I Burned My Bra For This? One Woman’s Fantasy

I’m a Baby Boomer. Which means that I remember bell-bottoms, Happy Days, and having only three channels on the television. I played Donny Osmond albums on a record player. My parents watched Gunsmoke, and on Sunday nights we all watched The Wonderful World of Disney. In the living room. Together. On the only television we owned. Imagine that! I remember the first time I saw Bonanza in color. I remember the first time I heard about remote controls for televisions. The whole idea seemed ridiculous. With three channels, really, how often would it be needed? I remember the Watergate hearings playing on the television when I came home from school.

I also remember watching feminists (does anyone use that word anymore?) burn their bras and march for equal rights. I grew up believing that a woman deserves equal pay for equal work and that a woman is not defined by the man she marries or by the children she gives birth to. In fact, we were told that both men and children were optional. The idea seemed revolutionary at the time. It still does. Women were mad as hell and they weren’t taking it anymore. We called it Women’s Liberation, and though it was never said, it was certainly implied (and believed in most circles) that a woman who did not work was a bit inferior to a career woman. That was when such women were called housewives and not “stay at home” moms. Women were divided into two groups – those who worked and those who didn’t. Back then, no one thought that staying home and taking care of a family and home was work. The women of my generation wanted more, demanded more, and believed we were entitled to just that – more. We sometimes looked at our own mothers, most of whom did not have real jobs, as women who simply did not understand that there was more to life than being a mother. If truth be told, we thought they were a bit simple-minded and we secretly vowed to do more with our lives.

And yet…as this Baby Boomer looks at her life, I realize nothing I have ever done, or will ever do, is as important as being a mother. Not career, volunteer work, graduate school, or any creative pursuit. Nothing else even comes close to being a mother. Period.

One of my children lives half an hour away, another is one state away, and the third is on the other side of the world in Denmark. Yesterday, my husband and I spent the entire day with our two-year-old granddaughter. She then spent the night. As I write this, I hear her gentle breathing in the baby monitor positioned atop the table close to where I sit.

To say that my children, and now my granddaughter, have filled my life with love and joy is an understatement. As children, they expanded my heart in ways I could never have imagined. For the first time in my life, I not only understood, but received unconditional love. As adults, they are three people that I know I can always count on. They will always be there for me. Just as I will always be there for them. Can you say the same about your career?

There used to be a tv show called Fantasy Island. People visited the island and lived out their fantasies – no matter how wild (okay, not that wild – this was primetime family tv in the seventies). Not too long ago, my husband and I had a discussion about that old tv show and asked each other – What would your fantasy be? Mine was easy. If I could have a Fantasy Island day, I would relive one day with my children. My son would be 10, which would make my daughters 4 and 2. We would spend the day doing whatever they wanted. Going to the park, going to the movies, playing games, baking cookies, or just sitting on the floor playing with Legos and Barbies. I would hug them a lot. And kiss the tops of their heads. And take tons of pictures. I wouldn’t cook. I wouldn’t clean. And I wouldn’t worry about my career.

I would watch my son show his younger sisters how to do things, like he always did in his older brother sort of way. I would watch my 2 year-old daughter follow her older 4 year-old sister around the room, shadowing her every move. Just as she did, even through their college years when they shared an apartment near Indiana University. I would watch the older sister taking care of her younger sister, as if she were her baby. Which is what she called her when she was born – my baby.

Bedtime would be later than usual on that fantasy night. I would tuck them into their beds, fresh from baths and smelling of shampoo. The girls smelling like baby lotion. My son would hug me goodnight with his long skinny arms and tell me he loves me. And I would feel the truth in that. I would tuck in my girls and tell them it is time to go to sleep. I would take extra care in covering the older girl’s feet, because she always kicked her blankets off during the night. I would kiss the baby and hold her a little longer, because I would know that, as I type this she is in Denmark which makes visiting tough.

And, as I walk down the hall and turn out the lights, I would call out to all of them, as I always did… “Goodnight. Love you. Sweet Dreams. See you in the morning.”

And that would be my fantasy day. Oddly enough, it has nothing to do with my career as a writer. Even though being a writer has always been my dream. My first novel, Life is But a Dream, was published earlier this year. The main character, Grace Adams, is a woman facing an empty nest and the possible demise of her marriage. Grace withdraws to a secluded lake cabin to redefine her life and try to find a reason to continue living. While at the lake, Grace not only finds renewed purpose and hope, but when things take a turn for the worse at the lake, she finds a strength she never knew she possessed. The novel is thought-provoking, sometimes frightening, and often funny (just like life). It is also, very definitely, fiction.

Even though my “nest” is empty, I am enjoying this time and this new focus on my career. I am not suicidal or lacking in purpose. My husband and I both work from home (he designs websites), we live on a lake, and our schedule is our own. It is truly a wonderful time in our lives. Sometimes I have popcorn for dinner. Enough said.

But, would my current life be as wonderful if I had not pursued career and graduate school and developed the skills I am using now? Probably not. I managed to combine work and school and motherhood. I believed I could have it all, and do it all, but to be honest – the kids always came first. And being a mother is the strongest and best part of my identity. It is the thing I am most proud of. My greatest achievement. And, once in a while, I miss those days when toys where scattered across the floor, the washer was always running, and we bought eight gallons of milk a week.

If you have children at home, cherish those simple every-day moments with them. They really will be gone in the blink of an eye – sooner than you can possibly imagine. Get off of your computer. Now. Go sit on the floor and play a game. Pop some popcorn, put on one of their favorite movies, and cuddle up on the couch. Live that “fantasy” right now. You will never be able to recapture these moments again. Enjoy them now. There is no greater gift than the love of your children. Spend the rest of your day letting it pour over you. And pour your love right back over them.

As I type this, I can hear my granddaughter waking up. I am shutting my computer off, too. Right now, I am going to go upstairs and scoop her up from her crib. She will probably wrap her little arms around my neck and ask, “Play blocks, Bomb Bomb?”

And we will play blocks.

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(28) Comments

    • says

      Thanks so much Cidney! And thanks for the RT! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one person read it and enjoyed their kids just a little more today. As I write this, my curly-haired granddaughter sits close by (my son, her daddy, had the exact same curly hair – adorable!). Time really DOES go by so fast. Thanks again for your kind comment. :)

        • says

          Readers – go read the post attached to the link in her post. Beautiful! All about striving for your dreams and teenagers. :) Thanks again Cidney, you brightened my day!

  1. Kathy Kraszewski says

    Love what you’ve written here, and couldn’t agree more. You speak right from the heart, and that it where our kids deserve us. I too would love to relive any of days I spent with the boys (and some I’d do much better). Additional, I cherish the days I get with them now (never enough), and I’m still looking forward to position of grandma. It’s not coming quick enough, but I’m trying to leave that and the days I get to spend with “the kids” in the future, to God.
    Thanks Chery,
    kk

    • says

      I know! Wouldn’t it be great to relive some of those days and do better? Just wait until you are a Grandma. You will lose your mind. It is the best !!! I have become one of “those” grandparents who always want to talk about the grandbaby. Such a joy and a blessing and we are loving every minute with her. Thanks for stopping by the website. Great to hear from you. :)

    • says

      Yesterday I heard from a man who told me the same – he read the article and then turned off the computer to go play with his son. These are the very best comments! Thank you so much for letting me know. My kids are ALL here for the holiday weekend. Wonderful times!!! Thanks again.

  2. Pat Reed says

    It makes me want to cry thinking about my boys leaving home. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing with me :)

    • says

      And I love you, my darling son. With all of my heart. (Readers – this is a comment from my son – now the father of that darling granddaughter who calls me “Bomb Bom” and has curly hair just like her Daddy and big blue eyes just like her Mommy)

  3. says

    Cheryl, this is a wonderful post. My daughter is my life and when you talked about your kids I ‘went away’ for a while, thinking about those times with my daughter. She’s now sixteen and it’s hard to let go of those little girl times when I could do no wrong in her eyes.

    In many ways she’s the motivation for my book, Her Book of Shadows as I wanted to see if I could write a mystery with a PI who was doing dangerous work while maintaining his close relationship with his wife and daughter. So many of the mystery protagonists are loners.

    Cheers — Larry

    • says

      Thanks for your comment, Larry. It was a fun post to write – just spill my heart onto the page. :)
      And I bought my copy of Her Book of Shadows today. My “to be read” grows and grows…
      Happy writing!

    • says

      (I’m not sure if I’m posting this in the corrcet place as I was unable to post it from the Dashboard.)The type of physician I would like to work with is a gerontologist. A gerontologist specializes in caring for the elderly. I have a fondness for our older population. They built out society and lived in a time that many of us can learn from. I would take great pride in caring for them as they age. In my opinion, working with a doctor that shares my passion and excitement would be the ideal work environment.The type of physician I would not be as excited to work with would be a proctologist. To be completely honest, I just don’t think I have what it takes to be in that environment. It’s important to be professional in any medical environment. I believe my sense of humor would not allow me to be as professional as I would need to be. I would also prefer not to work with ophthalmologist. Several years ago I spent a week with my grandfather at a specialist to have cataracts removed. I found it very difficult to watch the videos of my grandfather’s up coming procedures. It wasn’t difficult caring for my grandfather after surgery, but I must admit the pre-op was an experience that I would not want to assist in on a daily bases.

  4. says

    Oh Cheryl, this post made me cry. And now I’m off to play with my three-month-old who is growing and changing as I write this. A great reminder of where my priority truly lies as I “juggle”. Beautiful. Thank you for posting.

    • says

      Thanks you Karen. Three months! Ah – they really do change so quickly. Three more months and that same baby will be sitting up! Isn’t that crazy? Our granddaughter is two, and it has just been wonderful – reliving all of the milestones and remembering fun tiimes with our children when they were little. Enjoy!

  5. says

    This was so beautifully written. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to log off now and let the kids “help” me make breakfast. Twitter can wait :-).

    • says

      Hi Victoria. You know, these are the best comments I get! And I have received several through Twitter, Facebook, and through the Contact Form on this website about this blog. People send me messages and tell me that after reading this post they decided to spend a morning or an afternoon, or even the entire day just playing with their kids. I love writing novels, but I have to tell you – this may be the best thing I have ever written. We only get so many hours on this earth, and to think that I might have prompted a parent to spend a couple more of those hours with their kids just thrills me. Nothing better. I hope that you all had a wonderful breakfast! Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. says

    This is a great post. My daughter is at home with me, and she’ll be going to kindergarten in the fall. When she was born and I decided to stay home, I thought I had all the time in the world with her. Now it’s almost up. I’ve tried to cherish it as much as I could, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind, especially when you’re trying to find time to write. This is a great reminder of the important things in life.

    Thanks!

    • says

      Thank you so much, Stacy. It really does go by in the blink of an eye. My daughter is home today – for a month-long visit. She was married last December and moved to Denmark. Write before she gets up, write after she goes to bed. You will find the time. And, sometimes, it is good for them to SEE you writing. So that you inspire them to follow their passions and dreams. It is funny – as I was writing this my daughter came in here. I told her I am working one more hour and them I am hers for the day. :)

  7. says

    I loved this Cheryl! I have been trying to decide about blogging about what is going on in my life, facing an empty nest is just a small part but the cherishing them while you have them is so important! I will have to get to it, been neglecting my blog in all that I have been doing but I have been inspired :O)

    Thank you for such a wonderful post!

  8. says

    Cheryl, This is such an evocative piece. I know I’d certainly like to revisit days gone by and hug my kids a little tighter. What a beautiful thought.

    My son just got married this past weekend, and during the reception a dvd was shown of the bride and groom from babyhood to adult. It reminded me (as this post has) how quickly the days pass us by…

    Thank you for this powerful push to drink in every moment. Motherhood is definitely the most powerful and magical ‘job’ in the world, and I wouldn’t trade ANYTHING for it.

    *Smiles*

    • says

      As I write this, my youngest daughter is lying on the couch beside me. She was just married in December in a beautiful fairly-tale home wedding. She has been living in Denmark (with her husband) since the wedding. She has been home for a month-long visit and it went waaay too quick! We really do need to enjoy every moment – they really are precious. And I am only too happy to remind parents of that – especially those who are lucky enough to still have the kids at home! :)

      Actually – you might enjoy this – it is a little book that I wrote for my daughter last year – You Dont Need a Prince. Check it out, and if it is something you might be interested in, I would be happy to send you a copy. :) http://www.amazon.com/You-Dont-Need-Prince-Daughter/dp/1461001307/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311905131&sr=1-1 Let me know if you would like a copy! Just send me your email address in the Contact Form on this website and I will get the message. Since you just went through a wedding, you might find it particularly fitting. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment.

  9. says

    So true! Those early, early days of motherhood, the ones where you’re so sleep deprived that you feel like you’ll never be anything but a zombie, feel like they’ll last forever. And then you blink and your “baby” is in high school. My oldest will be heading to college in two years. TWO. That’s NOTHING. I’m reminded more and more to cherish the little things.

    Such a great post. It also reminded me of something my father said almost a decade ago when he was facing retirement–he said that he’d made great contributions to his field over his career, and for years his work felt important, but that was over. Other, younger people had come and surpassed his accomplishments in his field. With retirement, he was leaving it all behind anyway. And he was SO grateful that he had a wife, children, and grandchildren still with him along the path. Without family, his life post-career would have been pretty meaningless. All the accolades and accomplishments from before paled in comparison to family.

    Thanks so much for the reminder!

    • says

      Loved your response, Annette!

      It is funny – how this little blog has touched so many hearts. I see to have hit a chord of truth here. It was just me sharing my feelings about my kids. But there seems to be a universal truth here.

      I really did try to enjoy my kids when they were home and spend time with them – but now, looking back, it feels as if it wasn’t enough. I want a do-over! :)

      I am getting emails from parents who tell me after reading this post they stopped whatever they were doing and spent time with their kids. I can’t tell you how much that means to me! Time does go by so quick. Those two years will go by before you know it. The college thing is tough – but all part of the process of loving and letting go. Best of luck to you. Sounds like you have learned well from your father and understand life’s true priority – love.

      Thanks again for your wonderful comment.

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