In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re interviewing our moms to find out how their lives changed when we were born and what they learned about love and life as a parent. First up, Jessica’s mom.
In 2010, “blended families” — from death or divorce (or multiple divorces, as in Donald Trump’s household) — are extremely mainstream. Back in the ’70s and early ’80s, I’m not sure they were too common at all. Though it has not always been easy, that’s been the case for the Wakeman family: At just 28 years old, my father became a widower with three little girls. But lucky for me, a few years later my dad married my mom and she adopted his kids, my beloved older half-sisters, Catherine, Joanna and Allison. Then, together, Mom and Dad had my older brother, Christian, and me.
In our interview for this Mother’s Day series, Mom explained to me what it was like for her to become an “instant mother” and then have two more biological children of her own. She even shared the scandalous revelation that her pregnancy with me was “a surprise.”
I must say, Mom is so effusively proud of me that it makes me think she doesn’t actually read too much of my stuff on The Frisky. (What a relief …)Did you always know you wanted to be a mom?
Yes, I always knew I wanted to be a mother. By the time I was 30, I was beginning to get a bit nervous and when I met your dad, the fact that he was a widower with three children made him that much more attractive to me. Dad and I were married the day before Mother’s Day, so the next day, Mother’s Day, I was a true and official mother! I’ve never regretted becoming an instant mother and never regretted adding two more to the family. I think it is almost impossible to compare life before children and life after children — they are both totally different lives. One is a singular life, and even if you’re married, everything revolves around you and your husband. Having a baby changes the whole dynamics of a marriage and rearranges your priorities. There is no way to describe the feeling of being a mother until you are one — and that is a giant leap of faith — because you truly do NOT have any idea of what it’s going to be like. The thing I find so astonishing is the second you come home from the hospital with that baby, you know exactly what to do: feeding, changing diapers, bathing (although, bathing Christian the first time scared the hell out of me).
How was your life different before you had kids?
Before you’re a mother you have this romantic idea of sweet little baby and happy family. You don’t know that sweet little baby is going to scream all night, that you get no sleep, that you still have to either manage a house or go to work the next day and look good and be pleasant. There are extra bills, arguments about whose turn it is to feed baby, change baby, cook dinner, etc. but every second of it was worth it to me. Telling you it was all wonderful would be a huge lie; it’s exhausting and at times, not fun at all! I remember [my brother-in-law] Greg telling Dad and me at [my sister] Cathy’s baby shower that he couldn’t wait until the baby was born so they could get their life on some kind of normal routine! He said that they were getting up at 6 a.m. so Cathy could go to work and felt rushed all the time. Dad and I just quietly laughed because little did he know that sleeping until 6 a.m. would be a gift after the baby was born, and chaos would be the word for quite a while.
Cathy once told me that she and Greg didn’t want children, but now she can’t even imagine life without Liam [my nephew]. I feel that way, too. I just cannot think of my life without Cathy, Jo, Alli, Christian, and you, and now my four grandchildren. There are a few things I wish I could do over: I think I was far too strict with the three older girls and only eased up when Christian was born. But all in all, you are all bright, wonderful children and Dad and I are very proud of the five of you. Yes, Jess, even Christian — he is a joy to me. Motherhood is a whole different story which only mothers know.
What were your fears about becoming a mother?
I never had any fears about becoming a mom, although I should have. Becoming an instant mother when I didn’t even know how to cook or use a washing machine should have worried me, but I was very happy. The biggest fear that any mother has is her child getting terribly ill or hurt. You have only been ill seriously once (the cellulitis, remember?) and that was terrifying for me. Moms can fix a lot of things but not illness. I remember sleeping on the floor next to you because I was so worried.
What did you think when you found out you were pregnant with me?
I was jubilant when I discovered I was pregnant with you. It was a bit of a surprise — we hadn’t intended to have another baby so soon — but I’m glad I did. At that time, having a baby at 39 was considered risky and if I had waited until Christian was in kindergarten, it would have prompted more concern. As it was, I had no serious problems with either pregnancy and had you and Christian naturally — the Lamaze method.
Do you have any regrets about how you raised me?
I wish I had made you pursue some kind of music education, piano or violin. But you so clearly knew at the age of four that you wanted to be a writer that I decided that your artistic talent was there. I do wish you had become fluent in French and Italian because you have a natural aptitude for languages. Otherwise, there is not a single thing I would change about you — you are wonderful and talented and beautiful and kind.