything they wore came from my mothers of twins club twice annual clothing sales. I read the Sunday circulars every week to make sure I bought other things when they were on sale—now I take advantage of the online offers that come into my inbox or that post on my Facebook newsfeed.

The kids didn’t play on club teams or go on big trips every year. Though they were twins, they had to have their braces on in separate plan years and their wisdom teeth removed in separate plan years. In an era of big spending for kids, we spent as little as we could in each activity.

I did do some professional writing over the years, but not so much that all the full-time writers in my writing organization consider me a professional—even if the work I did was always done with professional standards.

Before that I did accounting for the family business until it was sold right before the kids started kindergarten—that’s when I truly became an at-home mom. The kids had attended an incredible preschool that helped them learn a lot while keeping them happy and inquisitive. Yet the next year when we were able to send them to day care through my husband’s employer, we discovered that all care situations were not appropriate for our kids. Despite the organization’s national reputation for having quality day care centers, what our kids experienced there seemed like a watered-down version of The Hunger Games—and the adults in charge didn’t seem to care to prevent bullying or even talk to us after we expressed our concerns.

We couldn’t figure out how to have it all without sacrificing something. Maybe we don’t know what’s it’s like be truly working class and for both parents to have no other choice than to work full-time, but we do know what it’s like to be in the middle and know that something has to give.

And that something was my career and our income. We stayed in our modest home and neighborhood, drove used cars, and had enough—for our standards. Yes, I got to exercise during the day, but that was part of what kept me sane enough to deal with my son’s ongoing AD/HD difficulties and his incompatibility with so much of the educational system, my daughter’s battle with depression, and my mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.

It’s our kids who often can’t keep up with the Jones, so to speak. These are expensive times to be young—concerts, Netflix or On-Demand, computers, game systems, iPods, digital cameras, etc. When I was in school, very few people spent a lot of money or owned a lot of expensive items. Even at my private college, everyone, from the very rich to those on full-ride financial aid, ate the dorm meals—any person who ordered out despite the dorm food’s already being paid for stuck out as really spoiled and out of the norm.

Even so, I don’t regret our choice—I value the time we spent together more than being able to provide more. I’m glad I got to read those books to them, watch their soccer games, go on field trips, and be the parent who drove groups of kids around before they could drive.

But I want to remind people that we didn’t get away with something—we don’t have the money left over at the end of month to pay college tuition, yet we make too much to qualify for anything more than loans. We’re taking on loans when we should be preparing for retirement. That’s the trade-off we chose. We just have to live with it, but that doesn’t make it easy.

The thing we all need to remember is that there are no easy motherhood choices. We’d be better off as a society if we stopped assuming that everyone else has it easy and we should only support those who make the choices we make. Taking care of kids is hard, period.

However, I’d really appreciate it if you don’t assume I haven’t used my intellect since sometime during the Clinton administration. “M” is for the many things motherhood has taught me . . .

JacksonChristiana11 92I’ve been spending too much time proportionately doing my mothering job and not enough time doing my writing job, but sometimes the little things I do for my work do make a difference. Yesterday, when the phone rang, I could see from caller ID that someone was calling from 9News. It didn’t occur to me that it had anything to do with writing.

Seemingly out of the blue, Dreux DeMack, executive producer of 9KUSA’s “Colorado & Company”, called to ask if I would be able to be on the show on this coming Monday, May 11. Would I?

About six weeks ago I heard Dreux speak at the Colorado Authors’ League luncheon about getting onto television shows, including specific information about getting onto his show. Coincidentally I had brought my copy of Cup of Comfort for New Mothers to share during announcements, so I was able to show him the book as I pitched him why Stacy Voss, another metro Denver author, and I ought to be on his show.

But I didn’t get around to following up with more details, so I was pleasantly surprised when he called yesterday. Dreux asked Stacy and I to come up with about 5-10 questions for the interviewers. Stacy suggested our questions try to support the book’s goal of encouraging new mothers.

Still, what can you say in a few minutes about mothering? What can you say in a few hundred words in an essay? Enough, I guess, although it’s hard to narrow the focus.

Stacy can provide the viewpoint from mothering younger children, but I’m the “veteran” mom with kids about to move on to the next big phase of their lives. Seventeen years ago this Mother’s Day I was living the story I wrote about in Cup of Comfort. That Mother’s Day I spent resting, as I would my remaining mother-to-be weeks, taking care of my body and of those growing within me.

If you asked me what was the most important thing I didn’t know that I learned almost immediately, I’d say it was that people come with a lot of their personalities and gifts, as well as baggage. We live in a time when we think we can have so much control if we are just proactive enough, but we don’t have total control over our kids—and that’s both good and bad.

ChristianaJackson6 9 92 By the end of the first week of raising twins, I could tell how different my kids were from one another. I’m sure as a mother many of my reactions and actions further influenced who my children became, but it wasn’t up to me to mold them from scratch—nor was it possible. From their early years, that knowledge has been a comfort—it’s not all up to me. Of course, there are two sides to that coin, but just knowing that relieves a lot of guilt when things don’t go quite as I had hoped.

Another thing I learned is that we all have our individual comfort levels with the various development stages of our children—just as each child has his or her own comfort level with each stage. What might be an easy phase in our family might be difficult in yours and vice versa. And, if we stick with loving our kids in the difficult times, there will also be easier times down the road. My mother-in-law Pat always says “This too shall pass . . .” whenever we have been struggling and, for the most part, she’s been right.

One of the things that continues to frustrate me is that it’s still so hard for me to focus on both kids at the same time. Instead, my attention has swung from one to another, depending on who needed what at the time. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who does well with splitting my attention between people. I guess I thought that just because I was really good at multitasking, that I’d be really good at sharing myself between my kids. But people aren’t tasks—they just are in their own needs at the moment.

So, no matter how hard I work at this mothering job, if I approach it like a “task” all the time, I will never feel like I am good enough. Despite all the tasks involved with the job, it’s not about what I get done. It’s about providing them with their own tools and, still, in the end, maintaining a relationship with the adults they are about to become.

But, most of all, what I’ve learned is that I can never stop learning since something’s always changing . . . even when the change is that I’m the one facing something new, such as appearing on a TV show.

They won’t be watching the morning of May 11 from 10:00 to 11:00 because they’ll be in school, but I know they’ll be thinking of me—if only to worry just a little a bit about what I might say about them!

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers

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