On The Job Training

When you have children, it’s pretty much on the job training that you get through one way or another. Then they grow up and you find yourself with less to do.

With every year that passes, I find I’m more set in my ways. I don’t like anything disrupting my “schedule”, such that it is. 

You could pretty much set your watch by me. I eat at a certain time. Drink a cup of coffee at a certain time. Turn off the lights and go to bed by 10 p.m. And don’t go out after dark.

But years ago things were so different. At the advent of motherhood.

Flexibility comes with motherhood:

We had to be flexible. We didn’t have any choice.

Life was constantly changing. You’d think you might have a nice quiet day for a change. Make plans with a friend to have lunch and a much needed “adult” conversation. You looked forward to it for days.

And then one of your kids would come down with a fever and you had to cancel and stay home. Hold cool wash cloths to that child’s head. Take their temperature. Read them stories and serve them chicken noodle soup. 

That was sick duty mode.

Rolling with the waves:

We rolled with the waves. Children fell down and scraped themselves up and we quieted them down, bandaged them up and gave them a Popsicle. 

We held our breath and turned away (at least I did) when our children got shots at the doctor, and wished we could take that shot for them when they cried. 

We shopped for groceries with tired children crying in the seat of the shopping cart. 

Not so fastidious:

At the check out maybe we’d see someone staring at us. Only to look down and realize we had smears of grape jelly on the front of our shirt. Or we’d left some of our buttons undone from the last nursing. 

We ignored the prying eyes as we dug all those coupons we’d clipped from a handbag full of used Kleenex and sticky cough drops.

It was hard to feel pretty or important or interesting when we spent our days changing dirty diapers and cleaning up spilled milk. Wiping noses and changing sheets.

It was just what we did. It was expected of us and we complied. There was never any question or doubt.

Before we knew it, the kids were off to college. Maybe there was a divorce in the mix.

We piddled around on our time off, wondering what on earth to do with ourselves. Should we join a garden or book club? Find a new hobby? Volunteer?

Missing the old Days:

We almost missed the old days, because the weariness of motherhood had seeped from our memory just as childbirth always does.

Then suddenly we’re the old women we whispered and giggled about in our youth. The weird old lady living alone with all those cats. The one you could set your clock by.

Where did the time go?

Maybe we never got to finish college. Or we took a class here and a class there and finally finished twenty years after starting, as I did. 

But those years of being a mother was on-the-job training. It was a memorable education, even though you did not end up with a diploma in your hand.

No, it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t exotic. Just what we did. The on-the-job training that is motherhood.



  1. Perfect title! The babies don't come with a handbook but no matter what kind of parenting book comes out – it's pretty much survival mode and our own drive making it all work. I am still in it but missing the youngster chaos a little.

  2. I taught school for 32and a half years. I loved it. However, being a mom was my favorite job of all. I stayed home with my son for seven years and raising him were truly the best years of my life. Now grands come and they are the icing on the cake! Being a mom is the best and most important job on earth… the hand that rocks the cradle..

  3. I do not have any kids so I cannot relate to that but I recall how much work it was for my mom. There were 4 of us under 6 and my dad was in the Coast Guard and gone for months at a time. I love my dad but it is my mom that raised us. But she made it seem so easy.

    As for being rigid, I think age does that to you. At least it has to me, I will be 51 in a few weeks and the few years have made me more and more rigid and a person that like routine and to be on my own schedule.

    I love reading your posts. Please write a book of your wonderful memories!

  4. I had to laugh at this because of all of the fancy kid-friendly grocery carts nowadays….they look like cars / they can seat a few kids…in my day I always had one of the boys dragging his feet on the bottom slowing down the cart and driving me crazy 🙂

    Doesn't matter…when I am in the grocery store I STILL routinely hear some toddler screaming his head off while his poor mother tries to cope 🙂

    Old days or modern…it doesn't change all that much for moms! 🙂

  5. My motherhood days were not as happy as they could have been because of a divorce. However, I revere them. At this stage, I am like you. I want things in order. I have always been a planner and an organizer naturally but now in these years, I think I am becoming something I said I would never become and that is rigid. Well at least where my time is concerned. I will need to work on that a bit. Thanks for the perverbial mirror. Sometimes we all need to take our own stock.

    1. I feel chaotic when things are not in order. So right now I'm trying to stay in the bedroom when I'm not working on the living room walls. Out of sight is sometimes out of mind. At least for a little while.

  6. Love this post! The motherhood days with little ones was hard! It was tiring and a little bit lonely but I loved it so much. I loved having little boys. I miss those days but I don't feel old. I still feel energetic and like there's a lot to do…it's just different. 🙂

  7. Beautiful. Motherhood is a wonderful gift. Tending to the needs of our precious children brings rewards beyond anything we expected. Now in my later years, oh how I would turn the time back to being a young mommy. Just like most, I am set in my ways and adjusting to the long days and night of being alone. Each season of my life has its own rewards. The trick is to enjoy easy season.

  8. I have my adult years to corporations, to my children, a husband who didn't appreciate me. Now it's all about me and making up for lost time. I love it. It's a big adventure….I just need a bit more rest than I used to. How did I find the time to do all that? must have been cutting corners is all I can figure.

    1. Sometimes we feel discarded. Not important anymore. That is when memories of another time reminds us just how "necessary" we were and are.

  9. My youngest just turned 18, my oldest is 38. I've been raising my girls for a long time. I miss those years of nose wiping, boo-boo kissing. They have gone by way too fast. I just found out that grand-baby #13 will be here in May! While I treasure the time I have with my grandkids, it isn't the same.
    My one girl always said that when I stop carrying crayons in my purse, it means my girls are all grown up. I keep some in my purse still, just in case.
    Hope you and the pupsters have a lovely day.

  10. This is a wonderful post and truly sums up my life so far! I don't like changing my routine these days either. But when I do, I realize the world didn't end, even though I felt like it might. LOL

  11. Your post is a reminder of our shared experience, and how fast the years go by. One thing I didn't appreciate until my mom's final year was the extent to which in her mind she was still the beautiful, capable woman she was at 35. She was so disgusted that she needed a walker, that she couldn't do everything herself. She had all her wits until the end, but people constantly spoke to her as if she were a child, or as if she were invisible–if I was with her, they would speak to me instead of directly to her. How humiliating.

    1. How sad and it must have crushed her and you. The elderly are not invisible, but sometimes they might as well be. When I was growing up, the elderly were revered.

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