I offer you these words on this day that I am one of you for the first time. I hope that you feel the pride, love, and appreciation on this day that you’ve worked so hard to foster in me, and in others.
“One is a mother in order to understand the inexplicable. One is a mother to lighten the darkness. One is a mother to shield when lightning streaks the night, when thunder shakes the earth, when mud bogs one down. One is a mother in order to love without beginning or end.”
These words were written by Bâ, a woman whose “uneventful” life included bringing nine children into the world. At least these were the words used to describe her in the description on the jacket insert of her one, “her only”, novel.
She is speaking of a mother’s relationship with a flesh-and-blood child, but isn’t this how we are mothers of our work as well? Don’t we lighten the darkness with our work? Don’t we shield and heal, and don’t we love without beginning or end? Isn’t the one act of creation akin to the other? Don’t they both come out of love and toil, and don’t they both leave a trace of ourselves in the world?
My mother lived this struggle between the work being something done outside of the house and the long list of duties waiting for her when she returned home at the end of the day. She could not stop the demands of the raising of children, much less daughters, anymore than she could stop the call of her own professional ambitions. She lived in a world that told her she could be a professional, aiming for the elusive glass ceiling always just within reach if she would only compromise more and more of what she had been biologically created to do: mother.
Somehow, most days, she found grace in this. She is a mother of fierce will, drive, and intuition. She is one of those women who walks into a room and everyone notices; she has a certain appeal. From the stories I know of her childhood, raised by a mother who was recovering from Polio during her pregnancy, the youngest of a Mennonite farm family, bitter in ways rivaling the winters they endured in rural North Dakota, it is a miracle her ambition survived. I believe that on those lonely, they could only have been lonely, days she vowed to do all she needed to do to break the chains as she saw them limiting her own mother, sister, and friends.
I believe all my mother would need to do to know she achieved this goal long ago is to look into the eyes of her actualized daughters. There she will find intelligence, compassion, humor, will, ambition, and indeed, in one of us as of today, the desire to mother, as well.
The first few months of motherhood for me I found myself repeating a new mantra: be a good mother, be a good mother. I found myself saying things to people who’d inquired about the days events as I saw them, “Nothing much, just mothering”. I thought to myself how I needed to be “working more” as my paying job beckoned when all day I fed, changed, engaged, washed, and cooed.
Virginia Woolf, in the struggle she finally lost knew all to well that, “…we think back through our mothers if we are women.” I believe that as a mother who wanted, needed, to write, to work, she felt a failure in her ability to mother. This burden that she tried so courageously to balance was the same one that took her down, and stole her not only from us, but from her children. I hope for us, for women, that the world is more bendable now that it was for her, allowing for more grace in each of us if and when we break.
I too feel required to “work”, or as society has put it, to do something other than mother. Yet just a few short days ago I chose to resign from the present parenting required of my first born, forged also in my loins and birthed by my sweat and tears: my work. In doing so my vision is to give my second born, my flesh and blood son, what I was giving to, in some ways, myself, in some ways, to others, through my paid work. My decision was based on a simple and humbling desire: to give this sweet son of mine more of me while I can.
For six months he consumed me, only me, and grew to a huge, fat little being. He is now needing me less and less everyday and in this freedom I am able to let go of other things and enjoy him. enjoy this, mothering, as a job. My job.
I know I cannot do this, full time all the time staying at home, mothering for the rest of my days. But I want to try, for both of us. I will now submit to the daily meditations of feedings, diapers, play dates, crafts, cooking, cleaning, and sit with the feelings and thoughts found there. I will give to him all that I am while I can, so that when the time is right for me to return to a day split in two between what I love and what I do, I can.
Knowing that I am able to make a choice my mother was not, and in truth, would not have chosen if it was available. afforded by my marriage and my station in life. This compounds my decision to “stay at home” and to take a break from what many future employers will denounce as my professional development (as if multi-tasking and running a household does make us better professionals!). I hope that my mother understands that this choice is as much a refelction of my commitment to women as my role as a mentor, boss, and manager. I have to do this to be good at what I do elswhere in my life. I know this now.
And so I come to the simple truth that I knew all along but did not have the words to say: In order to be his mother — fully, completely — I must also be a mother to m work, but most importantly right now, to myself. And I am. With these words, I am.
Happy Mother’s Day,
Sera, Naz’s Mom