Our story isn’t special, at least to the outside world. It’s just the story of a brown-haired girl and a 20-something mom in a traditional, middle-class American family.
But to us, as with all moms and children, our story is one-of-a-kind. It’s a story of connection, of memories, of laughter, of tears, and everything in between.
You had me in your early 20s, a sentiment not as common in today’s society. You were a bubbly, blonde-haired woman who liked to laugh. I was the brown-haired, brown-eyed girl who probably drove you crazy with her penchant for singing made-up songs, making a mess in her pretend kitchen, and whining.
But you never showed it.
Looking back at our time together, I don’t remember the times you were angry enough to cry or the days you were probably too tired to move. I don’t remember seeing frustration on your face at doing load after load of laundry or cooking dinner or the endless cycle of cleaning. I don’t remember ever hearing you hint at wanting something more.
I remember sitting at the picnic table with you while you taught me my numbers and letters, a plate of cookies out of our black lab Lucy’s reach. We would practice our school facts in the morning, sunshine warming our faces, you encouraging me and praising me. It was at that table I learned to love school, to value learning, to want to be a teacher just like you were for me.
I remember our daily walks to the post office, our Boston terrier Chelsey in tow, snorting alongside us as we tightly grasped her leash. You’d hold my hand tightly, and I remember never wanting to let go. We’d skip down the sidewalk, talking and laughing about make-believe princesses, cartoons, or anything we wanted. You always let me open the mailbox, and I felt like such a grown-up, at least for a moment.
There were afternoon teas and weekly picnics. If it rained, we spread the blanket out on the living room floor, eating my favorite, Spaghettios, while we watched Barney or Lambchop. Most afternoons, we had coloring time at exactly 12:30—soap opera time. I’d sit at my tiny workstation in the living room, scribbling away. Other afternoons, we would play the “beauty book” game, where I would have to try to decide what item you had picked out in the magazine. I never understood why it took you so long to long at the page of items and decide. However, I learned early on that even mommies need relaxation time, and it is okay to take time for yourself.
I remember how you didn’t always feel like we had to be strict, serious rule-followers. Sometimes, we’d have ice cream for lunch because we wanted to. Sometimes, we’d play in the rain because we were tired of being indoors. You taught me it’s okay to have fun, to laugh, to be yourself.
You taught me really important lessons, too. I remember being mean to a boy in my fifth grade class when you were being a room mom for a party. You pulled me in the hallway and told me to get it together, that I wasn’t any better than anyone in that room. You taught me what it meant to be kind and humble. I’ll never forget what it felt like to see the disappointment in your eyes for being mean to that redheaded boy. You made me want to be nicer.
You taught me to love animals, to have a heart for them. You and Dad never hesitated to help an animal in need, even letting me keep the stray guinea pig we found behind the house. I learned to have kindness for all creatures.
At 28, I can appreciate even more what you gave up to be with me. You gave up your own hopes, dreams, and career to make the most of my time growing up. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision. We weren’t rich and money was tight, but you made it work so we could spend time together. Looking back, the bond we shared, the lessons you taught were worth more than fancy trips or daily excursions. We didn’t need money to make memories—we had each other, a backyard, and time.
I know what you did wasn’t easy, and I know what Dad did wasn’t easy, either. Making the decision to be a one-income household is a decision to be pursued with caution. But you did it, and I am so glad. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Today, we don’t sing made-up songs or dance in the rain. We’ve traded the picnic table for weekly shopping trips. We both watch our soap operas, remembering to take time to indulge. Even though I’ve grown up and things have changed, we’re still best friends. We’re still versions of our picnic-table selves, and our connection has only strengthened with the passage of time.
Sometimes society looks down on stay-at-home moms, but I know they don’t know what they’re talking about. Moms, working or not, are the greatest inspiration and impact in a child’s life. I am so thankful to have had my mom around for every smile, tear, fall, and triumph, big or small. I am so thankful to have had a mom who was and still is fun-loving, exciting, compassionate, and encouraging.
So to my mom, the stay-at-home mom, thank you.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a contemporary romance author. To learn more about her novels, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.