I’m exhausted, which is pretty common these days on Friday evenings. I am home with my kids every Friday, and my business is getting busier and requiring more from me, which means that almost every Friday I’m at my parents house so that they can help me with the kids while I get work done. My parents are both retired, so they are pretty much always available.
This is not the house I grew up in. My parents raised me and my sisters in an older house across town that they eventually lost in bankruptcy while I was in college. This house is nice though, and it still feels like coming home when I’m here. Well, no, actually. Coming home for me now is the feeling I get when I go back to the house I bought and had my children in – literally, being a homebirther. The house where I live and run my own household is where I feel at home. So coming here feels, well, like something else. Like going to Grandma’s house, I suppose.
And that’s because, now that my mother is my kids’ grandmother, I am always here with my kids, never without. It feels more like a visit than like coming home—and of course, it is. The grandkids of course never lived here, and neither did I. Yet my mother always made it clear that this was home, if I wanted it to be.
A visit, not coming home. That could describe a lot of my relationship with my mother. We have never quite understood each other fully, and there is a lot in the give and take of our relationship that feels oddly foreign. For one thing, she grew up in another country, and this trait is still obvious. I had hoped that our ancestry would forge a bond, but sadly, I can’t say that it has. It’s not that it has driven a wedge; it’s just that the commonality of interests and culture that you would expect to result in these familial ties just isn’t there.
But the foreignness applies to other aspects as well. Like how when I announced I was going to law school after college, my mother was pleased—because in her mind, it was likely that I would (finally) find a suitable spouse that way. And again, it’s not that she wasn’t also tickled by the thought that her child was going to work hard at a professional degree and fashion a career out of the experience. It’s just that her priorities and world view are quite different from mine.
Some aspects, however, are commonalities. I began to reflect that I never had the cool, young, fun mom—but then, I have never been cool, young or fun myself, even when I was the age that you are supposed to be all those things. Growing up, people always remarked how brooding and serious I was. I was always worried or nervous about something, and in some ways, my greatest accomplishment in life has been to overcome incessant worry by transforming it into comfort with myself and knowledge of my unique abilities, the stressors in my life, and which parts of myself render me ill at ease with the world, as well as which parts enable me to draw upon an inner strength so that I can soar. I believe that my mother has found something similar in her life, though I’ve never asked her about it directly and she’s never intimated to me any evidence of this. But I consider that where she is now, in this house reflecting on an empty nest and the beautiful grandkids who have appeared to claim it, is exactly where she always believed she would be, following a youth of brooding seriousness that gave way to a plan, and then conscious effort, and then the tenacity needed to see things through to the ultimate goal laid out for one’s life.
For her? Making a house a home, and so much more. For me? I’m still not sure. I’m visiting today, and tomorrow, I may decide to come home. Maybe at that point I will have a greater understanding of the peculiar way in which my mother and I have reached this consensus about our relationship: it is different, it is hard, and it is worth it.