On a recent hike I noticed a family on the trail. A young mother was carrying a sleeping infant on her back. One of her hands held the hand of her pre-school age son. The other hand was pushing an empty stroller. I’m assuming it was the father walking behind them. He was loaded down with a small day pack and water bottle.
Irritation flared inside me. I understand that young children go through stages where they want Mom, but couldn’t he at least have pushed the empty stroller?
I said nothing, of course, and passed them. But I did question my intense desire to berate the father. I finally realized it was because I identified with the mother. Therapists call it transference.
When my three sons were young, I was the one juggling kids and everything that comes with them. And I was tired most of the time. Often too tired to ask for help from their dad. And yes, resentful that I even had to.
But as so often happens, time has provided me with perspective. And I wouldn’t trade juggling kids, diaper bags, and strollers down sidewalks or hiking trails for anything. Because those are some of the my most precious memories. Being a mother.
Although I’m still a mom and still making mom memories, my sons can pretty much take care of themselves now. So I hold tight to mom memories from their early childhood. Reading books, kissing ouches and applying magic bandages, listening, answering endless questions, throwing baseballs, staying up all night when they were sick, the many first days of school, and yes, hiking while attached to multiple children. Today, any memories of lack of sleep or time to myself have all but disappeared. I only remember the joy of being a mother.
Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of great dads carry the load, both physically and emotionally. I believe my own sons will be those kinds of dads when they reach that stage of life. But now as I think again about that family on the trail, I feel sorry for the dad. He doesn’t know what he’s missing. I wouldn’t trade my mom memories for anything.