Time is a valuable gift. It is something we never seem to have enough of. We are all given the same 24 hours in a day to spend how we see fit again and again. In a quote by Leo Christopher he says, “There is only one thing more precious than our time and that is who we spend it with.”
I started my journey as a mother fairly early in life. One week before my 20th birthday, I found myself holding what I thought was the most beautiful baby to ever be born. She had tiny, perfect fingers and toes and a head covered in unruly black hair. She was mine and I couldn’t be more proud. Over the coming weeks, I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of this little person. How can something so small create so much chaos? Everything I did was for her. All of my time was given to her. Suddenly, I didn’t have time for myself.
When I asked other mothers what they would do differently if they could, the most common answer was to spend more time with their children. Ironically, for me, I wish I had spent more time doing things for myself.
When I was in high school, I participated in the choir and drill team. These activities took up much of my time but it was how I wanted to spend it. These activities fulfilled me and I made the decision to make them part of my life. I got married just two weeks after my high school graduation. It was my choice, no one forced me to do that. But, as a result, I went straight from being a daddy’s girl to a wife.
I gave up any outside activities that involved music and dancing because it wasn’t really something my husband enjoyed. He had watched me perform but suddenly I thought I needed to give them up to spend time on our marriage. As we added children to our family, I devoted my time to raising them. I eventually worked outside of the home in various capacities and developed new skills. I enjoyed interacting with others and it helped me appreciate my time with my children more.
As my children got older, I recognized that I had been neglecting my own needs and became a high school dance team coach. This gave me the chance to interact with others and share my passion. I was able to do this for myself and not neglect my family. It was possible to balance the needs of my children, husband, and myself. I realized it had been possible all along. I encourage my children to not forget themselves on their journey. If there is something they have the desire to do, they should do it. Do not wait until it is too late and look back and have regrets.
A friend of mine shared the following experiences with me.
Lisa had a son who loved to sing. He wouldn’t study in school and barely graduated from high school because of it. She wanted to get him in singing lessons but was conflicted. In her own words, she said, “Not all kids do well in traditional schooling, I really think if I had gotten him into some singing classes it would have helped. There are other ways to learn and other things to learn. I had to fight him on so many things, I didn’t see the point of adding one more thing. I really regret it now as it may have been the very thing to motivate him.”
She tells a story of how music helped another one of her children. This child struggled with a learning disability. She had the desire to be in the school orchestra. As a mother, her thoughts were, “One more thing for her to fail at”
Remembering that her parents had provided her with music lessons and a saxophone, she decided to get her daughter a violin. When she went in for Parent-Teacher conferences, she was prepared to hear that her daughter would be held back. Instead, her grades had gone up. She got better academically and socially. It was determined that the change happened when she “picked up that violin.” She is a strong advocate of music in any form for children struggling. However, the moral of her stories is to listen to our children. They will let us know when they have a need. Sometimes it comes through actions or a simple whisper. As parents, we need to be looking out for those teaching opportunities that may go unnoticed.
Other common answers were to cherish each moment, pay more attention to the small things, listen, watch, and enjoy. As mothers, we tend to interject when there is conflict. One mom said she wished she had just observed more and let things play out. We also tend to hover (thus the term, helicopter parent). We have to learn when to let go again and again. A friend of mine shared that due to her son’s medical health issues, she was often referred to as “Smother” instead of mother. Even when our children are grown, we may feel the need to protect them.
A comment from one mother said, “I hope this won’t seem trite…I wouldn’t change anything. My children know that I gave them every ounce of my heart and my energy, and that was my goal in the first place.”
No two mothers will raise their children the same way. It is not our place to make judgments of each other. I believe we all try to give our best every day. Some days will be better than others. But that’s okay.
Erma Bombeck was once asked if she could live her life over again, what would she do differently. At first she said “nothing.” Then she thought about it and changed her mind. Some of the lines from her famous, “If I had my life to live over” went like this:
“I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains. When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later, now go get washed up for dinner.” There would have been more “I love you”s, more “I’m sorry”s…more “I’m listening”s, but mostly I would seize every moment of it.”
One of my favorite things to do is to watch the sunset or look at the stars and the moon. When my children were young, I would pull over to the side of the road just to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. I cherish these memories and hope my children remember them and know how much I love them.
If I Could Do it Over Again