My mother's life changed completely. By the time she went back to work, Bill Clinton was president. By the time she and my dad shuttled my youngest sister off to college, 30 years had passed.

Now, you'd think someone who stumbled into motherhood might regret spending that much time on it. Okay, maybe you wouldn't think that — I think that, because I love my job and love having enough disposable income to shop (occasionally!) at Stuart Weitzman.

But not my mom. She was genuinely good at being a mom, and as weird as it seems to me now, I think it was quite fulfilling for her. She blossomed.

The author and her mother share a laugh in 1977.
The author and her mother share a laugh in 1977.

In fact, she misses little kids so much that she and my dad typically spend half their weekends driving to visit my sister in Milwaukee. That's 16 hours in the car, round trip. And I might point out they haven't been to Phoenix in three years.

Milwaukee is where their grandchild is.

They love this little guy so much that my mom actually cites him as one reason they're glad they had kids. I'm thinking, what, we're this bridge generation to your perfect little baby boy? Thanks a lot, Mom!

You never meet anyone who regrets having kids, only people who regret not having them. Even parents who have the most awful kids seem to think they're great.

That can't just be about the kids. I think it may say more about the process of parenting.

When my mom tried to explain to me how wonderful motherhood is, she spoke only briefly about how cute we were and how much fun it was to watch us running around. In retrospect, I think she loved having us partly because she sees now how much parenthood changed her. That it moved her, forcibly, from her own selfishness into something challenging — and wondrous.

"If Dad and I hadn't had all you kids, we would have worked all those years," she says. "So we would have had a lot more money. Why? To pay for the nursing home?"

Nothing like a chat with Mom to make me question my own life choices. So I crack a joke. "Hey, at least I'll have a dog to grow old with."

"Sarah, getting a dog is a lark," my mother says. "It's not going to be anything close to a child! You're not going to have to get up in the middle of the night with your dog. You're not going to have to quit your job, or shift to something less demanding, in order to raise him! You're not going to have to change diapers."

Yes . . . Exactly.

A dog may sound like a small step to a woman who raised five kids without complaining. But for this frazzled career girl, it's giant-leap time.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I'm off to PetSmart.

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If your mother thinks you don't have to get up in the middle of the night with a puppy, then it's obvious she has never had a puppy!




As usual this is a great story Sarah, and I'm sure you will do just fine.. dogs or kids!

Dr. Kent
Dr. Kent

Trotsky or Buckley? Man, you are ambivalent--if you can't decide whether to name your dog after a commie or a supposed conservative!


There are many many women who regret having had children. Like your mom, they didn't realize they didn't have to get married and produce a family. Some are bitter because they believe they played by the rules and got stuck with a husband and children who haven't lived up to their end of the bargain by providing grateful appreciation, some because they gave up their plans of going to nursing school or opening their own greenhouse or whatever in order to do something they had been trained to believe was more important and more noble; some are just plain tired and depressed. they can be very resentful of women who chose not to marry and have children and whom they believe are all too carefree and disrespectful of the mom's conformation to the societal model. it's sad and it's ugly, but it's an egg that can't be put back in the shell, no pun intended.

and that's my succint sociological analysis [i went to college on a scholarship].


Sarah: I envy your mom. It sounds like she is about my age. But I was much more like you then and for me, not having the choices you have, was horrible for a young woman whose expertise and interests and talents were all in the mens' domain and closed tightly to women like me.

Women our age fought very hard to go up against a system that you yourself couldn't even imagine. It pains me that today, women your age don't really grasp that this backsliding into the fifties, i.e. anti-feminism, anti-abortion, anti-just about all of the difficult strides that were made, is something that women your age MUST be vigilant to protect the rights you have and to fight for rights that are still denied to you.

Your mom sounds like a peach of a person and you were very fortunate to have her. I've lived my life feeling like I've let my own kids down because I just didn't fit the mold.

About the dog: get a small one. That way the pee and poop problems will also be 'small.' Don't opt for a golden retriever or a labrador. A lhasa apso, shitzu or anything bigger than a chihuahua but not much bigger and I think you'll do fine. But for God's sake, do NOT get a dog because you think that you need something to take care of to be "normal." That's just too 'fifties think' for me :)

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