Sounds like motherhood to me

Once upon a time, what seems like a lifetime ago, but actually only 4 1/2 years, I had a husband with Alzheimer’s disease and two 7-week-old puppies named Chico and Annie. This was an insane combination. I have been reading my old journals lately, and I have to tell you, this sounds exactly like someone trying to take care of twin human babies while caring for an older person with dementia. Why did we adopt these dogs? Our old dog had died, and we missed having a dog around the house. Neighbors advertised a litter of Lab-terrier pups, and they were so cute Fred suggested we get two, the black male for him, the tan female for me. It was insane and wonderful at the same time.

My journal entries are all about the pups peeing, chewing, crying and needing to be held and loved and about how Fred needed pretty much the same thing, minus the chewing of furniture and shoes. I’d put one pup in the crate, and the other would pop out. I’d leave them alone for a minute and find them fighting, one pup trapped behind the water heater, her ear bloody. I had the vet’s phone on speed dial. I’d clean up one mess and turn around to see the other dog squatting on the carpet. I bought absorbent pads by the ton and my hands always smelled like urine. If I needed to leave, I had to find someone to care for the dogs or take them with me in the car. Fred couldn’t dog-sit. I’d say, “Put them in the laundry room,” and he would respond, “What’s the laundry room?” It was that bad.
This went on for weeks, then months. I took the dogs to training classes, doing an hour with one, then putting that one back in the car and doing it all again with the other dog. As my husband deteriorated, I had paid caregivers coming in and left them lengthy notes about what needed to be done for both the husband and the dogs. If I couldn’t get a sitter or they didn’t show up, I couldn’t go. I worried every minute until I got home, usually to a disaster of some sort. Although I tried to pretend otherwise, my work suffered. I tried to write when the husband was busy or asleep and the dogs finally conked out at night, but I was always listening for them to get up or cry out. I write about eating a pancake breakfast at church and wanting to cry because finally I could eat in peace and someone actually served my food to me.
It sounds an awful lot like being a mother. So what if I was mothering dogs and a 71-year-old husband? I did everything but give birth and breastfeed. And yes, I had already helped raise my youngest stepson, too. He lived with us from age 11 to 20. I didn’t do motherhood in the normal way, but I feel justified in claiming the title of “mom.”
How about you? Many of us weep over our loss of babies, but are there ways in which you feel you have been a mother, even though you never gave birth?

5 thoughts on “Sounds like motherhood to me

  1. I've already commented about this, but I'll throw it out again. I feel like a mother to my husband. In the 10 years we've been married, I've carried the bulk financially and I was the heavy when he wanted to buy frivolous things. I paid the bills and made sure he had spending money.The house? I cook, clean and make demands when I need help. I make sure he mows the lawn, gets the oil changed in the cars. Feeds the dogs even.I had to help this fun-loving, free spirit “grow up” and see that responsibilities are real.I've discovered just how little he was taught about life, personal responsibility, loving another person, having commitments and following through.I've been angered by him and feel surges of love all in the same conversation. At times I've privately hated him for what he's cost me and how my life will be forever changed. Still, I've loved him unconditionally, even though I know most women would (rightfully) pull up stakes and leave.I'm proud when I've see growth. Excited when he succeeds. Happy for him, even if what he is happy about isn't the most convenient for me.Yes, most of this sounds like a marriage (well, a bad one). But when I share the fine details with close friends I learn that what I do, what I've done and what I've committed to is sort of different. This man didn't simply need to be taught how to be a husband; he had to be raised into a man.We've had our good moments. Long stretches of bliss. There is so much potential and I'm still committed. However, I'm in a slump. Lately I'm not attracted to him. I'm tired, worn out. He's trying his best to be a good man, but the lessons are taking their toll. I'm tired of teaching them. I just want this person to be finished and done so I can sit back and relax. Some days it doesn't seem like it will ever happen.S


  2. S,
    I think a lot of women wind up mothering their husbands in the ways you describe. The men are used to having their mothers take care of everything, and when they get married, it's the wife's turn. It's not fair, but it happens a lot. I hope things get better for you soon.


  3. Sue, I take comfort in the fact that I have “mothered” children, in the sense that I have influenced many children in positive ways. When I was teaching overseas, I felt like I really made a difference in those children's lives (and I've reconnected with many of them on Facebook, so I feel like I have made a difference). I know I'm a positive influence on any child I watch or care for, even if they actually belong to their parents. I feel like that's much more of an accomplishment than many who have given birth…not trying to judge them (but you know that many of them certainly do judge me!), but not everyone who has kids is good at raising them.


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