My husband and I recently took a vacation to celebrate our anniversary. We were gone for almost 2 weeks and while we were gone I frequently dreaded my homecoming. When I expressed my worries to my husband he basically brushed them off and told me I was being silly. He would say “your children love you, stop worrying!”
I didnt stop worrying, when we had the opportuinity to get an earlier flight that would allow us to get home 6 hours earlier then our previous flights would allow I hesitated and almost turned down the opportunity.
I feel as though I am giving everything within myself to my family. I suspect this is a very typical of many mothers and wives. I am often striving to be more than just a parent, striving to be both the nurturer and the diciplinarian, trying to listen to my children even when I just want some quiet time, coaching, cuddling, adventuring and learning. I take great joy in my children and our experiences together. So then where did my dread of homecoming come from?
With my husband working away so often it is only natural that he has become a grand commodity. From the moment he steps into the house it is loaded with happiness and excitement, fun and sugar, rough housing and special treatment. He loves them and they adore him, everyone misses each other and so it becomes a party as soon as he walks into the house. Which is fine, it is to be expected and I love the vibrancy of the color he brings to our family.
Due to my husband becoming a commodity my children have begun to express that I am not to take away from the precious time that they have on this earth with their father. I often hear comments such as “I dont want mommy!” or “I want daddy to unbuckle me” “I want daddy to do ____ not you mommy!” They dont want me to come to the park, they dont want me to give them baths, they dont want me to sit near them at the dinner table, they dont want me to read them bedtime stories. All day long I am bombarded with the phrase “I DONT WANT YOU!” But only when daddy is home.
I dreaded my homecoming, on our vacation I had all of my husbands attention. I recieved all his smiles, his kisses and his snuggles. My dread, however, was not brought on by the “loss” of attention from my husband, not jealousy, or immaturity. It was brought on by the realization that I had to convert from these grand feelings of love, adoration and the constant knowledge that I was WANTED…home to the constant chant of “I dont want you!”
We arrived home and the children were still awake. The door was wide open and I could hear happy sounds coming from within as I approached up the walkway. I came through the front door with my suitcase and said hello into the warmth of my home. My children came down the stairs, saw me at the door, their eyes opened wide and I remember thinking “this is it! I am the commodity this time and I will get a happy homecoming, I really am loved!” I saw the clicking of thoughts in my childrens eyes as they realized that if I was home, so was daddy! They ran towards me with arms open wide, huge grins stretching their little faces…3 steps away…2 steps away from my open arms…1 step away the swing to the right of me, nudging me out of the way to throw themselves into their daddys arms…they are all laughing and giggling, delerious with happiness.
My hubby turns his face into his children and says “what about mommy aren’t you happy to see her too?” My son turns towards me with his arms open wide and leaps into my arms with hugs, kisses and giggles. It only lasts a second or 2 and then he is back throwing himself at daddy. The rest of the family comes to the entryway and with hubbys arms full of children I get hugs and welcome homes from my mother in-law, father in-law and mom. Then hubby again reminds my daughter that I am home too and she pulls away from him to briefly launch herself into my arms with high pitched giggles and laughter. I manage to hold myself together through it all and not burst into tears, run off to my room and cry myself to sleep. I was sad that my children had to be reminded of my existance.
To be fair, there was a lot of chaos and excitment, they are used to the “routine” of welcoming daddy home and it was past their bedtime. The biggest problem is that I had lulled myself into this false sense of security. I had convinced myself that when I was gone from their lives for 2 weeks, they would miss me, that they would suddenly “want” me because I had been gone. I had forgotten to remind myself that daddy had been gone for the same amount of time and that he ranked higher on the “want” scale.
Both my mother and my mother in-law explained that they recieved the same treatment while we were gone. That the kids always glommed onto the male role model and stated that they didnt want the female role model. They said the kids talked constantly about things daddy had tought them, told them, showed them. But the moms didnt mention a single moment in which my children actually said they missed ME in any way. So our moms lived my world and both of them empathized with me and acknowedged that it wasnt fair and that it was difficult to deal with.
Just to emphasize how much she didnt want me, my daughter had a temper tantrum about not wanting me to be around through the bedtime routine. My son followed her example and instead of letting it hurt me further, it was after 10pm after all, I just walked away. I fed the animals and closed down the house for the night. I joined them after my hubby had read them a bedtime story. He told them that I would be reading the next story and my daughter flew off the handle, kicking, screaming, saying she doesnt want me, asking why I didnt stay away in italy…I have to give points to my hubby here, he removed her from the room, and tried very hard to impress upon her that saying such hurtful things really hurts mommy and daddy, that mommy truly loves her and missed her like crazy while she was gone.
Meanwhile I started reading the second story with my son, he cuddled up to me and seemed happy to enjoy my company. Part way through the story my daughter joined us. My hubby had asked her to say sorry to her mommy for hurting her feelings, but when she joined us, she sat there with a stubborn look on her face and tears brimming her eyes. I didnt push it, it was her choice after all, if she didnt feel like apologizing then I wasnt going to force a false apology. I turned to her and asked if she would like to join us, she nodded yes, so I invited her to snuggle in on my other side for the rest of the story. Afterwards I gave her a hug and kiss, told her I loved her and to have sweet dreams. That night she slept all snuggled in to daddy chest with his heart beating beneath her ear. Our son had pretended to fall asleep during the story, I pretended that it meant he wanted to snuggle with me. So I turned off the lights and cuddled in next to him.
As I write this I have to ponder what the future holds, I have to admit to finally understanding all those mothers day cards, to wonder if I have done anything right.
When my children are grown will they look back fondly on memories of mom playing with them, laying on the floor with piles of blocks and barbie dolls. Will they remember the hours upon hours of sitting on the couch reading book after book until hunger pains drew us to the kitchen. Will they remember dress-up time and music parades? Will they remember walking adventures, hours of crafts, or all the places we have gone? Will they remember planting gardens and watching them grow? Walking through the pet store to see all the animals? Eating doughnuts while watching the cars go through the carwash? Dancing in the rain, splashing in the puddles and rescuing worms with straws? Partaking in the wonder of the robins nest as it fills with eggs, tiny hatchlings and then watching the baby birds fly away one day?
I understand all those cards that write about how a mothers work is never done, how we do many things day in and day out that are not often recognised and that a mother is a driving force in the formation of who these little people choose to become as adults. I understand the lists of “careers” a mother holds down, ie. taxi driver, chef, nanny, maid…
I also know that I must have done something right somewhere. For the most part I have gentle, loving children who have a very distinct wild side. They are mostly loving and affectionate to me and others. They are smart, inquizitive and active. They inspire me to be better than I started out and to make each day the best that it can be. I take comfort in knowing that even if they dont have many memories of their childhood spent with their loving mother, I am a major force in determining who they grow up to be. I know that my love and support, compassion and patience will affect how they are molded.
This morning my daughter gave me some recognition that took all my hurt away. Sitting at the breakfast table she said to me “I like it when daddy is not here, when it is just us” I asked her why and she said “it is quieter and I know you hear me”.
So I will walk on from here knowing that it is not that my children “do not want me” but that when daddy is home they want him and love him and need him. That when he is not here they want me and love me and need me. I will start this day and the next knowing that when my children say “I dont want you” they just mean that they dont want me right now, they dont need me right now.
I am needed, I am wanted and I am loved, I am all of these things ALL OF THE TIME. Just not to the same degree every moment of everyday.