We knew it was not going to be easy, right? The volume of our collective awareness is turned up about birth and mothering right now. The Internet is awash in photos of happy births. BlogHer is meeting in NYC and there is a legion of ‘MommyBloggers’ there this weekend. The Huffington Post is increasing it’s coverage of family-related articles and I found one by Stacie Krajchir compelling.
When you became a mother, did you really think you’d resume normal activities with the bambini and just carry it around like a handbag? Pondering Stacie’s essay on Huffington Post and her sense of the injustice of becoming a mother…no TV watching, hours spent pacing her child to sleep, her living space cluttered with baby stuff: Yeah, it kicks your ass, this parenting thing.
I completely agree with her on one hand. Having a child seriously cramps your style. One of my cousins used to take her little kid to the movies at night, when he was really young. I was so impressed with this in my pre-motherhood state, how sophisticated it seemed, to let little Ezra tag along with the grown-ups. It was she that gave me the ‘hand-bag’ image, which skates perilously close to the Chanel handbags containing those little yap dogs who get toted to and fro. I think my cousin had more of a nice big thrift-store-find satchel in mind, but still, in her mind, if she wanted to see a movie, her kid would come with her.
Negotiating babyhood is nerve-wracking. As this Stacie humorously states:
1. Having a baby is like getting a new roommate.
You have to figure out what personality he has: Is he a partier or is he a hermit? Does he want to have people over all the time or is he an independent, quiet guy who stays in his room playing video games? Does he shower at night or in the morning? Is he the kind of person who leaves his dishes in the sink or does he wash as he goes? Does he eat all your food or cook for everyone in the house? All of these things are key when considering a new addition to your living space. My baby is the roommate who is a rager: He parties all night, always has friends over, watches the TV too loud and leaves his dirty dishes all over the house and borrows my stuff without asking. He’s slightly inconsiderate.
So what the heck is a woman to do?
I wonder why women who so diligently did all they could to conceive and make a child, who bears, births, adopts or inherits kids in order expand the word family in their lives are suddenly surprised when one’s misery quotient skyrockets? Stacie wonders why no one let her in on the miserable parts. Is mothering so different today than it was when our mothers pulled us forth, our mothers whose bras burned, whose work hours lengthened as they shifted parenting duties to babysitters, teachers and extended family members? Do the ‘mothering’ hormones that erase the pain of childbirth also blank our memories so we don’t carry these tales on to the next generation? Surely we don’t pay attention to the difficulties when we are children, but the stories- are they captured? Why has no one yet produced “Motherhood: The Reality Show”?
In truth, as Stacie says in her Huff Post piece, mothering is a staggeringly challenging surprise. And, no matter what your home and work life balance, whether or not you have a mate who shares the responsibilities of raising children and keeping house, no matter what your economic situation, you, as mother, are the one who holds the heart strings to your family and it is you that paces the floor, with newborns or waiting for teen agers.
What’s a mother to do?
I think it is time to speak up.
I am not saying it’s time to whine.
I am not saying it’s time to bitch.
I think it is time to tell your story, as Stacie does and move on with getting right with it all.
I just picked up Sue Monk Kidd’s book Dance of the Dissident Daughter and the first quote is this:
Women will starve in silence until new stories are created which confer on them the power of naming themselves.
~Sarah Gilbert & Susan Gubar
For me, engaging in creative acts was the way through.
I think many women feel combustible as mothers. The heat is terrifying.
When I let myself do creative projects with or around my kids, things that engaged my sense of fun that expressed my experience I began to feel how powerfully that flammability could fuel me. Engaging my creativity made room for my soul to be expressed and witnessed. I began to feel solid with myself as a mother, even if I wasn’t in a nice outfit or sporting the latest bestseller in my diaper bag, I began to feel there was room for me in this space that was so overpoweringly occupied by the new people who had cropped up in my house.
I think it has so much to do with time and feeling like all you do is run circles around your house and life thinking about clean laundry, soiled laundry, the ones responsible for the soiling and the moments when you tuck them in to clean laundry and send them off to dream land. I found this comment by Staci interesting:
5. You will never want him to be awake, ever.
Oh, how I love his smiles and gurgles and giggles and the sight of him melts my whole soul. I want to squeeze him to pieces because he is the love of my life. But what I love above all the baby cuteness is the sight of his eyes closed while he creates loud, deep, itty-bitty baby snores. I secretly want him to sleep continuously for the next six months. I’m not lying.
When my kids were little, I could feel when I was having fun and when the sometimes-solo aspect of being the mom compromised every cell of my individuality. The tyrannical hold on your attention that mothering exerts requires each of us to surrender and be swallowed. If we hold mothering at arms’ length, we will never really know who we are as mothers. Parenting presses your boundaries for sure. Mothering compromises your fun, no doubt. And, it will refine you with the hottest of alchemical fires if you let yourself be immolated and emerge from the flames in to a woman who knows how to party where she is.
I guess I am feeling passionately about this. Stacie’s post reminded me that most women don’t get comfortable with the heat of mothering right away. I certainly didn’t. Maybe it is not possible, it takes time to adjust your inner thermostat. But I did write every single day and I learned that “whatever you resist, will persist”. If you don’t set about getting yourself right about where you find yourself, particularly if you find yourself with a child and a job and a sink full of dishes, you will spend the next 18 years or so miserable.
It is for this reason, this flammability and what happens when you surrender and burn, that I write, that I knit, draw, jam, and collage. I am years away now from that pressing, urgent dampness of the early childhood years and my kids are learning to do their own wash now. I said learning, right? But I remember how it feels and thanks to Stacie’s writing, I feel the urgency to invite you to take steps to do something creative today.
In September I will begin a 4 session writing workshop here in Great Barrington for mothers and others called Out of the Mouths of Babes: The Powder Keg Series. More information will be posted here on the Laundry Line as the details are finalized with The Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. You can read the words of over 30 original women’s voices here on the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series.
The authors and artists of ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others, March 2012
Then, yesterday, on the generously inspiring Huff Post, my friend Rochelle Schieck published this essay on The Feminine Rennaisance.
I invite you to savor Rochelle’s passionate voice and let her words join mine in the urgency and necessity for us to tell our stories.
At what point did we, as humanity, betray the honoring of the feminine voice and its values in our politics, business, art, media, and religion? And, I wonder, if women are able to reclaim our place, our value and our voice at the source of our mythology and in the religions that inform our culture, will we be able to do it more powerfully in our own lives?
During August, I will be traveling with my family and posting from the road.
I will be making art, writing and navigating wild roads with JNB wearing my shiny new sunglasses. I had to exchange them for a pair that let me read the road signs better. You know how it is with men and road signs. They have a funny inability to ignore them.
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I promise to keep the stories coming.