September 2012

Post 71.

Motherhood is something both revered and feared. It’s revered because it’s powerful. Women create life, no one else does. We therefore rock and, by rights, should rule. There’s a reason why so many goddess figures over time have had pendulous breasts, swollen bellies and enormous labias. Power is leaking from, multiplying within and surging forth out of them, signifying a reproductive force that cannot be mimicked, ridiculed or contained.

Motherhood is also feared for similar reasons. It takes women, many of whom are already capable, resilient, responsible and smart, and adds to their cache of strengths. There is a reason why thousands of years of sheer force have been invested in making lots of us think its unnatural to give our children our own surnames or independently choose when and when not to make babies from almost nothing but our bodies. Motherhood doesn’t make women into tigers, it takes tigers and turns their instincts to ready. For what you ask? To do whatever is necessary.

When women become mothers, they put their foot down hard on what they might have once accommodated for themselves. They hold position, regardless of how much they love whomever they are up against. In the best interests of their children, they will leave marriages rather than compromise, get angry rather than accept and adjust, face up to stark realities rather than continue in blind hope. They say no, loud, when it matters, they say yes with their feet as they mark the path to a new life, they learn to replace self-doubt with trust, they throw out some of the garbage they are carrying because they need their arms free to gather up the ones they must protect and love, even  – especially – if it means protecting them against others they love too. While wrestling with near emotional insanity, motherhood will steel women in their struggle against all odds and compel a choice to be sensible rather than fuck up one day longer.

When it comes to their children, women will do what they won’t for themselves. Partners who once filled their hearts are still present, but more peripheral. Patience that was lacking can be decisively found. Mothers will stay awake at night planning by the decade and are fully-prepared to kill anyone who threatens their family within twenty seconds of waking from deep dream. When women make babies, they now operate as a package deal, and let no man and no one seek to tear them asunder. Hell hath no fury like a mother tiger. It makes sense that this kind of ability to refuse to negotiate, this willingness to cut losses and turn away, this commitment to do what’s best for their children regardless will be threatening. It completely takes women out from under the power of men, church and state. Or, it can. Not every mother can or does make these sacrifices or seize such power, but, from quiet to rich to raped to teenage to broke to overwhelmed, many, many do.  

For myself, I know what I once might have let slide, I now call out whether or not it ruins my reputation as easy-going, understanding or supportive. I brought this child into the world, she comes first. Beneath this smile are teeth. I am a mother tiger, ready, sure and unafraid.

Post 70.

What a difference a year makes. When Zi was about ten months, she spent the first night away from home, by my mother, and, while Stone dropped her over, I was left alone at home for the first time since she was born. Amidst exhaustion from work plus breastfeeding plus sleeplessness, I still found the energy to miss her. Well, no more!

Today she left with her dad to celebrate her grandfather’s birthday with the family. Amidst exhaustion from work plus breastfeeding plus sleeplessness plus having-a-fractured-cheekbone , I happily waved them off as they left, feeling no longing at all for either to immediately return.

There were dilemmas of course. Stone’s mom had personally called to ask me to come over, reminding me that last year I also found some reason not to come. I like Stone’s family and genuinely wanted to go, but the only times Stone voluntarily takes Zi anywhere for hours at a time is when he takes her to see her grandparents. These are, therefore, the only times that I am left home alone. Such times are rare and precious. After a long week at work, it’s hard to trade them for another day on the road, out of the house, among people, responsible for Zi, and unable to ignore everything and everyone for a few hours of quiet freedom.

With my freedom, of course, I planned to fold and put away a small mountain of clothes, sort and organise a large molehill of toys, finish writing an overdue essay, wash the dishes, feed the dogs and generally tidy around the house. Before Zi was born, I similarly used to go around compulsively tidying. Any stranger walking through might have mistaken our house for a minor hotel because things were always in straight lines and neatly in their assigned place. Well, no more!

The clothes sat depressed and unattended, the jumbled toys made claustrophobic pleas that were ignored, the essay slummed with a motley crue of low-priority tasks, and the tidying sighed in despair all over the house. I didn’t care. Such a difference, after only a year.

There were dilemmas of course. I felt guilty that I could have been using my time more productively instead of lying about reading. I kept thinking that if I did all my chores while Zi was gone then I’d be able to spend better quality time while she was here instead of putting her aside to put away clothes during our few, just as precious, weekend days together. I’d be a better mother if I got all this stuff done now, I thought. ‘I’m tired!’ I then thought, ‘rebel!’, although it was not clear who I was rebelling against as I’d have to eventually face up to the clothes anyway.

When I was childless, I didn’t have to value my time because it was all mine. When I had Zi, I was willing to give it up, seemingly endlessly. Well no more! When Stone called to say they were on their way home, my first instinct was to think, ‘already!’

So much for love.

‘Did you get anything done?’ he asked. ‘Like what? No.’ I said ambiguously, and pointedly, deciding I would write history as if I spent my freedom revelling in time spent without clearly set or achieved goals.

Thus passed about three hours of learning how hard, but yet necessary, it is to say no to family, chores, work and even your own obsessions with cleanliness in order to give yourself a few minutes to do nothing at all, guiltlessly. Miss Ziya? Miss Stone? Hah! No more!

I suppose I’m right on schedule with most moms. What I’ve actually missed is time for me.

Post 69.

My baby started in a play-group for the first time today. Parents everywhere know exactly how I felt. Breathless. Although the days during the early months seemed to drag by and the hours between morning and night seemed to stretch out endlessly, somehow it seems like we reached here so quickly. Now Zi has conversations, eats with a fork or spoon for herself, reads books, remembers, makes new friends and goes off to have her own experiences, ones where I only figure peripherally as she learns to establish her own self in spaces apart from me. Saying goodbye at the door, I wondered who has separation anxiety more, parents or their children.

Happily, a number of investments paid off for us both. Several times over the last months, I went to the play-group to spend an hour with Zi while she acclimatized to the auntie, the room and the other toddlers. I had also been reading to her about llama llama who misses mama llama on her first day of school and who soon realises that the end of the day mama will always come back. I used the story to explain who the teacher was, how I was leaving Zi to go to work and that, even if she missed me, she could be safe and happy on her own.

As I was leaving, I could hear her making that pitiful wail that tugs at your heartstrings so hard, tears can spring to your eyes if you don’t focus your mind and your breath on not running back to squeeze her tight, the two of you holding onto each other like the only connected souls in an alienating and uncomprending world. Still, by the time I got to the car, she had obviously become distracted enough to stop crying and I felt huge relief that, although I had forgotten to pack half her school supplies and to label any of the things I did pack, somehow I had taken care of her psychological well-being during this transition. About half an hour later, the auntie texted me to say that Zi was happily playing and reading, and had identified her as the friendly zebra who is llama llama’s school teacher. Familiarity had been found and my own anxiety similarly disappeared.

When my family asked me about auntie’s qualifications and whether the playgroup took a Montessori approach, I honestly couldn’t remember, which made me seem like a mother who didn’t pay attention to what matters. But the truth is that you don’t make decisions just for the good of your child, you make them for you too. My best friend from high school was also sending her son there and knowing another parent, without having to put in the effort, gave me great comfort. My friend and I also shared basic values. We wanted a space where our children were not going to be schooled, quarrelled with or hit. We wanted a space where they would instead just be loved, and allowed to learn through experience, interest and instinct.

So, Zi and I each had a first today and we did okay. Now, tomorrow and growing up seems like it will come all too soon. Perhaps that is why Zi insisted on falling asleep lying on top of me and holding me so possessively. Perhaps, that is why I let her, grateful I’m centre of her world at least for now.

Even if you know they will be fine, just before you let them go, all you want is a chance to still time and hold it all so so tight.