Do you ever wonder how much things have changed for parents over the last couple of generations? One woman’s personal account of her everyday life in the 1970s sheds a little light on that -- and it seems the parents in the typewriter generation had a lot more in common with today’s blogging generation than you might think.
“My mom passed away on New Years Eve,” said Bill Henry. “And in late January my dad was going through papers that accumulated over the years and he came across this essay. It wasn’t really a journal and it wasn’t some sort of diary. It was something she just kind of wrote down and my father found it on two pieces of paper. “Somehow that paper stayed in her life for the next 45 years.”
As a thirty-four year old mother of nine children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, I am constantly asked by friends and acquaintances, “How do you do it?” I find this a very thought provoking question: How do I do WHAT? How do I sit here writing with four children breathing down my neck? How do I wade through the house with 18 shoes and numerous unmatched socks strewn on the floor? (not to mention the toys, barrettes, paper dolls and crayons). How do I manage to be a compulsive read of mysteries, novels and pop psychology? How do I retain my sanity and my natural immunity to chicken pox when eight of the children pop out with them, one by one within 5 hours? How do I enjoy a two-hour philosophical discussion on the phone while 4-year old Karen consumes 24 lollipops and 9 slices of cheese? How do I control myself when I discover at church that Billy’s hair isn’t combed, Elaine’s dress isn’t zipped and no one is wearing matching socks?
“Yeah, it was pretty chaotic,” Bill recalls. “As everybody knows that’s an awful lot to be responsible for.”
What is it about “me” that enables me to “do it”? Before I go any further, the most fortunate thing I ever did was to marry a lovable, handsome guy who had no aversions to taking turns getting up during the night with our infants, changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, washing dishes, throwing the laundry into the washer or cooking a delicious meal when I am sick.
“A big part of our life was we moved from Long Island to Vermont in 1970,” said Bill.
“As we moved north we moved further away from my parents brothers and sisters they were from the Philadelphia area, and so we were somewhat isolated from that standpoint. We would have people come once or twice a year but really we dug into the community. We pretty much knew everybody because there was somebody in every grade for almost 10 straight years! My mom started volunteering at the local library and she really enjoyed that because it got her around the books that she loved and it also got her around more people.”
At this point you must be wondering how my job and activities affect my husband and children. They are proud to say I am “working”. However, since I am happier, I am more patient and considerate to them. I feel my basic goal in life is to achieve my greatest potential. I am “Me” before I am “Mom” and “Jim’s Wife”. If I cannot fulfill some of my own desires and yearnings, I cannot help Jim and the children fulfill theirs. A dissatisfied, frustrated individual cannot relate or communicate with others. I cannot confine the dimension of motherhood to nursing, weaning, training and wiping running noses! I feel that I can offer my children more than the physical routines. I must love, listen and respond. If I cannot mature, can they? I want them to see me as a “person”, not simply as their “mother.
“The essay really spells it out,” Bill said. “As she described if I’m not happy how can I help other people be happy.
Each of us is gifted with certain talents and inclinations. I feel obligated to make use of those gifts. Unfortunately, I don’t particularly feel gifted or inspired while scrubbing a floor, sorting laundry or picking up the various items which seem to grow on the floors and tables in our home.
“The essay only appeared a month ago,” Bill said. “I never really understood if anybody ever knew that it was there, but it hasn't been seen in a long time I’m sure of that! It’s pretty remarkable.”
How do I do it? It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun! It would be impossible without babysitters like Mary, Cindy or Polly. I don’t “do it” perfectly; I’m sure I don’t “do it” well by most standards. I just keep working on the never ending goal – to “do it” better!