I noticed the blue van first, as it backed into the parking space beside our car. It made me feel romantic, with a particular kind of nostalgia. Tom and I owned the exact same van once upon a time, in the very first days of our relationship. We went on grand adventures, threw parties in the woods and camped all over the Rocky Mountains in that van. Our van was a golden rust colour, not blue, but it was in a similar state of repair.
The girls were hungry and excited after swimming, and we were slowly getting ourselves organized to get into the car. Mr Blue Van waited as I shooed them away from the corner where he was straightening out his parking job and towards the door of our own car where their car seats and seatbelts waited. As I went around to open up the car on the other side Mr Blue Van leaned forward in his seat and spoke through the crack where his van door was ajar.
“You look after those angels, OK?” he said.
I never really know what to say to strangers who comment on my kids, but I paused a moment and then said with a smile, “I will. It’s my job!”
“Not a job, a pleasure,” he replied. “They grow up so fast, you know. Enjoy it while you can.”
I smiled and nodded and did my job, buckling Bea into her car seat and making sure everyone had adequate snacks so we could make it home to lunch in one piece.
As I drove home I thought about our exchange. He’s right, of course. Being able to raise my own kids is absolutely a privilege and an honour. Watching them grow and learn before my eyes is a pleasure, one that I try to appreciate as much as possible. Our days right now are filled with wonder and magic, and this time will pass just as every other phase passes.
So why am I so attached to the notion that what I am doing is work? How does that thought serve me in my daily life? Is it a defence against the mommy wars, my shield to deflect any criticisms that I may in fact be enjoying myself just a little too much in this lifestyle I’ve chosen? Feet up and eating bon-bons, you know, or surfing the net on my smartphone while the children wander off? Or is it a personal wall I’ve constructed to avoid any feelings of discomfort around the fact that I never really got a solid career underway before having children?
There’s no denying the fact that there is a good deal of work involved in mothering. Physical work, emotional work, spiritual work. But mothering isn’t just a job, even though there will certainly be jobs to do. I’m spending time with my kids, and that can be as much of a pleasure as I want it to be.