My parents split when I was seven years old.
I woke up one morning and found that my mom was gone. My dad told me she had gone to take care of my grandpa who was sick.
It was a lie.
He didn’t know how to tell us that she left, that she wanted to be with another man.
Eventually, my parents divorced, and my brother and I gradually became used to the twice-a-month visits to my mom’s small apartment.
And coming in second to whatever guy happened to be her latest fling.
I felt, especially as I entered the teenage years, that I was a bother to my parents. One of them was worn out from trying to keep food on the table and didn’t have a clue as to how to connect with a hormonal girl, the other seemed to not want to deal with me at all.
So when, years later, I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test stick, I knew I had to be a different kind of parent to the baby inside me.
I made the decision to always act in such a way that she would never doubt that her mother cherished her and wanted the best for her.
Part of that decision was to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom.
We were lucky in this regard—we didn’t have a lot of money, but we could live on just my husband’s salary. And that left me the ability to care for our daughter myself instead of leaving her in strangers’ hands all day.
As she grew, we spent most of the time together—reading books, playing with her dolls, going to story hour at the library and on walks around our neighborhood.
Most of this was a little boring to me, I have to admit. But to be able to share her interests with her and show her my attention was important to her.
Instead of going back to work when she entered school, I stayed at home so I could continue to make a comfortable home for her (and her daddy).
It also gave me the opportunity to volunteer in her class from time to time or accompany her class on field trips. When her friends wistfully remarked on how they wished their moms could come visit them at school, my heart hurt for them.
Now my daughter is a middle schooler and our days are now spent talking through hormone issues, friend drama, and outfits she wants to wear.
I’m still there every day after school where she can pour her heart out to a friendly, sympathetic ear.
Some people might say I gave up my work opportunities unnecessarily, that I put my college degree to waste by becoming a stay-at-home mom.
A cynical person might even accuse me of going overboard with my kids because I had mommy issues.
But for me, since I know firsthand just how painful it is to feel unnoticed by parents, I have a great desire to avoid inflicting that pain on anyone else . . . especially someone I care very deeply for, like my daughter.
So although it was not an easy thing to grow up with, I’m grateful for my experience as a child because it taught me to desire to be a better mother to my children. Eventually, that will cause me to launch two mentally and emotionally healthy and responsible adults into the world—people who will be able to make this world a better place.