My husband loathes "Hallmark Holidays," but for some reason this year, I'm acutely aware of the approach of Mother's Day. Maybe it's because my seven-year-old is making a big surprise at school that's going to come in the mail very soon, and she can't stop talking about it.
Anyway, I've been thinking about the process of becoming a mother — not about the pregnancy itself, but about the "identity shift" that happens when you're suddenly responsible for one small, vulnerable life or more.
It's like one day you're this carefree graduate student, staying up till 2am to write papers, looking really nice in a mini-skirt, and doing as you please on the weekends. And then there's this whole new life, where the world seems like an inappropriate place for such a soft little person. And then things happen, like a kids clothing store suddenly appearing on the corner near your house, and you're just sure it was never there before, but now just have to go in every time you pass.
It's like one day you're walking through the mall and men are raising eyebrows at you, and the next day, the only man who looks is the Keepsake Portraits guy who's yelling, "Come on over here, Mama, and get a free sitting for that cutie!"
It's like one day, mornings are all cappuccino and quiet time with the newspaper, and maybe an occasional dishwasher unload before you head off to work — and the next day, mornings are all dishwasher+washing machine action, stepping on cat food, cooking eggs, cleaning syrup off the floor, and a chorus of little voices demanding everything under the sun. Oh, and an occasional sip of cappuccino before you head off to several different schools, and then to work (where it's nice and quiet).
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Why is it that we never think about our own mothers as actual people — who had a whole life before we came along, and were thrust into this new world of responsibility too?
Oh Mother, how I appreciate you now as I walk in your shoes!
Google "what makes a mother" and you'll find quite an array of sentimental poems, along with musings on patience, compassion, and all the other "motherly" qualities we're supposed to possess. Where do they come from? From watching our own mothers, of course.
As I review what I just wrote above, I chuckle, because if it all sounds like drudgery, think again. It's magical, that's what it is.
A wise friend of mine once said, "when you have a child, it's like having a love affair with this little person. You don't mind the work because you're just so in love with them!"
Last year, my husband and children left for our summer vacation a few days before me and I found myself alone in our big house. Big and hollow and lifeless, that's how it felt without my children in our home. Because once you become a mother, you cannot go back. You are hooked, forever.
Of all the things I found on the Internet about "What Makes a Woman a Mother?" I like this statement best — a comment on the LilSugar blog, noting that whether you give birth yourself or adopt a child:
"You're a mother when you lovingly handle all the day-in and day-out duties involved in caring for your child... To be a mother is to raise your child, with love and affection."
Amen to that.
* Happy Mothers Day to All *