Friday, January 21, 2011

Through My Daughters' Eyes

I have always taken great pride in the life I have created for myself. As a mostly SAHM, I've been fortunate to have plenty of free time to explore my interests and passions. Even when my girls were toddlers and I was overwhelmed and stressed with caring for them, I still belonged to two book clubs, a woman's club and I played Bunco once a month. As my girls grew up and became more independent, I began to work part-time in a job that allowed me to further explore my interest and love of books and reading. I've taken lots of classes in all kinds of topics that interest me - from learning to play piano, knit and tap dance to classes in art history. I have a strong interest in the arts and have season subscriptions to 3 local theaters and I regularly visit museum exhibits - sometimes traveling to Boston or even NYC to see an exhibit of particular interest. In addition to all these activities, I have a wide circle of friends who I see regularly. In other words, I lead a full and interesting life. At least I think it is.

However, last week I had the wind taken out of my sails. Twice. Once by each of my daughters. And each was completely independent of the other. Ouch!

It all started on Monday when Katie and I were in the car together. While making small talk I mentioned that I had had a frustrating day running errands that all ended up being unnecessarily complicated and frustrating. Her response to me was something along the lines of "Well, don't worry about it because soon you'll have nothing better to do than run errands and you'll be happy to have something to do with your time." WHAT?! I managed to remain calm and asked her what she meant. She continued to dig her own grave herself into a hole by stating that when people get old they have nothing better to do than run errands and go shopping, "like grandma". Wow! Is that really what she thinks of my life? If so, I'm shocked. I did remind her of all my interests and how I've worked hard to be sure I am able to pursue them, but I'm not sure she understood. I decided to just let it go.

Then the very next day, Madeleine and I were in the kitchen cooking and tidying up. I began to mumble about how I'm constantly having to clean up after everyone else. She was sympathetic to that (she is very good that way), but then she dropped this bomb on me. "Well Mom, soon you'll probably be making messes just so you'll have something to do". WHAT?! Really! So it's not just Katie who thinks my life consists of nothing but taking care of them and the house? I'm beyond shocked!

Is this because I'm a SAHM? If I had a full time career, would they think this way? I'm not sure. I hate the idea that my girls think of my life as consisting of nothing but taking care of them and the house and running errands. I always assumed they noticed that I made the time to do things that I love, to indulge my passions and explore my interests. I assumed that they were somehow subconsciously absorbing the idea that it's OK to spend time on yourself, especially if you are a mom. I thought their view of me would include the idea that I am actively engaged in life and learning. That I value self-expression and that I think it's important not to put yourself last. It's shocking and distressing to me that they view my life as one of drudgery and boredom. How sad. I feel as though I've failed them in some way. I thought that I had done a good job modeling a life of engagement. Apparently not. And on top of that, it's a real blow to know that my daughters have a completely different view of my life than the one I thought I was presenting to them. It changes my whole perception of myself as a mother to my daughters. And that's bitter pill to swallow.


"Cottage By The Sea" said...

Oh Pam, I feel your pain! Don't worry, they'll come around when they have families of their own. When daughter's (or sons) say things like that you don't have to worry. They do not see the real you. They still only think of you as MOM, not a real human being with a life of your own. They are completely egocentric for a very long time. You're right, they are (subconsciously) absorbing your entire life and you'll see when they have families of their own they will appreciate who you are now, how what you did for them helped them become who they are and they will emulate much of the way you raised them in how they raise their own family. I have a daughter who is (thank God) doing that now and it's a joy and very fulfilling to see. I also have teens and young adults who say and think of me in the very same way your daughter's are talking about you now. They don't mean it in a bad way. I once heard a quote, I believe it was Mark Twain but I can't find the quote, that went something like this. When I was young I thought my parents were stupid. It's so amazing that the older I got the smarter they got. Definitely not the original quote, but you get the gist. They'll come around!

Terra said...

YIKES, and yet you set such a good example all these years, being there for them and taking care of you at the same time, pursuing interests and keeping a balance. Maybe they are feeling guilty about leaving you, trying to make you feel better with the wrong words...I can totally see you reading and knitting and hosting clubs and volunteering and loving life and I am sure they can too.... said...

Me too...I know how you feel. At least by 'booting my son out' into the big bad world and forcing him to do his own housework etc. he's learned to appreciate his 'dear old Mum' and what she used to do for him.
Aren't children rewarding and frustrating? At least you know that at some point in the future they'll feel the same way that you do today and think about times gone by. I do, especially when I catch myself saying things that my mother used to say to me.
I read a funny quote the other week 'Be nice to your children. They're the ones who'll choose your care home.'
Many thanks for visiting me today and leaving such a nice comment. It's a pleasure to 'meet you' fact such a pleasure that I have signed up to be your latest follower. I'm off to browse around your blog now and look forward to reading some more of your well-written and enjoyable posts.
Warm wishes

LindyLouMac said...

Ciao Pam and best wishes for 2011, I am back at last catching up on so much that I missed while I was away from the blogsphere! Thankyou for comments you left on LindyLouMac's Book Reviews while I was absent.
It was great to read your recent posts, reads of 2010 and how you have enjoyed having both girls at home for the holidays. As for today's post, no worries, I am afraid this is quite normal. However much we think we are modern Mum's and get on well with our daughters, they still seem to see us as someone who can not possibly have an interesting life unless they are in it!!! Take Care x

EmptyNester said...

Yes, but remember, they see us only in how we relate directly to them. At least mine did- all 4 of them. Until they grew up and moved out and realized that I do have interests and a life other than 'mom'...Not that they like it, but they do realize it! LOL

Katherine said...

I wonder how my sons will see my life. I've seen how much my own mother works, and look forward to when she does have an empty nest, because she is so busy taking care of everyone else that she has put a lot of her own interests on the back burner. I want her to have time to explore all her interests again.

Sandy said...

I'm a bit surprised by both of them. I wonder if it could be because they have no interest in the activities that interest you and mean so much to you. They are certainly on different wave lengths than we are. I really believe that kids do only see their parents most of the time by how they treat them and what they can do for them. I can't imagine either meant to hurt you. But I do think it has something to do with sexism. I'm sure they don't think that soon their father will have nothing to do because they aren't there.

Jen said...

Oh Pam. I'm sure it hurt to hear your daughters' commentary on your life, but try not to take it too seriously. I used to say stuff like that to my mother all the time -- it's not that I meant she was boring or that her entire life revolved around me... although, looking back, it kinda did, but my mother never pursued her passions like you do. I don't even know what my mother is passionate about except for children.

Your daughters know, deep down, that you have your own hobbies and interests, and I'm sure when they reflect on their time growing up with you as their mom, they'll be proud that you were so active.

Sue Jackson said...

Ah, don't worry, Pam, you haven't failed them. They're just young and self-absorbed, as is normal for their ages. I think all kids see their parents in this way - just by what we do for them. When they get older - and especially when they are moms themselves - they will understand. In fact, they'll probably do a complete 180 and say, "Mom how did you manage to fit so much into your life while taking care of us??"

My mom is experiencing the same thing with retirement right now. She just retired last year and everyone seems to think she has nothing to do now! It especially galls her when her husband thinks this, since she spends much of her time taking care of him and their house! Like you, she has lots of interests and is always busy and can't believe it when people keep saying "what will you do with your time?"

Hang in there and don't let these little incidents get you down - they'll show all the wonderful lessons you've taught them as they grow up and mature.


Star Forbis said...

You have modeled how a woman can be a Mom & give to her children & family as well as to herself. In time the will see all that! Kids sometimes just don't think before they speak, :) try not to take it to heart.


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