Monday, May 10, 2010

Thoughts on Mothering

As the small group of you known as my loyal readers may remember, I made a decision last summer to let go of fear, to embrace the love around me, to stop fretting about it all ending. I had realized that I let myself love with only a bit of myself, and that I needed to drown in the love I have instead of just dipping my toe in. And soon thereafter, H and I decided to have another baby, and then very shortly thereafter I was pregnant. I am nothing if not fertile.

Throughout my pregnancy, I consciously practiced the art of loving without reserve. I opened myself up to H and my children. I pulled my kids back out of school because I decided to just admit and accept that I love being with them, love teaching them, love having them underfoot all the time. Not that it was easy. Umberto's epilepsy really tested me. The first time I saw him seizing, I could feel this pain that was like dying. The thought of losing my boy was so intense that I wasn't sure if I could live through the actuality. And honestly it was an act of will power to not withdraw myself from him--a sad attempt to stave off some pain. But I didn't do it. I kept loving with an openness and intensity that made everything sharp and clear.

Part of this letting go involved accepting that I love being a mother. I never thought that would be me. Ten years ago I couldn't imagine wanting to stay home with my beasties. Throughout my motherhood it has been hard for me to let go of this imagine I have of myself--tough, independent, career orientated, feminist, etc. I had a hard time trying to reconcile who I saw myself as with the everydayness of my life. I felt that if I admitted to liking staying home with the kids then I would somehow be unfaithful to the person I imagined myself as. This year I said "Fuck it!" and jumped into loving my kids, loving homeschooling , loving being pregnant, loving having a newborn.

But this doesn't mean that I am perfect, that I love it all the time, that I don't love my job, etc. And with the onslaught of Mother's Day (that capitalist marketing enterprise made up of guilt and profit) came the usual viral emails about the perfect mother and the not so perfect mothers who realized they needed to be the perfect mothers. How reassuring to read about the mom who complained so much about mothering that her friend thought she hated mothering. She, of course, realized she shouldn't complain. Then there were the hundreds of sentimental verses praising the holy mother who never yells, always says the right thing, etc.

My problem with these thing is that this love is messy, complicated, not natural as in women are naturally meant to be mothers, or perfect. This love is like all kinds of love. It's damn hard sometimes. Mother's Day came at the end of a hard week. The adjustment must have hit for Piper because we had a week of tantrums, crying, sobbing, screaming fits, and clinginess to mama. It's hard to be patient and mindful when you haven't slept more than five hours. I yelled too much, wasn't nearly as understanding as I could have been, and on and on. According to the sentiments I should be ashamed of myself for a lack of perfect parenting. And yeah it would be easy to wrap myself up in the guilt.

Instead, I apologized to Piper when I yelled. I explained to her that I was tired, and that it was hard for all of us to adjust to a new baby no matter how much we loved said baby. I was gentle with myself because the crushing weight of the image of the perfect mother is entirely too much to bear. I acknowledged that I don't believe in natural anything. I think we are cultural beings, and that our culture tries to cripple women by shaping them into certain boxes. Our limbs are contorted until we are no longer able to move. I want out of those boxes, and want to be able to move myself in more freeing ways. I want to be able to stretch into the many facets of who I daily become.


S said...

Beautifully said and written. I think it's better to model mistakes and have to apologize, rather than be "perfectly" deceptive about life.

Jennifer Lucas said...

You are such an inspiration to me... I am wrestling all the time with my choices and fears of continuing a job I pretty much hate just to have my income level while my kids are taught horribly at school. There really isn't anything holding me back from homeschooling and working somewhere else but me....hopefully I can make a change soon.

Danielle said...

I am not a perfect mother but i am the perfect mother for my children. My own mother sent me a wonderful and funny email around mothers day not the sappy oh so perfect ones! I'll post it on MDC cause it's funny!

I totally understand what you mean though. In high school I wanted a career in aerospace engineering (a difficult career for women!). Now I am barely a college student but can't imagine being much more than a stay at home mom until my kids are ALL in school and even then only as much as they are in school!

Rebeka Lembo said...

It is always nice reading your blog, Ginger. Hugs for you and your family. :)

Lolabola* said...

I love your writings. so glad I'm one of your readers.

The Bear Maiden said...

I think that to be a full time mom of kids and homeschool them is about as "feminist" as you can get. Because you're doing what you WANT to do, living life on your own terms, and lord knows you do just as much work--seriously, if not more--than the most successful and feminist CEO someplace.

Mothering is NOT easy, or pretty or "neat" all the time... But sometimes it is :)

I'm very happy for you Ginger. You ARE an inspiration and I'm honored to have made your acquaintance.