Fourteen years. That’s the age difference between my two children. Fourteen years ago I found myself a naïve 20 year old girl, pregnant for the first time and agreeing to elope with a stranger I’d only known for a couple of months. I denied my condition in isolation for four tearful months, and then I bucked up, told my mom, and checked out some natural childbirth and breastfeeding books from the library.
My first son came easily in the night after a short labor. Mothering came naturally to me, and after a stint with mastitis, so did nursing. In the years that followed I cried, raged, locked myself in bathrooms to escape an alcoholic abusive husband, and became a single mom. I went on trips with friends, dated and partied. I lived a single life. I was there for my son, but I was lucky to have built-in day care via my mother, and I took advantage of it. I loved him fiercely, but I also craved independence from a toddler and sometimes felt resentful. I took the easy way out of a lot of parenting things I should maybe have been doing; art projects, researching the best preschools, teaching him about his feelings.
Eventually I fell in love and remarried, and we have a beautiful and vivacious 17 month old boy together. My sons are close, and love each other with a brotherly love that makes me well up with tears and pride. But my parenting experience now could not be more different.
I am older, calmer and more patient. I have the mental space and time to put 100% into my new baby. I am content to sit and observe my son as he makes new connections and discovers what his body can do. I can afford to think about one day staying home with him and un schooling, and I can buy him whatever toy he wants. I have learned to be more respectful and loving not only to children in general, but to myself.
Fourteen years has made for a world of differences. It’s difficult not to feel some mommy-guilt, but I cannot regret the choices I’ve made. My experiences have formed the imperfect, but ever-loving woman and mother I am today.