Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. ~Anne Lamott
Years ago, a friend told me after the birth of her first child she had this epiphany. She suddenly understood why she was on this planet. Her life’s plan was clear to her. She was to be a mother. (pause for dramatic bars of music)
There was a definite superiority in her tone. She had the most sacred of titles now: Mother. I secretly suspected then, and still do on some level, she simply did not want to go back to work because she didn’t like her job, and her husband couldn’t argue with Jesus showing her the path to great wisdom through parenting. But maybe she did. Who am I really to say?
Some women enter motherhood very spiritually. The mix of sex and growing another person inside your body is highly mystical and profound for them. For me, motherhood was a failed medical experiment turned business transaction. We wanted a baby. Birthing one didn’t work out. We went an agency and ordered one. Two years later, Monkey Boy joined the scene. He didn’t come with an epiphany. Just a bill, COD.
Maybe because of the adoption or maybe because we had been married almost 10 years before he arrived or maybe because it’s just how I’m wired, but here’s the thing you’re not supposed to say: I legitimately grieved the loss of being a childless couple. A few weeks after we brought Monkey Boy home, I broke down crying because he was totally interfering with the life I used to have with my husband. He never went away. Ever. He was always there. Needing things, wanting things, demanding things. I liked sleeping in on the weekends and going places without pounds of gear. I liked carrying a handbag, not a diaper bag. I liked the life we had before we had this life.
Let me be perfectly clear, I have loved Monkey Boy from the beginning. He was and remains a wanted member of this family. I just never expected to be so conflicted about how much I liked *not* being a mother.
I have never considered myself less of a mother than anyone else. My daily experience is the same as every other parent trying to raise children into decent, productive citizens without requiring more therapy than their health insurance will pay for. But I don’t considered myself more of a person now either.
Women without children are also the best of mothers, often, with the patience, interest, and saving grace that the constant relationship with children cannot always sustain. I come to crave our talk and our daughters gain precious aunts. Women who are not mothering their own children have the clarity and focus to see deeply into the character of children webbed by family. A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside relationships with parents by another adult. ~Louise Erdrich
I don’t think I have any insights on life or the universe that are not available to others just because I’ve changed diapers. I don’t think I am more spiritual or more reverent because I occasionally get up in the middle of the night to comfort a sick or scared little boy. I do think the choice to live inside a traditional family unit forces me to be less selfish and more patient. I don’t get my own way every moment of every day. I also think those are traits that can be learned outside this structure.
Look, this is a great gig. I’m so grateful it worked out for me to be a mom. My kid is hilarious and I genuinely enjoy having him in my life. I want to do this well. I want to have a good relationship with my son, both now and when he’s an adult. But it’s also a temp gig. And when he moves out, I suspect I will be conflicted again about how much I love my new freedom and how much I miss having that kid bumping around my house, driving me crazy, demanding to be fed every.ten.minutes.
Motherhood has taught me a lot about myself and others. But it’s doesn’t make me special.