It is an odd sensation when you discover that all the time you thought your children weren’t really paying attention to you, they were secretly analyzing your every move. In a lengthy phone conversation with my daughter this afternoon, she admitted to me that she is a bit unsettled with the current direction of her life. I was surprised to hear this. In my eyes, my daughter has life figured out far more than I did at her age. At 20, she is entering her senior year of college. She will graduate with two bachelors’ degrees and a master’s degree and obtain her CPA before she reaches the ripe old age of 22. She has a prestigious job waiting for her upon graduation. She has worked hard, made good decisions, and stayed true to her chosen path. She has positioned herself well and can truly choose her destiny from here.
With all of this opportunity, however, it is apparently my life she envies. This news is a bit of a shocker. My life is certainly not one that grabs the attention of others. I met her father during my senior year in high school. We dated all through college and married as soon as we both graduated. We both worked in our chosen fields for the first year or two of marriage, but then the baby bug hit me, and I was willing to give up my professional life to be a stay-at-home mom. I worked a variety of part-time jobs so that I could spend the bulk of my time raising babies and maintaining the house. Since my mother did not work when I was growing up, I felt very torn about working and trying to maintain the June Cleaver kind of household I dreamed about creating when I was younger. My part-time jobs were a compromise, but I never felt like I fully accomplished either of my life goals completely—being super mom or being the professional writer I aspired to be in my college days. These were the conflicting dreams that nudged my conscience as a young wife and mother. Today, I wrestle with “the what ifs” and realize I could have probably reached a better compromise for myself and my family. However, as I ponder this, my thoughts are interrupted again by my daughter’s words.
“From what I can see, you and Dad did everything perfectly,” my daughter explains on the phone. “I just want a life like you and Dad have.” Perfectly, really? I am floored. She never knew of the times we worried about having enough money to pay the bills when I first starting staying home. She doesn’t know how many times I questioned what happened to my intelligence as I folded clothes while watching yet another episode of Barney with my two toddlers or cleaned up spilled cheerios on the floor. She doesn’t know how unstylish I felt in comparison to my working friends who could continue to maintain their appearance while I tried to keep our expenses to a minimum. She doesn’t know how many times I felt like I gave up such a huge part of myself to try to be the super mom I believed she and her brother deserved. She doesn’t know the pressure her dad felt as the sole bread earner for our young family. She doesn’t know how many handyman jobs her dad completed late at night or on weekends to keep the household functioning smoothly. She doesn’t know how often I wondered if staying home was even making a difference….
I must say, I am relieved to discover that she never perceived my restlessness or questioned our simple lifestyle choices. It also seems she does not resent that we never took fancy vacations, nor does she feel slighted that we drove a modest car. I had secretly worried that someday she might. Instead, she openly admits she wants to model our lifestyle. This is quite an unexpected development! I need to process this for a moment….
Quite frankly, I believe it comes down to this. As a child, she knew, without doubt, that she and her brother were the center of our world. Consequently, she felt loved, protected, and cherished. She saw a loving, committed relationship and a stable home provided by her parents—something she realizes now many of her friends never experienced. She saw a mom and dad working side by side to make a HOME. Indeed, it is this that she envies. She has achieved her professional status in the world. In her job, she will be able to afford what she needs and even some of what she simply wants. However, this status does not impress her. She values family over fluff. She wants a committed partner and a home filled with love. She understands that status does not bring happiness; she seeks sincerity over superficiality. As I hang up the phone and slowly absorb our conversation, it suddenly dawns on me—we have raised a non-material girl in today’s very material world. I am suddenly feeling very accomplished….