Quality moments seen in hindsight

When my children were young, I faced the same questions raised in the story at right: Work or stay home? And, if the latter, for how long?

I was fortunate to be able to be at home or to work part time most of the years my sons were growing up. But was it enough, I often wondered, just for me to be there? It sometimes seemed that what I was doing wasn't very important.

Every mother knows that raising children is the most important job in the world - and, at times, one of the dullest and most exasperating.

It's not all "quality time," such as sharing a love of books through bedtime reading. At-home parenting also includes picking up countless Legos and puzzle pieces. It may involve driving numerous car pools. It frequently means washing, drying, folding, and putting away hundreds of loads of laundry over the years.

For the stay-at-home mom or dad, these hardly seem like quality moments. And yet - as I've learned since my sons finished school and left home - you simply don't know at the time whether they are or not.

One son recently sent me a humorous e-mail about something that reminded him of "Mom's favorite song." This was a reference to a rock song I couldn't stand. Whenever it came on the radio, I shouted, "Turn that thing down!"

Those were not my finest mothering moments, but both sons now see them as a fun part of growing up. Other incidents that seemed inconsequential at the time have also entered family lore. They're brought up at family get-togethers and laughed over once again.

I suspect it's the same in many families. Parents try to provide as many opportunities for their kids' enrichment as possible. But it's hard to predict which ones they'll remember - or treasure.

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