Being a Mommy

This is one of the his­tor­i­cal arti­cles on the site, writ­ten when I was a full-time par­ent. I’m proud to say that Katie has grown up to be a very intel­li­gent, sta­ble per­son. She has a daugh­ter of her own and is a won­der­ful moth­er in addi­tion to doing well in her career.

I was­n’t a phone-in par­ent. I was at home with our kids every day. I knew what they were read­ing, what they watched on tele­vi­sion, what they ate, if they’d brushed their teeth, and how many hours of sleep they’d had. Our fam­i­ly was the cen­ter of my life. Bal­anc­ing my part­ner­ship with Sam with being Katie’s moth­er and being step-moth­er to Sam’s kids was a del­i­cate process. Blend­ing fam­i­lies was­n’t easy. We had to come to a con­sen­sus on one set of rules for every­body, adjust to dif­fer­ent fam­i­ly tra­di­tions, etc. It was­n’t easy. In fact, it was one of the biggest chal­lenges in our lives. For­tu­nate­ly, Sam and I shared the same val­ues and agreed on the big things.

Per­haps the great­est social ser­vice that can be ren­dered by any­body to the coun­try and to mankind is to bring up a family.—George Bernard Shaw

Being a par­ent was absolute­ly the most won­der­ful thing I’ve ever expe­ri­enced. It was beau­ti­ful, exhil­a­rat­ing, and unique. It was also tir­ing, exas­per­at­ing, and some­times fright­en­ing as hell when I occa­sion­al­ly stopped to think about the fact that I was whol­ly respon­si­ble for the well-being and train­ing of this mar­velous lit­tle per­son, and that what I did would set the tone for her entire life. The respon­si­bil­i­ty could be daunt­ing, but the rewards were worth it. It isn’t some­thing I’d ever do light­ly. I regard­ed every bit of it as an unex­pect­ed gift, though, as I was told I would not be able to have chil­dren with­out fer­til­i­ty treat­ments, and pos­si­bly not at all.

I was very for­tu­nate in that I was able to telecom­mute when Katie was very small (yep, all the way back in 1990–1991), so she did­n’t have to go right into a day­care. That let us con­tin­ue the close­ness we’d had dur­ing the preg­nan­cy. (Yes, I am absolute­ly cer­tain she was a per­son long before her actu­al date of birth). I think that being able to breast­feed her and keep her home gave her immune sys­tem a healthy start, in addi­tion to hav­ing oth­er ben­e­fits. I real­ize that all women can’t do the same, but I do think it is ben­e­fi­cial if there’s any way you can pos­si­bly man­age to be home with your child for at least the first few months of his or her life. I do believe that every fam­i­ly needs to have at least one adult at home full-time as long as there are chil­dren in the house. (It’s eas­i­er to do that in house­holds with more than two adults, which is one of the rea­sons I’m in favor of expand­ed fam­i­lies). I was able to car­ry her around with me while I worked and cooked and did every­thing else. I think that helps to give kids a sol­id sense of secu­ri­ty lat­er on.1

Many par­ents seem to still be chil­dren them­selves. That isn’t an age thing, although it is more obvi­ous when teenagers have chil­dren. It is an issue of matu­ri­ty. If you acci­den­tal­ly got preg­nant, despite the easy avail­abil­i­ty of birth con­trol in our coun­try, just how respon­si­ble are you, any­way? I heard some­one say once that birds don’t lay eggs on branch­es but in nests. They pre­pare before the eggs are laid. Why can’t humans do as much as birds? I hon­est­ly believe that bet­ter plan­ning before par­ent­hood would great­ly reduce the num­ber of chil­dren who expe­ri­ence var­i­ous kinds of abuse in our society.

Even the par­ents who are mature peo­ple in oth­er parts of their lives often seem to be going at par­ent­ing in a very hap­haz­ard fash­ion, with­out actu­al­ly think­ing about long-term goals or philoso­phies. My par­ents had this odd idea that the whole point of rear­ing chil­dren isn’t to make them good kids, but to bring up respon­si­ble peo­ple. I share that belief, and I always kept in mind that I want­ed my daugh­ter to be some­body I want­ed to be around. That means it was nec­es­sary to teach her to behave so she was pleas­ant com­pa­ny, to make sure she had a good work eth­ic, to be sure she had a strong eth­i­cal ground­ing, and to make sure she knew how to laugh, at her­self and the world around her. I want­ed to give her a good edu­ca­tion, espe­cial­ly in know­ing how to learn. I want­ed to be sure she knew how to take care of her­self and could live inde­pen­dent­ly, so she had chores and helped around the house since the time she was old enough to imi­tate me as I dusted.

While I won’t claim my par­ents did a per­fect job with us, they raised three peo­ple to adult­hood and all of us are mature, respon­si­ble peo­ple who are sup­port­ing our­selves. None of us has ever been in any kind of legal trou­ble, none of us has ever had a sub­stance abuse prob­lem, none of us have had any unwant­ed preg­nan­cies, and we’re all on rea­son­ably good terms with each oth­er despite the fact that we have very lit­tle in com­mon oth­er than blood. I think they did a pret­ty good job, so in many ways, I chose to emu­late them.

I did­n’t believe in turn­ing over any of my respon­si­bil­i­ty as a par­ent to the state or the church or any­one else, so I home­schooled Katie. I mon­i­tored what she read and what she saw and how much time she spent with whom. If she was online, I was right there with her at a young age, and lat­er I mon­i­tored things close­ly. There are peo­ple we did­n’t social­ize with because they or their chil­dren were poor­ly behaved or extreme­ly big­ot­ed, and I did­n’t want my daugh­ter pick­ing up bad habits or poi­so­nous beliefs from them even if we hap­pened to be relat­ed to those people.

While my pol­i­tics dif­fered great­ly from those of Mar­i­on Wright Edel­man, I found her 25 Lessons for Life an excel­lent reminder.

1 I’ve recent­ly been informed that I prac­ticed attach­ment par­ent­ing, but I’d nev­er heard the phrase back then. Look­ing at attach­ment par­ent­ing sites, a lot of peo­ple seem to con­fuse it with per­mis­sive par­ent­ing, so I’m not whol­ly com­fort­able with the label.

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