We celebrated our son’s 20th birthday yesterday. It was a day filled with fun, good food and quiet family time. It was a day to think about what a lovely young man our son is becoming. It was a day to think about how incredibly fast those 20 years have passed.
I have some regrets. I feel like those 20 years went too fast. I worked all through my children’s lives. I took six months for “mat leave” with both children, and cut back to 3 days a week for a few years after the second one was born, but other than that, I have worked full-time throughout their lives. I look back now and wish that I had taken more time off work. I wish I had spent more time with them when they were little. I wish I had done less housework when I was home with them. I wish I had enjoyed it all more. I wish there had been less stress in our lives; less rushing in their lives; and more time to do nothing together.
Of course, at the time, I felt like we could not afford for me to stay at home. And there is truth in that. But I was also afraid to take time off work; afraid that I would not be able to get back into a job I was trained for; afraid that I would fall behind on job experience; afraid that I would lose my confidence in the work world. All of these are legitimate concerns.
But it is also easy to look back now and forget how difficult those years were. With time, I have forgotten how exhausting those years were. I have forgotten about how sick I was during both pregnancies; how my son never slept; how little I slept for six years. I have forgotten how hard it can be to be at home alone all day with young children; physically demanding; emotionally trying; and sometimes lonely and isolating.
But I am also forgetting all the good times that we did have with our kids. I am forgetting annual camping trips: exploring tidal pools on Vancouver Island; watching killer whales in Robson Byte; seeing bears, wapiti and mountain goats in the mountains; watching humpback whales in New Brunswick and Maine; exploring a puffin colony in Newfoundland; eating lobster in Halifax. I am forgetting all of the fun projects we did at home: building forts under the stairway; making houses out of cardboard boxes; creating towers out of duplo towers; carving pumpkins at Halloween. I am forgetting day trips to African Lion Safari, the Metro Zoo, the Mountsberg Raptor Centre, and Toronto Island.
Growing up in the sixties, I was a girl who dreamed of having a good job, independence, and some influence in the world. I did not grow up dreaming about my wedding day and being a mom. At 53, I can say that I have been fortunate in my work life; I have had some interesting and challenging jobs. I have done work that made a difference; I have helped workers improve their working conditions; I have helped shift environmental policy in Ontario. But, there is nothing in my work life that has been as fulfilling, as satisfying, or as challenging as parenting. While work has paid the bills, fed my sense of self, and given purpose to my life, my children have healed my heart, fed my soul, and brought incredible joy to my life. If only it did not go so fast!!