When my youngest started high school I was surprised by the upsurge of emotion that pushed through me. I’ve never been one to cry at the school gate or bemoan the quiet, empty house. So when I found myself at the high school car park hugging Poppy and telling her I would miss her I couldn’t believe I was holding back tears.
‘I’ll miss you too Mum,’ she said, squeezing me and then quickly moving away to find her friends. I watched as she walked off, ponytail bouncing, and knew she wouldn’t miss me at all. My last baby was all grown up.
I held myself together long enough to get into my car and drive out of the car park, but then it was on, tears and those real heart wrenching sobs. I watched, almost as if from outside myself. Yes there was sadness about all of my kids growing up; about an era having come to an end but it was more than that, it was the end of a job, the end of a service. Twenty years of parenting small children and it was finished, just like that. There was no celebration, no thankyou, no recognition of a job well done. If I’d spent the same amount of time dedicated to a career there would have been a party, a gold watch, long service leave, a myriad of symbols to let me know how appreciated I was, what a fabulous job I’d done. Yes, I know, I had four beautiful children who were well adjusted and a positive contribution to the world, but somehow it wasn’t enough. In the empty stillness that followed Poppy starting high school I wanted more. What though exactly, I wasn’t sure.
I spent the next couple of months a bit lost and confused, not wanting to feel how I was but not being able to avoid it either. I tried to make myself feel better by explaining to Pete, my husband what was going on and make him express what a wonderful job I’d done, what a wonderful mother I was. And he did, and he meant it, but I knew on some level he didn’t understand what I was looking for, how could he, I had no idea either.
About half way through Poppy’s first year of high school I was talking to a friend who had kids of a similar age. She understood exactly where I was coming from. ‘Have you read this article?’ She asked me. Apparently it had been circulating Facebook a while back and I’d missed it. ‘I’ll send it to you,’ she said.
The article, ‘You’re a stay at home mum. What do you do all day?’ was by a guy called Matt Walsh. I cried from the beginning to end. There was something so moving, so pertinent about this man not only acknowledging, but also revering the role his wife played in bringing up their kids.
This was my favourite paragraph, ‘Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and moulds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined.’
I hadn’t realised how desperately I needed to hear these words, particularly from a man. A man who was not part of my life, a man who I hoped represented the larger part of society that I was feeling unrecognised by.
I felt better after reading the article, well reading it and crying several times. It was as if a healing had occurred with Matt Walsh’s words. I still do wonder though if us mothers, the ones that weather the emotional brunt of the family’s storms, the ones that are there day in day out forging a safe place for growth and expansion, if we need more than an article of recognition but perhaps some sort of ceremonial acknowledgement; a dance, a song, a feather headdress, a momentous feast; something that surely must have been done in celebration in those traditional cultures of the past.
To read the full article by Matt Walsh go to http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/10/09/youre-a-stay-at-home-mom-what-do-you-do-all-day/
Painting by www.kmberggren.com