In order to give you context for my whole awakening experience I want to share, I’m going to have to set the scene a bit, and the scene involves some churchy stuff. If you’re not a churchy person, just bear with me. There’s a point to it all, and I promise the point is not to be preachy or missionary-y (I love inventing awkward, “new” words). Having said that . . .
Sort-of-but-not-quite recently, I was substitute teaching for a primary (Sunday School) class at church, and the lesson I was teaching was on the importance of the sacrament (similar, though not identical, in concept and practice to communion, for my non-LDS readers) (*snort* like I even have more than five readers these days). With that in mind, I went into that week’s sacrament meeting with greater-than-normal resolve to really focus on the Savior and the atonement during the sacrament portion of the meeting, to really ponder what it all means to me and how it has affected my life. As I was thinking these deep thoughts and praying for further clarity about how to help the children in the primary class go home with a greater understanding of the basics, the sacrament tray came down our pew.
As I took it and looked down the row, passing it to the child sitting next to me, who passed it to the next child, who passed it to the next, who passed it to the next, I thought of, as I always do, my two kids who weren’t with us because they are off at college. But this time was different. This time I was hit in a deep way with the realization that several people have moved into our congregation since A~ and L~ left, and so, to those people, I am the mother of Midge and Tank Boy and Quinn and Spuds. And that’s it. Some of them are vaguely aware there are two older kids, but they don’t know them. And? They don’t know me as their mother.
This made me profoundly sad.
Being the mother of A~, and L~, and Midge, and Tank Boy, and Quinn, and Spuds is such a huge part of who I am, and I realized in that moment that I was surrounded by many people who will never truly know me, because they will never really know me as the mom of all six of my kids, and they will never really know how awesome those oldest two kids are. I was surprised to realize just how much of my identity involves my motherhood, involves being the mother of these kids, all these kids, and I immediately was taken back to a conversation I had with my own mother when I told her I was pregnant with A~, the oldest.
The pregnancy was planned, so it was not an “oh crap” kind of thing, but I was still scared. Get ready to judge me here: I wasn’t terribly scared of being a horrible mother, nor was I scared of the financial aspect of it all (even though I knew we’d be dirt poor for a while), and I wasn’t all that scared of the physical changes and possible dangers that accompany pregnancy. I was scared of losing myself and my identity (here’s where you judge me for being selfish and shallow — go ahead, you won’t be the first). I remember telling my mother that I didn’t want to “just” be so-and-so’s mom. I wanted to be known for who I was, not for my relationship to a child, but I knew that I was going to wind up being “just” so-and-so’s mom.
You know what? I was right.
I quit my job as a small-town newspaper editor a week or two before A~ was born, and, just like that, I was “nobody.” There were no more invitations to join and/or speak at local clubs, judge local pie contests, or sit on local steering committees. No one was asking about or trying to influence my opinion on local issues, and nobody was trying to kiss my she-buys-ink-by-the-barrel hiney.
A~ entered the world as an extremely colicky baby with a scream that seemed permanently attached to a well-cast sonorous spell and an Olympic-level ability to projectile vomit, if projectile vomiting were an Olympic sport. As I was reduced to, or felt reduced to, being that woman with the screaming baby who was perpetually wiping up yack, I increasingly missed ME. I missed using my brain. I missed interacting with other adults every day. I missed making my own money, meager though it had been. I increasingly missed college and the independence, freedom, and growth I experienced there, and I would cry every time an alumni magazine came in the mail. I also desperately missed sleep, which probably exacerbated all of my other woes.
I was, as I’d feared, “just” A~’s mom. This left me feeling simultaneously like gum on the bottom of the shoe of life and like the luckiest person in the entire universe. Because this colicky, vomitous little human who never slept more than 20 minutes at a stretch was my beautiful, little, extremely alert human who loved books by the time she was three days old, and how lucky was I to get to be her mom? So, so lucky. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s how I felt: like a mushy ball of so, so lucky garbage.
Two years later, again according to (a seemingly crazy) plan, along came L~ , and I was further sucked in to being “just” a mom. A~ never left me with free time (two twenty minute naps a day just don’t count as free time), so it’s not like I suddenly had even less time to be me. I just had the same amount of time to be less me.
Three-and-a-half years later, and along came Midge. Then Tank Boy. Then Quinn. Now Spuds. It would be a long, long post if I tried to figure out and detail my twenty-year transformation from being “just” a mom to being A Mom, but it happened without me even realizing it was happening. I suppose one cannot dedicate twenty years of her life to such an intense, multifaceted, and complex pursuit without losing herself to it so totally and completely that she becomes fused with it.
So I sat there in church, fused in my heart with all of my children, even (maybe especially in that moment) with those not present, mourning the fact that I am not me without them; and though I still have them in my life (thank you, gods of technology, for making that easy these days), I will spend the rest of my life knowing and getting to know people who will never fully know me because they will not know them. Likewise, I will never fully know many mothers I meet or already have met because I will never know all of their children.
Oh, how important are the mothers of this world who pour so much of their souls into their children, and how under-celebrated is their motherhood. I think we need to celebrate that motherhood. I think we need to acknowledge and examine and even exalt this portion of our identity which is everything to us but, sometimes, seems to be nothing to the world around us.
I don’t care if you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. I don’t care why you work outside of the home or don’t. I want to get to know you as a mother, not as a stay-at-home mother or a working mother, but as a mother. I want to hear about your motherhood-related hopes and fears and accomplishments and lessons learned. I want to hear about the motherly joys and the sorrows, the mothering things you know you’ve done right and the things you would change if you could. We’ll leave worldly employment status out of it and just talk about mothering and motherhood and how awesome you all are (even when you don’t feel so awesome).
So my goal for the blog in 2018 is to have regular (which doesn’t necessarily mean weekly — let’s not go crazy with the goal setting) Motherhood Monday posts in which I feature a mom, “just” a mom as far as the blog is concerned, so that we can recognize and celebrate this all-important part of us, so we can recognize and celebrate each other as individual mothers, and so we can recognize and celebrate motherhood itself.