Tuesday, May 22, 2007

on being a mother (take 17,443)

My mom and I had an interesting conversation last week in which she asked whether I think the mothers of our generation feel as much tension as hers did about staying home, since the cultural pendulum seems to be shifting toward valuing Mother as a full-time vocation.

The answer is yes, I think, and will always be. The generation of mothers before us faced an unprecedented pressure to break ground professionally, to prove that they were not only equal to but the same as men, which by definition caused frowning at women who worked at home with their kids and lived "traditional" lives. This generation is more on the side of our being equal to but different than men, and recognizing great and essential strengths in the differences. This thinking allows for women to choose either profession or combinations of them and accounts for third wave feminism and the slow pendulum swing. It's kind of a relief, really. Women are allowing ourselves to be whole, to define what wholeness means.

My thought, then, is that as long as we are people who are concerned about our whole selves --our individuality, our sexuality, our wellness, our creativity, our intellect, our relationships, our needs -- we will always feel rub with motherhood because nothing else demands this amount of self, of giving, of creating, of compromising; the manual labor alone is ridiculous (why did no one warn me about that part!)

There are many frustrations I have with being a mother full-time -- the fact that there is no roll-off-the-tongue-profession to name at a cocktail party, no neatly carved career path, not much of a reason ever to wear suits, no quarterly reviews to boost my morale. The fact that when a friend living in SF on an amazing poetry fellowship came to visit, chatting articulately about politics, literature, her complaints about academia, I felt utterly one-dimensional among the board books in my living room and had to work hard to remind myself how I am not...

So there is rub. Of course there is. And there are days when I think my eyeballs are going to drop out of my head and my arms are going to fall straight off of my body to the ground. But here I am. Each day, here I am. I wake up and I choose to be with Silas for the day. I get to be with Silas for the day. And he teaches me a lot about what I am made of. And he makes me laugh -- at him but also at myself. And he stretches me and makes me consider whom I want to be. And so I choose this -- to be with him -- this crazy little scientist who opens and closes everything, fake laughs to make me laugh, who knocks on doors and windows with tiny fists, and scoops blackberries into his mouth faster than I've ever seen.

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