To me, the definition of being a Mom is simple; it’s the act of being a mother.
Motherhood is trickier, because it is where we try to define what being a mom looks like, and identify the tasks that make up the role of Mom. This is problematic on many levels, but mostly because it is where people start feeling entitled to lay out the “shoulds,” the “have tos,” and the general rules for what moms need to be doing in order to be “good” at it.
This all came to light for me when I realized that I was wildly in love with being a mom, and deeply resentful of motherhood, all at the same time.
Once I was able to identify this clash within myself, I started noticing it everywhere! I started keeping a mental log of how often I’d hear a woman saying something like, “Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kids, but…” Anything that comes after that is almost always her attempt at conveying that a need of hers is going unfulfilled. We all do it, and I think some of it is instinct. But, a lot of it comes from the reverence of the Mommy Martyr… we can’t get enough of her. Just a quick scroll through your newsfeed will almost certainly produce a meme of the, “I’ve fed you from my body, lost countless hours of sleep, never forgotten that 5th grade bully despite the fact you have, would throw myself into fire for you” variety. I think they are generally intended to guilt a college age student to call home, or perhaps even illicit validation that we are in fact, good moms. We LOVE believing that our love for our children is stronger than our biological imperatives.
However, the thing about needs is that they aren’t negotiable. Women are amazing, and often have some biological support where “getting by” is concerned, but damnit, eventually you NEED sleep, food, and water. You can’t override these needs with love. Well, you can, but then you die.
In February of 2014, I was DEEP into Mommy Martyrdom. I was trying to do everything for everyone, until my body decided to just quit on me. I had gone so long without REM sleep that I hallucinated that Robert Downey Jr. was in my living room. And while the hallucination itself was rather pleasant (could’ve been spiders), it made me realize that heroic efforts are futile. I am a person, and having needs to fulfill doesn’t make me a bad mom. Once I got better at that, I moved on to desires. And that’s what brought me to you.
I can’t wait to hear from all of you about your journeys, and unpack these issues. What do you think about the ways we talk about motherhood?