Jewish World Review April 25, 2002 / 14 Iyar, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Motherhood is seasonal work | Encouragement: We all need a measure now and then. And that's what prompted a dad to write and ask if I could give a dose to his wife.

His wife is intelligent, organized and educated. When they started their family he was making the better money, so they decided she would be the one to stay home with the kids. There are four of them. (Kids, not homes.) Sometimes she feels unimportant, unappreciated, tired and lonely. Money is tight and there are days she feels the world is passing her by.

What can I say? Been there, done that. Got the stretch marks.

My husband and I faced a similar situation when we started our family. Our dilemma was that we were both making about the same amount of money. We finally decided I would be the one to stay home with the baby because I was the better one at nursing. (In spite of his many wonderful qualities, the man has no lactation abilities whatsoever.)

The first thing I would tell that young mother is this: You know those women who smoothly juggle the kids, the high-pressure job in the corner office and the better half, with nary a hair out of place or a ripple of cellulite? They're not real. They're from an obscure and distant planet called Zorkid. In the words of that great parenting expert, the Godfather: "Fuhgeddaboudem."

Besides, they get tired and frustrated just like you. Maybe more so. The only difference between you and them is that they can afford a better-quality concealer to cover up the bags under their eyes. Stop looking at other women and look at yourself. What are you doing?

You are providing a safe, secure and loving home for your children. Every day you give your children the gift of time. Do you know what a rarity that is? Your kids have the joy of unstructured play time and the opportunity to develop imagination and creativity. Your kids may one day turn out to be oddities who know how to entertain themselves.

If you're smart, you're using a good chunk of that time to teach. You're teaching manners, civility, responsibility, morals, faith and why Britney Spears is an unsuitable role model.

And you're short of funds? Believe it or not, that can work to your advantage. Instead of getting everything they want, your kids will learn to wait. They may even learn to be resourceful and industrious. Have them deduct your monthly bills from the monthly income on a tablet. They'll practice math skills, learn the value of a budget and not whine for things that are out of reach.

If you can make ends meet, don't worry about a paycheck; you can chase the money later. Right now, chase the kids -- to libraries, museums and parks. Introduce them to good books, good music and, if at all possible, cultivate a lasting and permanent disdain for television.

Being home with kids certainly can be exhausting and occasionally lonely. But beyond a shadow of a ketchup stain, this is the most important, and in many ways most demanding, job you will ever have.

Yes, young mother, there is life beyond disposable diapers, the pediatrician's office and peanut butter sandwiches. But know this: Motherhood is seasonal work. Give it all you've got because the season passes quickly. The season's end silently sneaks up behind you, just like those mysterious crayon marks on the kitchen wall. One day, you'll look around and yell, "Hey, where'd everybody go? Why is it so quiet in here? Anybody want to order a pizza?"

When that time comes, all the things you think you're missing now will still be there. The classified ads, the jobs, the paychecks, the dinners for two. They'll be there, but the kids won't.

Best wishes, young mother. May your home be filled with harmony, your juice boxes always full and your children never grow up to sag their pants.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman