Children, as a whole, are self-centered little creatures. They can't help it. They come into our worlds with no knowledge of the fact that we actually had lives before they showed up.
I can clearly remember the moment when this realization of my mother's "Life Outside of the Child Universe" hit me: My brother was running late for school, per usual, therefore we missed the bus. Again. Mom proceeded to berate us from the moment we slinked to the backseat of the faux wood-paneled Mercury Cougar station wagon until she, quite literally, kicked our asses to the school curb..."I've got this to do, and that to do, and you guys need to finally think about someone other than yourselves...blah, blah, blah."
My mother is normally a very mild mannered person. And by mild mannered, I mean passive aggressive. For her to actually verbalize her anger was an eye opening moment, at least for me. I'm pretty sure all my brother heard was the "blah, blah, blah" part.
So I began to pay attention. What exactly was this stranger up to from 8-3 p.m. every weekday as we went about our important lives? Didn't she just curl up in the corner and await our return so that her existence would have meaning again?
Turns out, this chick had a life.
And her days usually involved one of her friends from the Stitch-n-Bitch. Not an official title per se, but more a description of their group activity that kept them sane. Think today's Book Club phenomenon, but with some type of handicraft - cross stitch, sewing, knitting, etc. And lots, and lots, and lots of venting. I didn't understand it then. What did these ladies of leisure possibly have to complain about? So they were busy with PTA, volunteering, church activities, motherhood? Doing for others. Wasn't that their calling?
But I so get it now.
For these were the last of the girls who represented life before the Women's Movement. Out of the eight usual suspects, only one had a "career" before kiddos - she was a teacher. The rest of the bunch went from high school to maybe a few years of college, only to drop out once the diamond was placed on the finger, then proceeded to have children. My mother had dreams of Art School. Her parents had three other kids. So she became a secretary, met my father, then quit to have kids of her own.
Because of when they were born, these ladies had little choice of their life path. Their generation had to find fulfillment in husbands' successful careers and in children's accomplishments, while the generation directly behind them were being told "you can have it all, and it's all there for you to have!"
Talk about an identity crisis.
By the time she was my age (37), my mother could see the light at the end of the tunnel - the light representing when it would finally be her turn, as my brother and I prepared to fly the nest. And the rest of the gals understood.
They cheered each other on as a few went back to finish their degrees, one left an abusive husband, and one juggled being a single mother when being a single mother wasn't all that hip. They held hands as one husband suffered a severe heart attack and another confessed an affair. They cried together as one friend was buried because of breast cancer and then another because of a brain tumor - both events way too early.
And then, like that, the magic moment in time was gone.
Some husbands were transferred. Some friends finally achieved the careers they wanted to begin 25 years earlier. Some, now grandmothers, were called to duty as their daughters who "benefited" from The Movement kept their careers even as children were born.
I look back at that time in my mother's life, and I'm envious. I guess every generation thinks another one has it better. But most of the friends I am blessed with are scattered across the globe, from Hawaii to London. We're juggling families, careers, volunteer work, carpooling duties. Some of us are preparing to take care of our parents as well.
Who has time for a good stitch-n-bitch?
So I send cards, I phone, I e-mail, I blog. All in an effort to connect. To stay connected. Because in my high-maintenance family world, quality friend time is a luxury in which I rarely get to indulge.
And that makes me very sad.
Youngest starts preschool in the Fall. Am I a bad mom to say part of me cannot wait?
I just hope my friends haven't given up on me. I feel the need to resurrect a little magic.