As a little girl, I wanted so much to be like my mom. I wanted to know all the things that she knew. How to bake the best pies. How to make the most delicious spaghetti sauce. How to can tomatoes, or peaches, or pears. How to be a beautiful belly dancer. How to sew. How to be silly. How to not care what other people thought of you. I wanted to look just like her too.
Somewhere along the way, I realized I didn't want her life, her domesticity, her dependence on my father. I needed more. I needed to get away from the small town I grew up in, I needed college, and a job, and a partner that was my equal, a life that was my own. I didn't even want kids for a long time. I felt that having kids would equal failure. It would equal falling back into the roll that I wanted to escape. When I finally did have a baby, I was 10 years older than she was when she had her first baby at 19. It was almost as if I thought those extra years would ensure that my life would be different from hers.
But it's not so different after all. I haven't had a full-time job since a couple of months before my first son was born. That was more than five years ago. And I am very much dependent on my husband.
Early in Waiting for Daisy, Peggy Orenstein writes of her own mother, her ambivalence about having children, and how her childlessness made it difficult to connect with her mom who also had children early in life. She wrote, "I longed for a mother who I could be a mentor, someone I could turn to for wisdom and guidance. Her limits made me short-tempered....It wasn't just hostility I felt around my mother, it was inadequacy."
Like Orenstein, I also feel inadequacy when I think of my mom. I get so dragged down with my kids' constant needs that I sometimes find it hard to enjoy just being around them. We don't bake pies together. And my kids have logged many more hours with sitters and preschool than I ever did. As a result, I sometimes feel that having children has made the gap between us even larger.
Hopefully someday I'll figure out how to get past the fact that my mom and I are similar and different, and it isn't good or bad or success or failure. It just is.