As I mentioned here I went to Rome last week. It was the first time I left my children, let’s just say it was a learning experience. Really, you learn a lot about yourself when you do something new. I learned a few things about what kind of mother I am. In Italian I’ve often been called a “mamma chioccia” a mother hen. It’s not as common in English (or rather, I never really heard it used), but in Italian it describes a mother who is always around her children, always paying attention to them, on top of them. It’s generally used in a pejorative manner. In a country infamous for it’s mama’s boys and the overbearing mother figure it says a lot about me, or what people think of me.
On my end though, I’ve never thought of myself as an overbearing mother, I let them experience a variety of things, I’ve given them some freedom – though they’re one and a half and three and a half years old how much freedom do they even need? I send them to daycare in the mornings because organizing play dates here is ridiculously difficult and I feel they need to be with other children their age at least some of the time so it’s not like they’re under my protective wing 24/7; although, even if they were, I see nothing wrong with it considering their age. I’ve travelled with them, I’ve upended their routine when necessary, I’ve let them fall and fight and get their scrapes and bruises. Of course I’ve cringed and held my breath and forcibly kept myself from intervening at times, but I assume that’s only natural.
So I never thought of myself as a mother hen, because I never agreed with the negative undertone, I love them, I do my best with them, why should this be bad?
When I left last week I was comfortable that they would be taken care of. The Nanny knows and loves them, and is perfectly aware of and comfortable with their routine, the husband was there to oversee any problems so I left knowing that they were going to be fine.
And yet… I realize what I’m about to say may sound ridiculous to some, but I’m hoping someone, somewhere will understand. You know that feeling like you forgot something important, something vital and your heart starts pounding as you think “oh, shit, where did I put it?” that’s what I felt like the entire time I was gone. It physically hurt to be away from them. I kept looking for them, even though I knew they weren’t there.
I spent two days listening to people tell me to lighten up, that the kids were fine, that I should enjoy my “freedom”, and I did, in a way. Obviously, it was much easier getting everything done, zipping around Rome, in and out of taxis no car seats or strollers to speak of, no diaper bags, juice boxes, crackers or sippy cups of water, no unscheduled, urgent bathroom breaks, no tantrums, no 1,461 whys a minute… all of this felt wonderful of course. Being able to sit in a bar and talk to my sister for an hour, no interruptions, have a drink with no guilt, smoke a rare cigarette, all blissful. I almost felt like an adult free to mingle amongst other adults! I went out to dinner, no worries, not checking the phone every five minutes expecting something to come up to make me go home, I slept all night with no calls for water, binkys, milk or kisses…
I hate and love their neediness. I often think back wistfully to the freedom I’ve lost, but the attachment I feel for them, my own neediness towards them is too strong. The constant, unyielding ache of the distance from them just doesn’t make it worth it.
I guess I still need to sever that umbilical cord but it’s too soon for me. I’m the one with separation anxiety when we’re apart, they miss me, sure, but they’re children they’re supposed to, they’re allowed to, for some reason people think it strange when I express how much I miss them.
So I guess I am a mother hen… but I refuse to accept the negative undertone.
My children are healthy and happy and I’m happier with them than without them so I guess that if I end up raising a mama’s boy and girl then I’ll just pay for their therapy later. And I won’t apologize for it.