For too many years I have seen first hand what choosing a Career over family can do to the children. As a “Stay at home” mom for the last 26 years, this has become a very touchy subject with me.
I am the Mom that all the neighborhood kids have gone to when their woes have became just too much for them to handle. When I suggested that they talk to their own Mother’s or Father’s the response is 99% the same “My parents don’t care about me, they won’t listen”. I ask them “What makes you say that?” The response is inevitably the same, “All they care about is themselves, all they do is work all the time.” Talk about a heart breaker.
It all started so innocently, living in a town-house complex. My children would go out to play, find new friends and bring them home. Every single one of those kids’ parents were at work and because of their ages were left to fend for themselves. The youngest one was 8 the oldest 13, and of course were quite capable of feeding themselves. That is not the point. Children require so much more than food, clothes and a roof over their heads.
There were about 15 children in this, what I would term, affluent neighborhood. The children always dressed far better than mine did, they always had some sort of junk food that they were munching on when they appeared at my doorstep early in the day. When I prepared dinner, it was always asked what I was cooking and “Can I have some?” or “Gee, my Mom never made that before.” I was astounded, a simple pot roast with potatoes and veggies? How can this be? As I’ve come to know children, I assumed they were stretching the truth or outright lying. I had to meet the parents. So off I went to meet these parents of all these children with whom I’d become attached.
What I found were well groomed adults with nice homes, nice cars, pretty furniture all the things I did not have. Then I talked with them. They discussed all the places they have went on vacation, the places they were going to go and the things they were going to buy. When their child came up and started talking, it was viewed as an interruption and were told to go away. Some of the parents promised to take them to the mall to buy those shoes that were desired or a new outfit or something that in no way I could purchase for my children. I left these homes quite disturbed.
As time passed and the children talked more and more to me, I seen that these parents were trying to “buy” their children. Rather than spend some time with them, they bought things that were soon broken or discarded. The children didn’t appreciate these things, in fact it seemed as though they would see just how much money they could get their parents to spend on them. It became within the realm of obscene.
Over the years I did my best to be there for them, if they needed to talk or a shoulder to cry on I was there. Sometimes I lectured them on what they were doing wrong. My oldest son thought it was amusing to bring someone in to “tattle” on them. I would make him sit in on the lectures and shake my finger at him as well.
Eventually I moved and of course they found a way to follow me, bringing friends that they wanted me to meet, felt it necessary for me to meet. Saying things about me that made me swell with pride at how I was viewed. Words such as “If you ever need to talk this lady right here will help you, she did me”, or “I’d like you to meet my other Mom” were just a few things that were said. Too many times I heard, “I wish you were my mom”.
In my new home there came more children that were in need of a “Mom”, so I became counselor to them as well. I still tried to communicate to the parents, but to no avail. The parents still felt that they needed or were entitled to those things which money can buy.
Yes there were times that I got angry. I wondered how these people could reproduce and let the world care for their children. I mean, what was the point of having them? There were times I thought I might send them a bill, for child care, counseling, even being just a seamstress (sewing on a button or repairing a seam when needed, since their mother’s didn’t know how). But of course I cared too much for the kids to do that, it wasn’t their fault they were left to fend for themselves.
There have been many times that my children would bring someone home and say “Go ahead, talk to her, she will help you” or “Mom, so and so needs to talk to a grownup”. To have my own children recognize what I have been doing touches my heart. Hopefully they will in turn have learned how to help others.
I have been told by these children that I have been more of a mother to them than their own. On one hand that is heart breaking, on the other it makes me proud that I have been there for them.
As my own children grew older we again moved, this time to a different county. My ‘old’ children still followed me, they were able to drive and made sure that they knew where I lived, just in case. My children made new friends, and yet again, I was needed as a counselor, this time for more difficult things. One child stands out in my mind the most, her mother worked far out of town, was gone from morning until night and sometimes would be gone for 3 days at a stretch. During this time she would stay at my home to keep from being alone. The times when she didn’t stay at my home she was out gallivanting around with others. One of these times was spent with a boy, as you can imagine something happened. The next thing I knew she was crying on my shoulder, she was pregnant. When I told her she ‘had to talk to her mother about this’, she told me that her mother would kick her out. She was only 14, I felt that she must be wrong, her mom wouldn’t do that. I finally convinced her to tell her mother, she did. Her mother paid for the abortion, then told her “If this happens again, you’ll have to find a new place to live.” There was no counseling, no birth control to prevent this from happening again, nothing. So again I was left to pick up the pieces of yet another child with a broken heart.
Mother’s Day holds a special meaning in my heart, when these children bring me home-made cards or gifts that they have made in school. Gifts that should have been reserved for their own Mother’s came to me.
For me the choice became clear long ago, Family first, without question. We have done without all of those extras for so long now that I truly don’t miss them. We buy what we need when we can, our wants will wait for the future. As long as there is food in the house, clothes on our backs and a roof over our head, the sacrifices don’t seem like sacrifices at all. And for those parents who choose the luxuries over family, I will continue to try and be a good mother to those children as well.