Circle of Life: What I Realized When I Became a Mother…
When I was pregnant, hormones raging, I had a panic attack one day (not sure if you can call it that?) and I started crying hysterically… why? Because as a baby was growing inside me, I was perhaps more aware of life itself… being born, dying… and I started thinking about my parents. And I started thinking about the day when they will no longer be around. As a result, I started crying hysterically, and when my husband said “why are you crying?” I replied, “I don’t want my parents to ever die… I want them to live forever.” (in between sobs… it might have taken me a minute or two to get these sentences out.)
It is amazing how your perspective on so many things change when you become a mother. First, you experience and realize the extraordinary power of your body (you grew a human being inside you! Then… you make milk! HOLY COW –no pun intended!) For months after I gave birth I would look at myself and look at my son and say “that didn’t really happen… he didn’t really come out of ME…”
Second, and the most important thing I realized when I became a mom was the power of life and the reality of finite life… just as I am now giving life to a human being, someone gave life to me, and that there is a circle of life, birth, growth, death; and then it hit me: the awful reality that parents don’t live forever and that my time with them is precious.
I have always appreciated my parents and everything they have done for me, but once I became a parent, it turned into a most respectful, truly deep appreciation. I think you really do experience it differently when you are a parent, at least that has been the case for me; perhaps it is because I am now “walking in their shoes.” It is like something clicked and now I GET IT. I get why they said no, why I couldn’t get everything I wanted all the time, why they were probably relieved when I didn’t move away for college, why my mother didn’t want me to move to Europe.
When you are young, you don’t think about your parents dying, you think they are going to be around all the time… and then when you are a teenager and they are on your case all the time (or some of the time), you sometimes think they are annoying, and you want them off your case. Then you become a mother, and you realize that they did all they did because they wanted to protect you… because they don’t want you to get as much as a scratch on your knee. As you get older, and they get older, it seems that the roles somewhat reverse. You are the one trying to take care of them, protecting them, helping them when you can, reminding them to take their medicine, and go for their checkups.
As my parents get older, I want to spend as much time with them as possible. I want my son to have his grandparents around as much as possible. I am lucky to be able to do this—my parents live downstairs. We share a house. Part of the reason we decided to move in with my parents was because my husband and I thought it would be nice to be closer to them as they got older. (Another reason is that my mom takes care of my son while I work… hooray for baby E learning Spanish with Abuela!) Culturally, (on both my side and my husband’s) family is incredibly important to us and we want to take care of our parents when they are older. I am lucky that I married a man who agrees with me and shares the same values on family as I do.(I don’t think I could have married someone that would have thought otherwise…)
Finally, especially now as a mother, I realize that family has become a cornerstone in my life: the family I have created along with my spouse, but also my parents and extended family. Why? Because these people are the foundation of my life, they have influenced how I grew up and who I have become. They are reminders of where I come from. I share roots, traditions (food!), love, and memories. They are my go-to people for emergencies, my laugh-out-loud people… the people that get my inside jokes. Family is everything.
If you are lucky to still have your parents around, appreciate them, respect them, love them, spend time with them… because life is finite, they are finite, and one day we will cry that they are gone, and we would wish we could have them with us all over again… (go hug your mom & dad right now!)