Mama Knows Best

The role of wife and mother in a commercial fishing family is not easy. It consists largely of trying to maintain a delicate balance of activity and rest for herself and her children, and adhering to as consistent a routine as possible in the midst of the coming, going, and reshuffling that accompanies the life. Conserving energy is a must, because these seasons are long.

I love it when George comes home. I look forward to eating something good for dinner on those nights, and I savor the easy mornings that follow. I ask George for the latest on the pounds, price, and crew. I ask if he has read my blog and roll my eyes when he says, “I’d love to, hon, I just haven’t had the chance.” Of course, I know he hasn’t had the chance. I like to roll my eyes, so I ask anyway.

When you’re the sometimes-single mother of a six-month old baby and a two-year old toddler, you face special challenges. To begin with, you’ve got two cribs, two changing tables, two sizes of diapers, and four car seats (two for the car and two for the truck).

You exclusively nurse the infant for his first six months in part because the merest suggestion of bringing out a bottle causes so much distress on the part of the toddler it just hardly seems worth it. When you start your baby on solids, you make two servings as a matter of course because your toddler insists upon eating a bowl of rice cereal right along with him.

At bedtime, you lie the infant down in his crib and shut the door. He happily drifts off into dreamland. You walk back into the living room to discover your toddler lying on top of the boppy—the boppy that not even the baby uses anymore. She’s covered herself with an infant blanket and inserted a stray pacifier into her mouth. (Never mind that she never used a pacifier herself, even as a baby, until the day her brother was born.) She hands you the book she wants you to read: I’m a Big Sister.

“Baby, baby!” she says as she points to her chest, with such urgency in her voice, such hope in her huge blue eyes.

“Yes,” you say, as your heart cracks a little. “Mommy is so lucky. She has two babies! A big-girl baby, and a little-boy baby.”

You reassure yourself with the knowledge that your toddler has learned so many new words: boat, up, tickle, spider, ride, crab, nose, puppy. She loves to dance and clap with you when you practice your Jazzercise routines, and she fills every bouncy seat, jump up, swing, and carrier in the house with her own “babies.”

Nevertheless, you’re pretty worn out when you receive an invitation to a baby shower for the newborn son of a dear friend. It’s her second baby. It’s scheduled for 6 pm on a Friday night. You don’t have a babysitter, because your husband is gone crabbing, and your parents are at the Coast. The hour of the party is also dinnertime and bedtime for your babies, and they both have coughs and runny noses.

“I’m too exhausted to go,” I say to my mom.

“That’s right,” she says. “You can’t make it.”

I fill her in on the latest at my hobby-job, teaching Jazzercise, which suddenly feels like more job than hobby.

“That’s right,” she says. “It’s too much.”

It’s why I love my mom. She is the wife of a fisherman and the mother of three girls, each three years apart. Although she’s just under 5’2″, she is the most capable, strong, dependable, and stubborn lady I know, with a Puritan work ethic.

When she says it’s too much, it’s too much.

I don’t have to explain or feel bad or make excuses. She understands.

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