I got the job back in 2000. Before that, it was connections or good timing or experience that always closed the deal. But for this job, I’m crediting the winning combination of perseverance and a proclivity for gymnastics. Being away from home and in that fresh Brevard mountain air didn’t hurt, either. I’d been at this job search for six months with no luck, so I figured what could it hurt to throw a little creativity and physics at the situation? After twenty-four plus weeks, this baby making project had lost any spontaneity you’d typically associate with such an endeavor. But with an eye on the prize and my husband in the bathroom, I slipped into a headstand, held up by the wall behind the bed’s headboard in this single room North Carolina cottage.
I wanted to pull off this maneuver without an audience because it would appear odd if I were to suddenly break into a headstand after an enjoyable dinner followed by what we’d hoped were well-timed baby efforts. Who does this when they’re relaxed and nearly lulled into a delicious sleep? Shall we go ahead and add in a cartwheel or roundoff for good measure while we’re at it? Bring on the balance beam, too! The wall held me up, and with blood rushing to my head, I hoped gravity would work its magic as I listened for the bathroom door handle to turn at which point the plan was I’d roll back out and slide under the covers, with no one the wiser.
Fast forward forty or so weeks and as it turns out, I did get that job, and a second similar one a few years later (requiring travel to coastal Alabama, but with no headstands this go round). It’s been 23 years now, and even though they never did write me a job description or discuss compensation, I did score a job title, which is a nifty palindrome too. They call me Mom.
I realize there have been scores of moms doing this job for all of time, but my getting to join this esteemed club still feels new and original and particularly tailored to my strengths, yet it’s humbling too, illuminating my many faults the role willingly dredges up. It’s hard to describe, but you can’t say the days aren’t interesting. Every day you get to improvise or run a 10K or both, and you can’t ever predict how it’ll go. And then there are the two sweet humans in your life you helped make and who the hospital let you take home. You try to hold on to their sweetness, especially when things sometimes turn sour, and remind yourself that you’re playing the long game. Other days you lean into it all and feel you are exactly where you belong and marvel at your great luck. You get eighteen years to hold on to them and then you get to let them go, these boys who in a blink have become men. These two are my greatest triumph and treasure.
Never has there been a role with so many others sharing your job description. With no formal training, we are all winging it and failing and succeeding every day–but isn’t that what they call living? This boatload of parental colleagues you’ve met along the way lets you compare notes and share the ride and, along with your children, you learn and laugh together, and roll along through the days unaware of the lifelong friends you’re making.
Time snails along and then races forward, and these children grow taller than you, take the wheel of your car, eat you out of house and home, and then move out of that home. But the story doesn’t end here. The book continues and you become a little less author and a little more reader, and having set the stage for a fascinating plot, you now reap the rewards of settling into the story in a comfy chair with a cup of tea. You are now a reader in your children’s chapters, but still very much the author of your own. With a quieter house and a little more time, you’re in that sweet spot between diapers and Depends, those middle years where the road has opened back up and new choices appear.
You look down at your hands, now marked by wrinkled knuckles, and you see your life so far, and these hands that have been attached to you this whole time, which have moved you along monkey bars, enabled your headstands, and held your babies, they hold it all–all the stories, all the struggles, all the work, and all the wins. And inside you are the little girl, the mother, and the grown woman, each still with places to go.
This song pretty much sums it up: