Last night Karen and I were talking to a lady who adamantly opposed the fact that our children are over 1 and not in Belgian creche (daycare). She couldn't fathom why we wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity to put them there to learn and become multilingual. It is so culturally-expected here that moms send young children to creche nearly full time. I never in my wildest dreams fathomed coming here with Connor and being made to feel guilty over NOT taking her to daycare!
As ridiculous as I know this sounds the conversation did get us talking and thinking. We stand proud of our decision to absorb this time with our toddlers. I mean what a gift! Both of us will have to return to work in the States in a matter of months, so why not use every moment for laughing and snuggling our little ones while we can? Why not engage in activities together and come up with our own curriculum to teach and discover? Why not take them to see the wonders of the world and learn out "in the field" where lessons are alive and the environment is different and we can instill values consistently. I am definitely a firm believer in kids playing and socializing together, but I don't want to send Connor to an overcrowded daycare here - nor is that how we want to prioritize our expenses.
I am not saying there aren't times when I wouldn't appreciate having a few hours to myself. Or there aren't times when I doubt my ability to be engaged and creative with Connor all day everyday. And we have been known to put videos on for Connor from time to time just so Mommy can get a break. But I mean at the end of the day, isn't the time together worth more than having a toddler who can speak Dutch, French, and English at the same time? Not forever one-on-one, but for this fleeting precious time period?
A friend had this story posted on her blog and it was too apropos not to include it here. Sums up what life is like sometimes and rings another note of familiarity given the many, many breathtaking European cathedrals around us. I dislike email forwards, but this one is special. I certainly don't feel "invisible" yet or half of these trials to the extent the author describes, but the stay-at-home mom life is still a radical change for me. Yet it is one I am enjoying; I treasure the foundation building time with Connor. And it makes me love and miss my mom and Carol so much - thankful for the sacrifices they made for us.
Author not given:
"I’m Invisible. It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a car to order, “Right around 5:30, please.” I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude -but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, and she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said,“I brought you this.” It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me, until I read her inscription: “To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.” In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, life-changing truths after which I could pattern my work.
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women. "