Sunday, May 12, 2013

Let's talk about mothers.

This was originally written two years ago for a lovely but now defunct website run by a friend. Reposting it today because it's timely and I quite like it. (Thanks to Mahnoor for asking me to contribute!)

“I love my mother as the trees love water and sunshine – she helps me grow, 
prosper, and reach great heights.” – Terri Guillemets

Let’s talk about mothers. I myself am not one—there is no way I’m equipped to care for another human being yet. But I’ve spent nearly 27 years with a mother, so I’m basically an expert on the subject.
Moms have, without a doubt, one of the most thankless jobs out there. We spend nine months feeding off them like a parasite and wreaking havoc on their bodies. Then, we stretch out their delicate parts and make our way into the world screaming, crying, and pooping. After a while, we stop that nonsense but spend adolescence rolling our eyes at them and lacing every bored statement with the underlying message of, “You do not know anything stop talking to me.”
Let’s not forget the adoptive moms who take in a child that didn’t have a home. The stepmoms who step up to the plate and combat the Disney stereotype of evil stepmothers. The foster moms who selflessly open their homes and lives. The surrogate moms who go through all that pregnancy garbage to help a family who can’t do it themselves. The host moms we had while we studied abroad and helped us through homesickness in a foreign language. The grandmothers who pass on years of wisdom and tradition. The friends who hug you when your mom is too far away for one. The mother-in-law we spend years worrying about. The dads who go through everything without a mom to answer questions about bras and muddle though boy advice. Godmothers, older sisters who stand in when necessary, your BFF’s mom. Mothers come in many forms.
And despite all they do, we spend large chunks of our lives rolling our eyes at them. Even now, I feel my eyes slipping around to the back of my head from time to time. Most recently, that eye roll translated to, “I can’t believe you think I would wear that dress. How dare you.” Forget that she spent literally years not only helping me pick out clothes but paying for them. Forget that she’s doing her best to talk me down from what is not the crisis I’m imagining. (Excuse me, but it’s tough to pick a dress for when you’re the maid of honor attending a bridal shower and you want the bridesmaids to understand that you are in charge and are not really looking for their input on silly games. That’s a lot for a dress to say!) Forget that she’s only making a suggestion to help out. I was momentarily 14 years old being mortified in the middle of a store and the only thing my angsty self could do was roll my eyes. (I apologized, don’t worry. The maid of honor stress wave passed and I realized that really?)
I mean, really, it begs the question: why does anyone still do this on purpose?? I’m not sure. I have a couple guesses, though. (And remember, I’m a self-proclaimed expert. These are really more like theories. That’s a more science-y word, so you know this will be relevant.)
People choose motherhood because kids come out on the other side. We pass through all that stupidity and turn into people. Adults. We realize that we were total brats, needing to apologize more, accuse less, and show some grace. (Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about all the ways we transformed their bodies all those years ago.) We listen to Mom. Really hear her, hear all the things she has to say. She probably said them before, but we couldn’t hear her over the sound of our collective sighing. A few years ago, I overheard my mother on the phone with a friend, talking about my sister and I being back in the house post-college. She said how much she loved that we had turned into people she liked. Not in a mother/daughter way. In a human way. It was one of those awesome moments that made me look at my mom differently. Maybe that’s why people embark on this whole “having children” journey?
Eh. Not likely. I have lots of friends, and none of them caused stretch marks or hospitalization. That seems like a pretty weak reason to have kids.
Standing with some friends, I watched a teenage girl and her mother. The teenage girl played her part remarkably well. At one point, the mom started dancing to the song on the store speakers. This caused a mighty eye roll and look of utter humiliation from her daughter. Looking for the mother’s reaction, I was surprised. I remember my own mom looking a little bit sad and a whole lot irritated. This mom…didn’t look sad. I realized that she was completely enjoying embarrassing her daughter. Understanding dawned on me—she was doing it on purpose. Was this payback? A small bit of revenge for all that screaming, crying, pooping, and sarcasm? Oh yes. As this mother laughed and kept pretending she knew “all the cool dance moves,” she was fully enjoying motherhood.

THAT is why women keep choosing motherhood. That moment of pure joy, seeing your offspring try to hide within her own hooded sweatshirt, knowing the circle of life is continuing. 

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