Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 865: I Remember This

For the second time, a guest post from Martha Jacob! This is in response to the post I wrote yesterday called Guilt.

I remember this:

a little girl (you) who for her seventh Christmas wanted a knock-off Cabbage Patch doll.

a mom (me) who was so excited. Now we (you and I) could play house, dress the baby, feed the baby, put the baby to bed. I got out my doll crib and high chair from my childhood. Fixed them up for the doll you had already named (Sarah Winnemucca Marthagene Jacob), the doll I imagined would be “our” baby.

the Christmas morning when you unwrapped Sarah and her wardrobe (picked out by a Santa mom who couldn’t wait to help you dress her). You were so happy. So was I. Now, I said, you (we) can play house. You can dress Sarah. Feed Sarah. Put Sarah to bed.

the little girl (you) who looked at her stay-at-home mom (me) and said with an incredulous look Mommy, what are you talking about? Sarah is six. She is going to school. I am going to work. I am not going to play house.

wondering, hmmm, let’s see. Your role model (I thought) was me. I’m a stay at home mom, I thought. Most of the mothers in this neighborhood are stay at home moms. You never watch tv (you never sat still long enough). The only mom you know who works is….Grandma Marthagene. Hmmm…. and you loved Grandma Marthagene to death and you went to visit her at work and, hmmmm.

a mom (me) who dressed Sarah Winnemucca Marthagene and fed Sarah Winnemucca Marthagene. She did sleep with you, but stuffed animals slept in her crib. You never played house. She went to restaurants with us, but you never played house. She went everywhere with you, but you never played house.

thinking Oh she’s missing so much.

But of course, you weren’t. You were who you are.

I also remember this:

a young mom from down the street who came to my house crying one evening when I was trying to make dinner. We sat on the porch swing. Dinner could wait. She was, after all, crying.

that new young mom saying How do you do it? How can you be happy being a stay at home mom? You always seem so happy. I hate it. I can’t do this. I love my son, but I can’t stand staying at home.

listening to her go on for awhile and then saying Then why are you staying home?

her incredulous look when she said Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?

saying No, you’re supposed to do what makes you happy because that’s what will make your baby happy. Unhappy moms make unhappy babies.

her saying But I’ll feel guilty.

my saying But you shouldn’t. You will be doing the best thing you can for both of you and your son will love you as much as if you stayed home. You’re his mother. No one else is that.

my saying Look sometimes I feel so selfish. I always wanted to play house. I get to play real house now. We would have more money if I worked, be better off probably, but this is ALWAYS what I wanted to do. I get to dress dolls and feed dolls and put dolls to bed. Real dolls. But I also get to do whatever else I want. It so happens I like housework, but if I want to do some project around the house (and I always wanted to do some project around the house), I do. I should probably feel guilty because I have this freedom (I didn’t). It isn’t freedom to you, it’s jail.

my saying Get out of jail and be happy.

her saying Thank you, but I just don’t know what I should do.

my dinner being late that night. My thinking I hope she goes back to work. And, as I found out soon, indeed, she took my advice and went back to work.

that young mom coming over weeks later and saying Thank you. I’m so much happier. And sometimes I feel guilty. But mostly I feel ok. I love to work. I’m so much happier. And she was and she never came crying at dinnertime again.

Both are true stories.

You were, apparently, always going to work outside of the home. You are who you were.

No one asks a dad if he feels guilty not being home with his kids. No one blames a dad if he doesn’t stay home with his kids – or take paternity leave or watch football at night and ignore the kids or whatever other stereotypes there are about dads out there.

I remember this:

a tiny little girl (Lenny) who pined so terribly (broke my heart) when I stayed with her for a weekend while you and Gabe went to California. She stared at your pictures, couldn’t go through the picture album that Gabe had made about her first year enough. She stared up at airplanes in the sky when we went for walks. Mommy and Daddy took an airplane like that to California I told her. And they’ll take another one home to you very soon I would say every time.

thinking She must think I’m out of my mind. She was what one and a half? Mommy and Daddy are in that tiny little thing? How, she must have thought, can that be? But still every time we went outside, she looked up for that airplane and Mommy and Daddy.

a tiny little girl running into your arms (first) when you got home saying Mommy Mommy!

you, a working mom, having a little girl who loved you so much.

The debate is worthless. Children who are loved love their parents and want their parents to be happy too.

Guilt is fruitless. For whatever it is spent on, it is lost on. It is fruitless.

and any kind of guilt about anything for anyone who has cancer is more than fruitless. However you or anyone gets through it is no one’s business but your own. If one out of three or four of us will one day have to deal with cancer in our own way, then we will deal with it in our own way.

I wouldn’t have you any other way. Lenny and Augie wouldn’t have you any other way. You wouldn’t have had me any other way. However we did it or are doing it now, it works.

I could feel guilty because I don’t help out with the grandkids that much or quit work so I can help out when times are tough (and boy have they been tough in the last few years).

But, hell. I always did hate to babysit when I was a kid. Loved being that stay at home mom – but the operative words were stay at MY home mom. Doing what I wanted.

I will always be there when you need me, but my days of playing house are pretty much over (although I do still love housework). I didn’t go back for a Ph.D. for nothing. By the time I quit work you won’t need the kind of help you need now that the kids are small.

Oh well.

I bet you love me as much as before. I bet Lenny and Augie love me as much as they always have. Don’t have any doubt about either.

And, you know what? No guilt.



  1. This is a fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  2. I really enjoyed this post. Mom is cool.

  3. I remember this: my living at Katy's half the time, eating everthing Mrs. J made (Katy even made me a card once about how much of their food I ate. It was hilarious, and rather than feel guilty, I'll try to pay it forward by feeding my neighborhood kids.) But especially the brownies... oh, Mrs. J's brownies. Served with sarcasm, and a smile, and lots of love. You could tell you were where you wanted to be.