I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was seventeen, and I was indoctrinated with the need to find my eternal companion. A year later, I met him between classes at university. Two months later, we started dating, and in four months, we were sealed in the temple for time and eternity. We were poor university students, living in low-income housing, but we lived with the hope that we were on the right track, and things would get better.
A year and a half later, we had our first daughter, Julianne. It was March and I was near the end of my third year of university; he was finishing his second. We planned ahead by arranging our schedules, so we could both complete that year.
I am the youngest of two kids and as a teenager, I never babysat. So, I did not have any real experience with babies. Yet, it didn’t bother me; I had faith that I was capable and that it would all work out.
When Julianne was born, I experienced an intense need to take care of her, so I constantly held her or put her in the baby carrier to go for walks. And I also brought her in to bed to cuddle.
Having no money at the time, I was so appreciative of friends, family, and church members who gave us a crib, a high chair, an umbrella stroller, a swing, a bouncy chair, a diaper service, and clothes.
She was born on a Friday, and a week later, I bundled her up, and my husband and I took her on the bus to go to university where we took turns caring for her while the other one was in classes.
We did that for another year, so I could complete my university degree.
The greatest adjustment to becoming a mother, especially one still in university, was that I had no time for myself. The moment she napped or was in bed for the night, I studied.
Then we had another baby just before my husband completed his degree and then a third when he was done, and there definitely wasn’t any time to myself.
I didn’t mind, because I loved taking care of my kids, and I cherished every moment.
When my youngest was four, I separated from my first husband, and eventually had the seal to our eternal marriage broken.
He had the kids every second weekend, but often could not make it. For me, it was a busy time: I took the kids to early morning figure skating practices, I taught piano lessons, I dealt cards at a casino, and I went back to university to complete an after degree in education. Every week, I had at least one day where I worked until 2:00 a.m., got home just before three, and got up at 4:30 a.m. to take the kids to their skating lessons. Then they went to school, and I went to university. Fortunately, I am capable of napping anywhere, and I survived those days on catnaps, as well as Coca-Cola, and the support of my parents who kindly took us in.
A few years later, I remarried, and my first husband asked my second husband to adopt the girls. Then he was out of their lives.
Now I am going through another divorce, and we have a six year old and an eight year old. This time, things are different. Their father advocated for shared custody, and it scared me, because I love my little girls, and I did not want to be away from them for extended periods of time.
He had them for a week during Christmas break, and I cried when he picked them up. He is normally a black-and-white thinker and I thought he was incapable of being flexible, but he surprised me by inviting me to come see them throughout the week.
We have a two day, five day arrangement, and this weekend was the start of his five days. For the first time in the twelve years I have been teaching in the inner city, I did not look forward to Friday. My older kids still live at home, but they all work and have boyfriends. Normally, I don’t mind being by myself (that’s why I like to run, read, and write), but for the first time since becoming a mother, I was coming home to an empty house. With that, came the realization that I wasn’t needed. And to make it worse, I was alone, with no one to give me a hug and comfort me.
Instead of reading, writing, or going for a run, I flopped onto my bed, and I cried all night.
The next day I was able to pick up my six year old, Sophia, in the morning to take her to a research project I signed her up for. I then took her for lunch afterwards, dropped her off at her dad’s, then went home, flopped on my bed, and cried some more.
Today, I was able to take the kids skating all afternoon. They fought with each other and complained, but it was great to see them. After dropping them off at their dad’s, I felt sad again, but for the first time this weekend, I actually felt like writing.
And, I haven’t cried yet.
I’m sure that will come later.
In time, I know I will adjust and things will be easier. For now, if I feel like crying, I will.