I haven’t painted a lot over the last several months. It’s the longest break I’ve taken since I began painting in 2008. In fact, it’s the only break I’ve taken. I’ve been quite prolific and have created a large body of work.
At the start of the summer, I decided to take a break and spend more time with my family. That turned out to be a great decision. Our younger daughter is a junior in high school; time is flying. She’s growing up and will soon be off to college. Once that happens, the last of these bright days of having a young family will slip away along with all the years I’ve spent mothering my two daughters.
Knowing that I’ll soon have all the time in the world on my hands has given me resolve to just relax and take a deep breath. In the process, I’ve realized that I wasn’t fully breathing for a long time. I was running, chasing after something I thought I needed. Now I know that I have so many of the things I longed for all those years ago … before I was a mother. I have everything I need.
What a wonderful feeling!
|Me and my oldest in 1988|
Motherhood came upon like an unexpected storm that somehow felt cozy and comforting. I was 21 and single facing the birth of my first child. When she came into my life, I fell in love with her and realized what complete unconditional love truly felt like. I gladly gave up my solitary youth for the chance to do good, to bring something beautiful into the world no matter how unconventional it may have been at the time. A lot of it was easy and natural for me, but there were also many challenges.
I married a fantastic guy when she was two and a half, and struggled through relocating from Louisiana to Northern New Jersey (culture shock) while being a working mother who also had a new husband and an instant family that required adjustments. It wasn’t easy, but we barreled through, believing that love would prevail. And it did! We worked hard, saved our money, bought a home, and became true adults and good parents.
When our first daughter was nearly 11, the little one came along. Our shared love for her solidified our family bond like never before. Over the next 16 years, my husband and I continued to work, parent, save and attempt to understand and appreciate our similarities and differences.
|Me and the youngest in 2004|
Through all this, I built a career in the pharmaceutical industry, earned a Master’s Degree, wrote five books, and painted nonstop beginning in 2008.
Now it feels like so much is coming to an end; I need to reflect. I need to stop and take a look at that journey and enjoy the culmination of what seems like the end of a great book that started with an unexpected storm. It’s simultaneously bittersweet, satisfying, exciting and sad. I see the empty nest just beyond the last page of a story that turned out to be a fairytale. I’m taking a deep breath, waiting to leap into a new narrative. One in which, for the first time in almost 27 years, I will once again be the Penelope who only had to manage herself.
The rest of my life stretches before me, canvas after canvas.
And maybe I’ll write another book, too …. the possibilities are limitless.
|The girls in 2004|
Some of the mother-related things I’ve learned along the way, in no particular order:
It’s not all about me.
The quality of the moments you spend with your kids is much more important than the quantity.
The most important thing you can give to your kids is the knowledge that they are truly loved.
Every kid is different!
The challenging moments of parenthood actually do pass very quickly; it all passes in the blink of an eye so focus on the positive.
No parent is perfect; just do your best.
Cereal for dinner can do the trick.
Watching TV with your kids can be fun, and can lead to good conversations.
Daycare is a great thing if it’s the right daycare; kids can develop and grow from the interaction and learning that it provides.
As a mother, showing your daughters that you can accomplish a variety of things can be an important example in today’s busy world.
Hugs are critical … for the kids and the mom.
Becoming a mom in 1988 was the best thing that ever happened to me; it made all the subsequent bests possible.