The Crux of MotheringPosted: May 8, 2011 | |
Mother’s Day used to mean figuring out something nice to give my own mom, or to do for her. An hour of flowers, homemade breakfast of questionable quality, saccharine presents, and “we love you”s — then back to mindlessly depending on her for everything.
These days, it makes me think about what a challenging, exhausting, but also exhilarating and satisfying job this is. And it makes me appreciate all the incredible women I’ve met in the past seven years — those I’ve commiserated with, cried and laughed with, shared cocktails with, run and practiced yoga with and established strong, close friendships with as we’ve grown into our new role together.
Having children changes your life in a lot of ways, most (all?) of which you are totally unprepared for. How would you prepare even if you knew to? I think intellectually we all know it’s going to make things different. But I don’t think I had any idea what a trial by fire it would be for me. It changed me down to the core. Perhaps it was always destined to be the experience that was going to help me figure myself out. I imagine it has that effect on a lot of women, though I’d never deign to say that it’s been for everyone what it’s been for me.
Becoming a mother challenged my idea of myself as a capable person. It made my M.O. of always having to be good at things, to master them, pretty useless as I quickly realized that this was one project I wasn’t going to be able to ace through sheer work, talent and brain power. Kate wasn’t a project. She was a little person whom I was suddenly responsible for 24-7. Motherhood wasn’t a job title with a business card and a nice view out the window of a Manhattan office. It was a daily slog, one that also included the benefits of a group of fellow moms of October and November babies in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a gorgeous park we could wander through with our coffee and sleep deprivation, amazing conversations with women I’d never have met if our first kids weren’t a few weeks apart in age.
And of course, that yummy little baby. I can still see her face in my seven-and-a-half-year-old.
There were a lot of lovely things about it in those early days, as I’ve written about here before. But as time went by and we moved out to South Orange and added Sara to our family, I struggled more and more. Adding another kid, as much as I loved and adored her, exposed my own flaws to me more and more. I struggled to consider myself a decent mom, a decent person. I had lots of other women around me who were in the same boat, and although we all empathized with one another, part of me, I think, just felt like I was the worst of the bunch — the truly rotten apple. I just could not do this job right, or well. I was doing my girls a disservice. Someone else would do so much better for them.
At some point I couldn’t hold it together anymore, and that was the beginning of the beginning. Therapy, my supportive husband and my truest friends helped me to see that my feelings were normal, even typical, and that Kate and Sara are fantastic, well-adjusted little people, despite what I thought I was doing to them. My daughters have helped me to really find myself under the guise I’d created over all the years of my life to present myself to the world. Not that it was ever a mask that hid the true me from everyone else; there were just some adjustments to make, ones that actually made life easier, and truer. And that made mothering — even the hard parts — feel so much more doable.
I thought a lot about my relationship with my own mother, and how it shaped me. It’s the central relationship of everyone’s life, isn’t it, for better or for worse? I adore my mom, and lately I’ve been witness to her incredible strength. For a long time I felt disappointed that she and I couldn’t connect the way I wanted us to. I often felt I was too emotional in her eyes, while she seemed not emotional enough to me. As I get older and see her as a person and an adult with a past and her own coping mechanisms, I understand that we both did the best we could. I never doubted her intense love and support. She did an amazing job with my sister and me. And now her emotional boundaries even stand as an example for me.
I’m grateful to be where I am and who I am. I live in a community of some of the smartest, savviest, funniest, most creative and just plain best women and mothers there must be anywhere.
Kate and Sara — well, what else can I say about those two. They have my heart.
Happy Mother’s Day.