The other day I took Lila for a run on the beach at Cleveland Point. It has a rocky shore and the tide was high. As the waves rolled in, the rocks tumbled around making a clapping kind of music. Shortly after I had driven into the parking lot, another woman also pulled up, parked and took her two young children out with pails and shovels to play on the beach. I took Lila for a long walk. The trail forms a loop through a wooded area, then back to the beach. It was a cool, cloudy grey day, a good one to catch the clean air.
As I walked close to the young family, the mom smiled, I waved and Lila ran down to inspect the children. So I walked over and commented on the nice day. She told me she came to the beach so her kids could play. She’s been having a hard time so the beach seemed like a good idea. She knew when she woke up that morning it wasn’t going to be a good one. Then she went one to tell me she had quit her job in IT to be home with the children, now two and three years old, two girls, but she was finding it much harder than she expected. Most of the mothers in her neighborhood worked and sent their children to daycare. But daycare is too expensive if you are not working. At least the children had each other and weren’t hanging on her all the time, but it was very hard and “no wonder I drink.”
Yes, I remember how hard it was with young children, the isolation and loneliness, no one prepares you for that. But I can’t help wondering if it was the desperation of her situation that let her tell me such intimate aspects of her life or the fact that people are now used to the accessibility of personal information that made it seem natural to hear such painful details. There’s Facebook and Oprah and a myriad of other confessional arenas. All I could say to her was what she already knew: she needed help with the children.
I left the beach feeling very sad for her. Our society today isn’t focused around mothers with young children at home. Extended families are not the norm any more. Grandparents are not always nearby to help out. It can be very lonely and sometimes not very stimulating with no adults around for conversation. My addiction was daytime TV, believe it or not. On a warm sunny day in April, with my three year-old son on my lap, switching from one channel to another because the commercials were so weary, I realized the folly of my child missing out on a good day to be outside. That was the end of my TV days. Even now, it’s hard to sit in front of a TV for long.
Now my children are on their own with homes, families of their own. Sometimes it feels like they don’t need me as much as I need them. But that seems to be the cycle of life. It all goes by too quickly.