Saturday, May 13, 2017

I wasn't going to write about it this time...

I wasn't. I wasn't going to write about Mother's Day this year, and yet here we are.

The times that I want to believe that I have some control over when and how and what I write often are the times that I realize just how delusional I can sometimes be.

I write because I require writing. Without it, these thoughts stay locked in the confines of my head, and there they fester and do their bidding and battle with my common sense and my joy until I give in and find myself here. Pecking away at the keys.

I wasn't going to write about it this year because I spent most of the week working on a book submission, one that isn't even really about my mother, but is completely about her in a tangential way that almost everything was for so long. For better or for worse, who she was and the relationship we had have defined so much of who I once was and who I am today.

I want to push it away at times, defiantly insist that I am my own individual person and that I've been shaped by my experiences, but not by people. It just isn't true.

She was my mother. The central figure in my life for so many years, far more than she should have been, and one who still shapes who I become with each passing day.

Her influence, the good and the bad, irreversibly changed who I might have otherwise been, creating, at least in part, the person sitting in front of this screen the day before this holiday not wanting to write but doing it anyway.

I learned in this past week that there is so much yet that I haven't processed, so many things that I pushed away from memory and buried, possibly believing that they would or could stay there forever. The problem with that strategy is that it's terribly effective for a while until it isn't, and until it piles up enough that it becomes unmanageable. I try not to do that to myself anymore, because I can promise you that once you've been through the hell of PTSD, you don't ever want to repeat the experience.

So, I wrote the story I was intending to write and things seeped out of me that I had forgotten. Moments in time where I questioned everything about who she was and what I thought I knew. Moments since when I've realized things about my childhood that probably looked nothing like I remember them. Times when I've had to come to grips with the fact that I can't even trust my own memories because my reality was manipulated.

This holiday, it stings.

It's been hard for different reasons, for combined reasons, for many years, from before society told me that I was a mother. Before then, there was the year that I was supposed to be a mother and then I wasn't and there's nothing that our society tells those women who've been there and are there now that their experience with mothering is valid.

We tell them that they aren't mothers at all.

We hang on to this one idea of what mothering is supposed to be, and in the process we shut out everyone who doesn't fit into that exceedingly tiny box.

There are the mothers who've never been able to conceive, though they've tried and wished and hoped for what seems like an eternity.

There are the mothers who never held their babies, but loved them anyway. Science now tells us that the DNA for every conception remains in the mother's body forever. A few months back, I mentioned this piece of trivia to a mother who'd lost a child in utero, who'd never felt vindicated in her emotions, in her connection, in her grief. And in that moment, she found it all. They stay with us forever, even if we never ever meet them.

It's a profound thing to think about on a weekend like this one.

There are all the mothers walking this planet without the children who should still be here.

There are the mothers sitting at the bottom of a deep, dark pit of despair right now, tossed in there by mothering itself. There are the mothers battling anxiety and depression and rage and numbness and fear. There are the mothers convinced that they will never be the right mother for their children, that those kids would be better off without them. Depression is such a convincing liar, and far too many of those mothers don't come forward and tell their stories and ask for help because they're afraid that people will judge them.

There are the mothers who gave their children to someone else, for whatever reasons they chose. For every joyful adoption that we see on the outside in those shared pictures on social media, there is a mother without a child, and perhaps a mother with a child who will someday ask questions, calling her identity as a mother into question. These are not easy places to exist in, and I don't pretend to understand them at all. I only extend love and strength and support to anyone who has been there and is there now.

There are the mothers who, for whatever reason, aren't with their children. Maybe the life they built with a partner was destroyed, maybe their vision of a happy family decimated, maybe they've lost custody, maybe they're stuck in an ongoing battle with someone they once loved over the children they had together.

There are the mothers without their kids because their children chose to move out, live with the other parent, live with someone else.

There are the mothers who struggle every day to do what is best for the child they struggle with the most, never sure they are making the right decision and agonizing at every step.

There are the mothers with children that have grown and left, that have enlisted and enrolled in schools far away, that have gone on with their lives as they've been raised to do. And still, the mother sits and waits and hopes and worries. Forever.

There are the mothers with children who've distanced themselves for their own sanity because their mothers were toxic and damaging and refused to see it. For every one of those mothers, there are the children who had to walk away and construct boundaries and make choices and cope with the lashing out from friends and family members committed to believing what they want.

There are the all the mothers who society says aren't mothers. Who limits their roles and titles, saving this day in the most selfish way for those who fit inside the tiny boxes. There are the stepparents and the foster parents and the teachers and the neighbors and the partners and the friends.

What is mothering, really? Everything in our world is a construct, and we've allowed this particular construct to be too narrowly defined for too long.

Mothering, simply put, is loving a child unconditionally. Teaching them, raising them, worrying about them. Mothering is spending hours on the floor braiding hair and hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies and hours in the car crying when you realize you've just figured out why this child struggles so much in school and then trying to forgive yourself for not knowing sooner. Mothering is nights spent watching them breathe in their sleep, rubbing their backs when they are feverish, pacing the hallways in the hospital. Mothering is guiding and shaping, and nothing about it requires a biologic connection between a cisgender woman and a child. Nothing.

Society. Relentlessly trying to shove us into tiny boxes, excluding everyone else, then telling us what to feel.

Mothering is so much more than that. And I see you, all you who are mothering.

I see you, those who society is shutting out.

I see you, those who don't know what to do with the emotions of this holiday because it is just too much, too many expectations.

I see you, all those who've lost your own mother.

I see you, all those who weren't given the mother you needed. I see you as you try to learn to do what you weren't taught.

I see you. And I love you all.

I'm lucky to share this world with each and every one of you.

I hope you all get mothered a little bit right now. xo


  1. EXCELLENTG !!! It covers it all the WHYS ? the unanswered questions the lost the pain MOTHERING is not easy BUT in the end it is WORTH IT ! ONE DAY AT A TIME !!! One lesson at a time!! One TEAR drop at a time !!! There is NO perfect Mother ! just a Women trying her best! LOVING her child as Best she can !! Being human!!!!!

  2. Re-read this again. God, I love this. I think its my favorite piece of yours. I've been estranged from my toxic mother, father and siblings for 30 years. The collateral damage to my siblings is profound and heartbreaking. I ran and never looked back. It saved me. And my children. And marriage. Recently, however, I accepted the fact that I had a few things I needed to say to my mother. So I decided to see her and set off to find her. Only to find out that she passed away 5 months ago. I'm not quite sure how to feel, if I'm supposed to feel anything at all. I've gotta sit with this a while now. Life. Gotta love it.


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